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"NIDS effectively offers the key that unlocks the treasure chest of manuscript materials in the nation's archival repositories."
Professor John J. McCusker, University of Maryland

Before the publication of NIDS, often the only way researchers could find out what was in an archive or manuscript collection was to travel to the repository. Few of the finding aids prepared by archivists are published. Most are typescripts, obtainable only in certain cases and at considerable expense in time and energy.

By bringing together thousands of finding aids from libraries and archives across the United States and reproducing them on microfiche with a unified index, NIDS gives users unparalleled access to federal, state, academic and other documentary sources.

The specially created index makes locating finding aids easy. To simplify searches a straightforward list of collections compliments a more robust Names and Subject index.

For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson is listed not only under his own papers but is cross-referenced to the papers of Nathaniel Hawthorne, with whom he corresponded. This cross-referencing can uncover rarely noticed connections between events or individuals or ideas.

In allowing researchers to examine actual finding aids, NIDS goes further than either NUCMC or RLIN which offer collection-level descriptions, but do not contain detailed listings of the contents of collections. Moreover, NUCMC excludes National Archives and state archival listings.

The National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States is available for continuing subscriptions by individual unit or in two major subsets:

State Archives, State Libraries, State Historical Societies, Academic Libraries, and Other Repositories
This part is published in ten Units per year accompanied by cumulative com indexes in microfiche format. A comprehensive index is also available in ProQuest's ArchiveFinder. The subscription year for the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States runs from January to December. Before 1988, subscriptions were issued in two series, each of fifteen Units. It was then cumulated into a single series and numbered from Unit 16. New subscribers have a choice of purchase plans.

Federal Records
National Archives; Smithsonian Institution Archives; Presidential Libraries: Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford.
2,054 microfiche, including 1988 supplement and index, in binders.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
924 microfiche, including 1988 supplement and index, in binders.

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