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Whether or not the authors of letters, diaries, and reports fully recognized it at the time, they were recording eye-witness historycreating the materials that researchers use today to study the social, political, cultural history of Illinois and the Midwest.  And the ALPL holds a vast collection of such materials nearly 12 million items including the letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers, the personal papers of legislators and governors, and the records of businesses. And although many items are associated with prominent Illinoisans, an equal number record the observations and activities of everyday life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Illinois.


In the Manuscripts Collection, there are more than 6,000 individual collections, with millions of unpublished items, including:

  • Letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers
  • Records of Illinois businesses
  • Papers of individuals and Illinois government officials

Some particularly interesting collections deal with:

  • Slavery in Illinois
  • The Civil War
  • Illinois' place in westward expansion
  • Women's studies
  • The Federal Writers Project
  • Labor history
  • Education

Search our Holdings

For many of our larger collections, a description and inventory is available at the Library.  PDFs for many of the larger collections exist.  Finding aids on many topics have been developed.  Please contact the Manuscripts Curator for availability. 

To search for collections in our online catalog, please click here.

To search our collections in Archon, please click here.  Our collection is still being uploaded into Archon, please search the Catalog and Archon to make sure you are searching our whole collection.

Research Appointments

Collections must be used in the Manuscript Reading Room.  Appointments are recommended.  Personal computers are welcome; cameras, scanners, and other personal copying devices are not permitted.  To make an appointment, contact the Manuscripts Reading Room desk at (217) 558-8923, or email

Copies and Use Permission

  • The Library will photocopy a reasonable number of pages from specifically cited materials, as long as copying will not harm the materials.
  • The Library reserves the right to decline any order. 
  • The responsibility to ascertain copyright rests with the user.  However, if staff is aware of any restrictions, the material will not be duplicated.
  • Copies may not be further reproduced, nor may they be deposited in another repository.
  • Permission to quote extensively must be secured in writing from the Presidential Library.
  • To order photocopies or to request permission to use copies for purposes beyond personal research and reference, contact the Manuscripts Curator and review our Permission to Use Agreement and Fee Schedule.


Christopher Schnell, Ph.D.
Manuscripts Curator
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
112 North Sixth Street
Springfield, IL  62701
Manuscripts reading room desk: (217) 558-8855

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