Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

If you cannot access what you need online—through our website or the database American History, 1493-1945—and you have a compelling reason to consult the original materials, you may request an appointment at the Collection to do in-person research.

Please note the following:

  • You must submit an Appointment Request Form. We do not accept requests by fax or email. You may save a draft of the form and come back to it at any time.
  • Please submit your Appointment Request Form at least 2 weeks prior to the requested visit. Requests made less than 2 weeks in advance may be denied.
  • Appointments are available Tuesday–Thursday, 10:00 a.m–4:00 p.m. and must begin no later than 1:30 p.m. On occasion, the Collection may be closed on these days or during these times due to special events.
  • A letter of reference is required to view certain items. The archivist will contact you in advance if this applies to your request.
  • Pens, highlighters, markers, and post-it notes are strictly prohibited in the reading room. The archivist will supply pencils and paper if needed.
  • The Institute reserves the right to use photocopies or digital reproductions in place of the originals. The Institute also reserves the right to grant and withdraw viewing privileges at any time.
  • The Institute reserves the right to charge a fee, depending on the items requested for viewing. The archivist will share this information upon receipt of the Appointment Request Form.
  • Once your appointment has been confirmed, please bring the following with you:
  • A signed copy of our Collection Use Policy
  • A valid government-issued photo ID
  • A reference letter (only if requested by the archivist in advance of your visit)