Today’s Hours

Gelman Library:

Ask Us

Washingtoniana Collection Development Policy

Created September 2007 (revised April 2016), by Jennifer King, collections coordinator and manuscript librarian

Purpose of the Collection

The purposes of the Washingtoniana collections are to:

  • Document the interactions Metro Area residents have with their environments, both the environments they control and those imposed upon them
  • Build holdings that contain thematic foci including interaction with authority, both local government and citizen led initiatives; interaction with the built environment of architectural structures and transportation; creative interaction through the performing and literary arts; and finally interpersonal interaction through communities and neighborhoods
  • Support the GW Libraries vision to build robust and unique content to attract local, national and international scholars
  • Support University curricula and research
  • Make available primary source materials
  • Make acquisition decisions that are considered through the lens of how the collection will enhance existing holdings and provide added research depth for users

Subject Coverage

The primary subjects to be documented in the Washingtoniana collections are:

Political Landscape

These records support the study of the interactions of residents with official governmental entities and grassroots attempts to acquire power in order to influence public policy and governmental activity.

Built Environment and Transportation

These records support the study of efforts to preserve District structures; urban planning; railroads; architecture; and transportation. These interactions are observed through commerce, entertainment, protest, shelter and transportation and include mass transit, highways, bridges, railroads, and the C&O Canal.

Performing and Literary Arts

These records support the study of the literature (poetry is a strength), dance, theaters, and music. Within the phenomena of interaction these records include artists interacting both with the public and with each other and the organizations they form to connect with, support, and promote each other's craft.

Communities and Neighborhoods

These records support the study of residents interacting with each other and address the formation of support mechanisms residents use to both work within the existing power structure and take power for their own initiatives.


There are many institutions within Washington, D.C., also documenting the history of the District. The SCRC maintains strong partnerships with many of these institutions and understands that to fully document a geographic region requires many institutions working in concert on different aspects of that history. Consequently, donations suggested for inclusion within the SCRC are considered against our identified primary collecting interests and the audiences we will reach with the acquisition of that content. If the records are outside our scope, we will encourage the donor to contact another archival institution and provide support in identifying appropriate repositories.

Collecting Scope

Inclusive Collection Statement

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) acknowledges that our past policies and practices have caused harm. We are committing to rectifying these exclusionary practices and engaging in more inclusive collection building across all collecting areas. We know that diverse collections will deepen the understanding of the histories of people of color and other communities currently not well represented in our historic records. The diversity of collection creators as well as the varied and underrepresented perspectives in potential donations are an essential consideration for acceptance. We are committed to inclusive collection building as well as continuing to educate ourselves about DEI issues and undertaking DEI initiatives as an active part of the work of the SCRC.


English is the primary language for collecting. Materials in foreign languages are acquired selectively.

Period of Coverage

Primary source materials documenting the history of the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Washington Area focus on the period from 1890 to the present. Materials before 1890 are acquired selectively as the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., specializes in the collection of manuscripts which pre-date 1890.


This collection covers Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metropolitan area.