The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. holds nearly 100,000 photographs of the District of Columbia in its General Reference Collection, Special Photograph Collections, and within photographic series of many archival collections. See the pdf with information about our Manuscript Collection. In addition, the library’s postcard collection, which is arranged by subject, includes photographic images. The library also holds an extensive collection of early prints of Washington scenes. For finding aids to postcards and prints, please see reference staff.
The Research Library does not lend photographs, but reproductions may be ordered. The library’s charges for reproduction and use are listed on its current fee schedule. For those who cannot visit in person, the library offers a fee-based research service.
General Reference Photograph Collection
The collection consists of photographs of Washington dating from the 1860s through the present, as well as some photographic copies of maps, prints and original artwork. The catalog identifies each photograph in this collection by a “CHS” number (CHS refers to Columbia Historical Society, the name of our society when the catalog was established). The library’s catalog has descriptions of many of the photographs in this collection. The online catalog allows searches by keyword, call number, photographer, subjects, neighborhood, address, and/or date. Conducting a keyword, neighborhood and/or subject search across both the “photographs” and “archives” databases may yield related photographic materials among the library’s archival materials.
Special Photograph Collections
These collections consist of photographs from individual photographers and/or collectors, sometimes of particular locations, themes, or subjects. The images in a few of these collections are cataloged individually and may be accessed through the online catalog. To view a list of the Special Photograph Collections, type “SP” in the Call Number field. Other special collections have finding aids that describe the entire collection with lists of individual photographs. The finding aid search allows a keyword search of these finding aids, along with the finding aids to the Society’s archival collections.