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Capitalizing on Washington, DC’s diverse communities and its role as the nation’s capital, the Washingtoniana Collection of the GW Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) documents the city’s political, economic, social, and cultural history. This history of the District of Columbia covers the beginning plans for a federal city (1791) to the present day work to achieve DC Statehood.

The SCRC collects, preserves and makes available primary source documents and archived web pages that work to tell the most complete history of the District of Columbia. These materials encompass a variety of topics including Metro and other transportation issues, the District of Columbia government, a diverse and vibrant poetry community, local businesses, neighborhoods, and civic associations.

In addition to primary source documents such as letters, diaries, video and audio recordings, journals, maps, ledgers, newsletters, meeting minutes, the collection houses more than 20,000 books related to various topics for DC history. 

Washingtoniana Map Collection

Washingtoniana also houses a DC-focused map collection that includes maps from 1790 to the present in either original or facsimile. Notable early originals in the collection include the Thackara and Vallance (1792), the Samuel Hill (1792), the Tiebout (1792), the Baker (1793), and the Ellicott (1793). The division also holds an original manuscript map of Port Royal by James Dermott (1796).

Collection Primary Topic Areas

African American Family Papers Politics
AIDS/HIV Gay and Lesbian (LGBT) Theater
Architecture Historic Buildings and Sites Transportation
Art and Artists Journalism Urban Planning
Business Records Landscape Design Visual Resources
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Literary Collections War and Society
Community Activism Maps Washington D.C.
Dance Music Women's History

Maps and Secondary Source Content

Collection Access

Materials within the Washingtoniana collections are available to researchers in the Special Collections Research Center reading room in accordance with SCRC access policies. If you are interested in reviewing our Washingtoniana materials, please contact us via our webform.

Collection Donations

The curatorial staff of Washingtoniana acquire content through donations of materials. These new collections will become a part of the community’s collective memory and enrich the available resources used for new discoveries. Special Collections stores archival collections in an environmentally controlled secure storage facility and oversees proper handling and use by researchers. We provide research access to the contents of the records in our reading room and submit collection descriptions to national databases including WorldCat and ArchiveGrid. All these tools inform researchers that GW is the repository holding specific collections or groups of collections that match their research needs.  If you have a collection you would like considered for donation to GW please contact Collections Coordinator and Manuscripts Librarian, Jennifer King, jenking@gwu.edu, 202-994-0628.

Monetary Donations

Preparing materials for use by researchers is the most expensive operation for Special Collections. Although such monetary donations are not a prerequisite for the acceptance of a collection, donors who are able to assist Special Collections by providing funds toward the arrangement, cataloging, and conservation of their records are encouraged to discuss the possibility with the Manuscripts Librarian and Associate University Librarian for Special Collections.


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