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U.S. Government Information in the Study of History: Home

describes historically significant documents in the Library's collection, and important web sources for history


This LibGuide has 2 purposes:

  • to provide convenient access to government (and related) web sites of interest to the historian and history students
  • to identify historically significant materials in the Blume Library documents collection, housed on the 2nd floor of the Library

Therefore, each of the guide's subject pages contains differently-colored sections:

  • links to major web-based resources 
  • annotated listings of the Library's print holdings (with online versions noted if they are available)
  • references to relevant links in our Government Information on the Web Subject Index, as an aid to finding more detailed online information NOTE: these links may be included in the On the Web sub-tab under a subject

For more information and links to important historical sources in general (not restricted to government sources), see this LibGuide: History Research.

On this page

What's Included

Raiders of the Lost Ark"Who knows, Dr. Jones? Perhaps in 1000 years even you will be worth something."
— Raiders of the Lost Ark

From the standpoint of historical research, any and all government publications could be considered as potential primary research materials. To limit the scope of this guide to a manageable amount of material, only the following are included.

Web resources:
  • web sites with substantial reference value such as "portals" and meta-sites dealing with history
  • Tangible resources:
  • primary print materials in significant compilations or in long runs covering many years.
  • significant sets of primary materials dealing with major events in history, such as the Nixon impeachment hearings, the Kennedy assasination, etc.
  • major secondary print reference works

In addition, I have included information about publications of specific agencies, usually those with limited scope, and about major series.

Almost all of the sources linked are freely available, but there are some links only available to St. Mary's students. These are marked with this graphic:  .

The Library's Collection

NOTE that the Library ceased receiving new tangible government documents in Spring, 2016, and withdrew large numbers of tangible documents during the previous year.

booksParticularly when searching for older material in any library, it helps to know something about the history of the collection.

The Blume Library (then called the Academic Library) became a U.S. documents depository in 1964. Most of our printed material, therefore, is of that vintage or more recent.

However, in 1964 the Library was in possession of some government documents that had been published earlier and purchased. Most of this material was integrated into the new documents collection, and is shelved on the 2nd floor with Superintendent of Documents classification numbers.

For more information on how the collection is organized, see this LibGuide.

A few government publications have remained in the Library of Congress (LC) classification system and are shelved on the 3rd Floor of the Library or on the 1st Floor in the Reference Collection. Some of these items are described in this guide, with their call numbers given. For items not in the documents stacks, the call numbers are printed in red.

Resources in the blue boxes in this guide are available in print in the Library's collections, and most may be checked out by eligible borrowers (they are also available for interlibrary loan). Classification numbers given are in the documents collection, on the Library's 2nd floor, unless otherwise specified. Items with REF call numbers may not be checked out.

Primary Sources

notePrimary sources are documents and other items created in direct conjuction with events, as opposed to secondary materials, which analyze the events. For more information on finding primary sources in general for historical research, see this Research Guide.

Another handy publication is the American Library Association's Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using. Not limited to government sources, it offers many tips on finding, evaluating and citing primary sources, a category of materials into which many government publications fall.

Looking for old docs or old websites?

booksLooking for a document, video, or other information that you know you saw on a government website, but now it's nowhere to be found?

These various archiving projects might be able to help you out. Note that the archived websites might have broken links or other non-functional content.

More information

Readers of this guide will notice immediately that no single agency is responsible for all publications relating to history.

Because of this dispersion of pertinent material throughout the Federal government, users of government information are urged to use the Library's Online Catalog and other sources, such as indexes, in order to perform comprehensive searches.

Many other useful sources are described and linked in other LibGuides:

Also be aware that other libraries in the city may have more extensive collections in certain areas than we do, and we may borrow from these libraries. Here are links to other libraries with government information collections in the area. Ask a librarian for assistance if you have difficulty finding the information you need.