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Using the Collections

Before You Arrive

Special access is needed to use materials in the general collection, the Rare Book Collection, and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. A letter of recommendation is required for any applicant who is not a former Dumbarton Oaks Fellow. Please submit the online form and letter of recommendation one week before your visit.

Badge holders can fill out the online form to request badge renewal.

An appointment is required to use materials in the Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Please submit the online form one week before your visit.

When You Arrive

The general collection and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives are located in the Research Library. The Rare Book Collection and Dumbarton Oaks Archives are located in the Main House, and may be accessed through the museum entrance on 32nd Street.

If you have applied for special access, you will need to attend a library and security orientation, which is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays (except Federal holidays). You will receive a badge, which you must wear at all times on the campus.

If you are consulting the Dumbarton Oaks Archives, you will need to fill out a registration form and present photo identification. If you do not have special badge access to the Main House, a staff member will escort you to and from the archives.

Lockers, coat hangers, and umbrella stands are available at the entrance of the library and Main House. Bags may be brought into the library but are subject to search by security when you leave. Bags, coats, and umbrellas are not allowed in the reading rooms for the Rare Book Collection, the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, or the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.


General Collection

Covered beverages are allowed. No food is allowed in the library.

Reading Rooms

Food and drink, including chewing gum and water, are not allowed.

Pencils, notepaper, personal computers, digital cameras, mobile phones, and small personal items are allowed. Pens, highlighters, and Post-It notes are not allowed.

Handling the Materials

Please note, individual collections may be subject to additional restrictions.

General Collection

Materials in the general collection are in-library use only and may only be used in the library or offices in the Main House. Self-checkout stations are available to check out materials electronically.  A 3-6 digit number on the back of a Reader badge is the account number. After logging in, scan the barcodes (on the back of each item) for the items you would like to check out. Readers have a loan period of 60 days. The legacy out card system is still available. If you choose to use out cards, one must be used for every volume removed from the library or reserved shelves. Clearly write your name, the volume call number, and the date on the out card.

Books left on tables or other public spaces in the library are cleared each day by library staff. Fellows and staff can store books in their offices and assigned carrels. Readers can request a reserve shelf from the reader services librarian.

Please do not use Post-It notes to mark books.

Interlibrary loan (ILL) is available only for fellows and staff, and books must be used in the library.

Reading Rooms

Materials in the Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and Dumbarton Oaks Archives may only be consulted in the reading rooms. A library or archives staff member will retrieve special collection and archival materials, and only a limited amount of material may be consulted at a time.

Handle materials carefully. You may be asked to wear gloves when handling items; these will be provided. Do not bend, fold, lean on, mark, or otherwise damage any of the archival materials or books in any way. Items should remain flat on the table or properly supported with foam or a book cradle. Hold photographic materials by their edges and leave items in Mylar sleeves or folders in their containers. Keep all items in the order in which they were received.

When archival items are in need of preservation, please alert library or archives staff immediately. Do not attempt to repair any of the items.

Notify library or archives staff if you need to leave the reading room or when you are done with the materials. Materials should not be left unattended. Your requested item(s) may be held for your use on a subsequent day(s).

Rights and Reproductions

Dumbarton Oaks grants permission for reproducing images from its collections only for scholarly and educational use. If you are interested in using images in print or digital publications, please see Image Rights and Reproductions for further information and to submit an online form. Some material cannot be photocopied or scanned due to its physical condition or other restrictions.

You may use a smartphone or digital camera to take images for study purposes. Flash, tripods, and external lighting equipment are not allowed.

No more than fifty pages or twenty percent (whichever is smaller) of any volume in the Rare Book Collection may be photographed, and a Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection flag must be photographed with each item.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to keep complete and accurate citations for reproduced materials, as well as to obtain copyright clearance to publish or otherwise reproduce or distribute materials. Whenever possible, the library or archives will provide the contact information of copyright holders.