Frequently Asked Questions

I need help with my research!
HSP welcomes researchers to its library at 1300 Locust Street. However, we also realize that not everyone can come and do research themselves. Don’t worry; we have a couple of options. If you have a quick question (such as: Do you have the records for Mt. Moriah Cemetery?), e-mail us at ReadyReference@hsp.org or call our Reference Line (215-732-6200 ext. 209). If your question is a bit more involved (such as: Is my Aunt Edna buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery?), try our Research-by-Mail service. For a pre-paid fee, a skilled staff researcher at HSP will work on your research topic and search through our extensive archive. While we cannot guarantee results, we will make every effort to help you by documenting all sources consulted during our research. HSP members receive a discount on these research services.

Is everything in the collections searchable online?
The short answer is no. HSP has over 21 million items in its collections. Only a small fraction of the material is digitized and searchable.

  • Items which are digitized (mostly graphic material) can be searched and browsed in our Digital Library.
  • Discover, our online catalog, includes information about HSP’s print materials, manuscript collections, maps, microfilm, and more. Check this catalog to see if an item is in our collections; you will still need to come to HSP (or contact HSP staff) to use the materials.
  • For a more detailed overview of how to find the materials you seek in HSP's collections, see our Overview of Research Tools.

Can I request items prior to visiting HSP?
HSP does offer an advanced paging service for its patron-level members. Please check out our membership section for more information on how to sign up for this level or to upgrade your current membership.

Why are your security rules so tight? Why can’t I bring my briefcase into the library?
The staff at HSP want to make sure that our material will be around for generations of researchers to come. Unfortunately a few bad apples can ruin it for others. To minimize collection loss, researchers may only bring in folders, note pads, etc. which are open on three sides. Portfolio cases, brief cases, computer cases, etc. are not permitted. Having an item open on three sides allows for a more efficient screening process as one exits the library. HSP provides lockers for your personal items—we’ll even provide you a quarter if you need one.

Why can’t I use a pen? Why can’t I eat in the Reading Room?
Any item which may make a permanent mark (pens, markers, highlighters, lipstick, etc.) are prohibited in the library. Additionally, anything which could leave a stain, like food or drink, is not allowed (food also invites critters). Patrons are welcome to enjoy a snack or beverage in the patron lounge, lobby or locker areas.

Why is it so cold in the Reading Room?
The Reading Room is on the same HVAC system, unfortunately, as the vaults. The vaults are kept at 68 degrees for the preservation of paper items. Researchers are welcome to wear sweaters, blazers, or sports coats in the library to weather the cool conditions.

I’d like to use an image I found in an article for a presentation or project.
We are always pleased when someone finds an image or wishes to use a quote from one of our documents. Simply contact our Rights & Reproductions Department for permission: rnr@hsp.org.

How do I donate items to the library?
If you have a manuscript or graphic item, please contact Matthew Lyons. If you have a printed book or serial, contact Lee Arnold.

I love HSP and want to support your mission of preserving and sharing history!
Please contact our development office for details on how to support HSP: development@hsp.org.