Accessing the Collections

General Introduction

General Introduction

The majority of the division's collections are cataloged in The New York Public Library's Research Catalog. Finding aids containing the dates and size of the collection, biographical or historical sketch, a description of the contents, and box and folder list, are also available through the Archives Portal. Those finding aids not online can be emailed in advance of a research visit. A subject listing of our collections may be found here.

A percentage of the sheet music collection has also been cataloged in the catalog. However, the entire collection can be accessed via a manual card file and an electronic database in the Division which provides access points via composer, lyricist, song title and first line. The Division also maintains manual card files for playbills, broadsides, play scripts, screenplays, and for the Literary and Scholarly Typescripts Collection.

In 1942, the Center published The Calendar of Manuscripts in the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature, which includes item-level descriptions for the John Edward Bruce Papers, the Alexander Crummell Sermons and Letters Collection, the Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection, the Slavery and Abolition Collection and the West Indian (Haiti) Collection. The Calendar is available in most major research libraries.

Manuscript collections on microfilm are available for use in the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division of the Schomburg Center.  

Researchers must request an onsite appointment at least 7 days in advance. Before their first visit can be confirmed, researchers must speak with a librarian. Schedule a virtual research consultation to get started.

Reading Room Policies and Procedures

Researchers are required to create and submit requests through a Special Collections account and present a NYPL Library Card to use materials in the Division.

All researchers are required to secure coats, briefcases, parcels, packages, bags, and umbrellas, and other personal belongings in lockers provided for this purpose. Researchers may bring the following items in the reading room: NYPL Library Card (required), pencils, laptops and tablets, cell phones, and hand-held cameras. Flash photography, lights, tripods, and scanners are not permitted.


The Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division offers several options for receiving reproductions from the collections: self-mediated photography, Electronic Document Delivery Service, Book and Manuscript Scanning Service, and High Resolution Reproductions Service.

Readers may take photographs of collection materials for their personal use. Library staff reserves the right to restrict or prohibit photography when it may physically damage materials; disrupt other readers; violate donor restrictions and purchase agreements; or if items have been previously digitized. Please note that only 30% of a collection may be reproduced.

Researchers may request PDF scans through the Division’s Electronic Document Delivery Service by emailing

For large scan requests, researchers will be referred to the Library’s Book and Manuscript Scanning Service.

For high resolution digital files for editorial, commercial and other uses, visit this page


The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/The New York Public Library does not hold the copyright to all of the original materials in its collections. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish from appropriate copyright owners. In many instances, the Division can provide contact information for copyright holders or donors. Two excellent resources for locating copyright holders for authors and artists is the WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders), maintained by the Harry Ransom Center, and the copyright Office's website. These resources also include useful information on copyright and finding copyright holders. As a courtesy the Division asks that researchers making substantial use of its collections notify the Division of their publication plans, even when not quoting directly or when quoting from material for which the Library does not hold copyright.

Permission must be obtained from the Division to publish or quote from original materials for which the Library owns copyright. The permission request letter should include:

  • Type of publication (book, article, chapter)
  • Proposed title (include title of book, if this is only a chapter in an anthology or edited book)
  • Name of publisher
  • Expected date of publication
  • Indicate if it is a scholarly or commercial publication.

In addition to a description of the document(s) being quoted, permission requests must include the name of the collection and, when applicable, the box, folder (identified by number or title), and microfilm reel that contain the document(s). If using correspondence, also list the date(s). Indicate if the material is to be quoted, cited or reproduced.

Use the following format to cite the materials:

First citation: [Item and date], Box #, Folder # (or: f. #), Name of Papers/Collection, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.
Second citation: [Item and date], abbreviated collection name, Box #, Folder #.

Contact the Library’s Permissions and Reproductions Services regarding permission requests for still images of documents.