May 25, 2022

New York Public Library Receives $500,000 Grant to Digitize 50,000 Pages of Early American Manuscript Material For Public Use

From the NYPL:

The New York Public Library will soon digitize and make more accessible to the public 50,000 pages of historic early American manuscript material, courtesy of a $500,000 grant from The Polonsky Foundation.

The material – held primarily in the Library’s renowned Manuscripts and Archives Division – will include portions of the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Noah Webster, James Madison, James Monroe and others, as well as other important items documenting life in the early United States.

The materials will be digitized over the next two years, preserving them for future generations and making them more accessible to the public through the Library’s new Archives Portal, developed by the Library’s NYPL Labs under the Leadership of Collections Strategy, and located at

The portal brings together the descriptions of every archival and manuscript collection at the Library, including those held by the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the Library for the Performing Arts, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, and The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature. It allows researchers to search across the Library’s unique holdings for the first time.

The portal also provides direct access to digitized material directly via the online description. The digitized content can be discovered and viewed anywhere online, allowing the reader to zoom in to view minute page details, recreating the intimate experience of browsing boxes and folders in a physical archive.

So far, the Archives Portal includes descriptions of nearly 10,000 collections, representing over 50,000 feet of material. The comprehensive access to the archival and manuscript collections at NYPL made possible through the portal is a result of NYPL’s concentrated efforts over the last decade to make sure all of its unique archival collections are described and that the guides to these collections are available online. Since 2003, nearly 50% of the Library’s archival holdings have been described for the first time and nearly 80% of its collection descriptions were put online for the first time.

The portal also includes over 120,000 pages of digitized manuscript material from, 20 collections [listed at]. Digitizing these materials not only allow scholars working around the world to study them remotely, but makes them more broadly accessible for the general public and easier to use for educational purposes.


The NYPL Archives & Manuscripts portal not only allows researchers to search for collections and engage with digitized materials,” said Ben Vershbow, Director of NYPL Labs, “it also allows them to read across collections at a distance. We’re developing new features on the portal that allow researchers to view networks of relationships across collections, enabling serendipitous discoveries—for example, tracking an individual name across multiple collections. Eventually, we imagine these networks extending outward across archival repositories globally, tying millions of documents together, and allowing curators and researchers to identify new relationships.”

Some Other Polonsky Funded Digitization Projects Mentioned on infoDOCKET

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.