In 1978, our initial collection was started at the YWCA and consisted of documents of resident women immigrants. Today, we continue to collect materials from our community per the guidelines set forth in our Collections Policy (available upon request).

Currently, our our largest single collection is the Essex Company business and planning records that meticulously document the building of the city of Lawrence starting in 1845. We are also charged with the historic preservation and accessibility of our home at 6 Essex Street in the former Essex Company Office & Yard, a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that includes a main office building, carpentry shop, blacksmith shop, stable, and warehouse.

Other collections include, but are not limited to:

  • Photographs and Glass Plate Negatives - over 40,000 photographs from 1850 to present, many with negatives, chronicling the history of the people and places of Lawrence; a collection of about 800 glass plate negatives
  • Oral Histories - 800+/- digitally mastered oral histories chronicling events and social history of Lawrence as far back as the 1912 Strike; 135 video tapes, some interviews, some commercial, and some locally broadcast on Lawrence history.
  • Non-current municipal and population records:
    • Lawrence City Documents (bound annual reports of various city departments) 1846 - 1913
    • Board of Health records, including some death registers, communicable disease registers
    • Board of Health minutes
    • City Directories 1847 – 1994
    • School Committee minutes 1847 – 1853
    • Annual Reports, various during 20th century (earlier are found in bound City Documents)
    • City Atlases showing lot layouts and often ownership 1875, 1888, 1906, 1926, 1938
    • Cemetery Records
    • Lawrence Redevelopment Authority and the Lawrence Planning Department - materials related to the urban renewal projects undertaken in Lawrence, Mass. between approximately 1957 and 1977.
  • Mayoral Papers
  • Business Records - a variety of documents and artifacts detailing histories of Lawrence businesses, including some materials from mills
  • Church Records - primarily Protestant, (Catholic church records absorbed by other parishes or taken to Archdiocese Archives in Boston)
  • Agency Records - Lawrence General Hospital and Nurse’s Training School, YWCA, International Institute, City Mission (later Family Services, Inc), Some on YMCA, Boys’ Club
  • Ethnic Group Records - ethnic social club records, documents concerning social history of diverse ethnic groups in Lawrence
  • Book Collections - emphasizing Lawrence, labor, women’s history, industrialization, immigration, ethnic groups, poverty and charity
  • Family and Individual Records - documents, artifacts donated by families, family histories, newspaper biographies and obituaries, card index of place and people names, with information on photographs, books, obituaries, etc. in which those places and people are featured
  • Labor Records - strikes, particularly 1912, but also 1919, 1922, 1931
  • Newspapers - complete newspapers inconsistent and most are in fragile or poor condition (Lawrence Public Library, however, has microfilm of most of the newspapers of Lawrence), large file collection of clippings organized by topic, variety of scrapbooks
  • Private School Documents
  • Miscellaneous Objects, Ephemera, and Textiles

We engage the community by employing these materials through physical and online exhibits, symposia, educational programs, and research services to foster understanding of the interaction of the built community and the lives of those who live and work there.