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Discover original records which tell the story of American industrialism

Preserving the Past

The archival collection at the Industrial Archives & Library holds finding aids information related to America’s industrial past. These collections are the lifeblood of the organization and are constantly growing to include more and more items. Records span early 19th-century through the present, with the majority dating from the early to mid-20th century. Record types include, but are not limited to paper, blueprints, A/V materials, photographs, and negatives. Some of these have been digitized to make research easier.

For a complete listing, check online.  

Staff are constantly working to increase the number of cataloged materials available for research so check back often for updates to the finding aids.

A sampling of some of the materials found in IAL’s archival collections. More materials are constantly being added.

Ready to Start Your Research?

Collections are available for research by making an appointment in advance. Please contact us at or call us at 610-868-1115 for more information on appointments or collections.

Industrial Records for the Ages

The Industrial Archives & Library collects materials relating to all industries, not just heavy industry. Current holdings include materials related to:

  • Iron and Steel
  • Mining
  • Quarrying
  • Transportation, particularly railroads
  • Shipbuilding
  • Textiles
  • Banking

Did You Know?

IAL has over 17500 archival records in its database.

Not sure what a term means?

Check out this glossary guide to help you with your research.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a finding aid?

A finding aid is a document which describes archival collections. Due to the volume of records, archives are not always described down to item level, but to a folder, box, or even collection level. Instead, Scope and Content notes describe the types of records in a collection or series (see below), which can help researchers figure out which collections may have the resources they need. Finding aids include information about the collection, its provenance, the materials in the collection, how large the collection is, and access points like Subjects and Agents (see below).

What are series?

Archives are organized by series, and sometimes subseries. While processing, archivists establish series of similar items, often as a result of being created, received, or used together. For example, a series can be “Annual reports,” or “Correspondence.” For larger collections, subseries can be created, which give greater granularity. If the series is “Correspondence,” then the subseries could be a time period (i.e., 1920-1929) or person (General Eisenhower).

How do I search in ArchivesSpace?

You can search with a keyword and that will pull all results with that keyword in it. However, that will give many results. It is easier to search with filters. You can see these next to the search bar.
Search field: This filter allows more specificity in the search term. You can narrow down by Keyword, Title, Creator, Subject, Notes, or Identifier.
From Year/To Year: This filter narrows down by date. You can use this field if you only are looking for results within a certain time period.
Add Row: If you want to search multiple terms at once you can add another row and search with Boolean operators.

What are Boolean operators?

Boolean operators allow more specificity for searching and can be used in all Advanced Search options. Boolean operators are simply AND, OR, NOT. For instance, if you wanted to find results related to Bethlehem Steel but NOT Sparrows Point, you could have one line with the keyword Bethlehem Steel, and the second line you would choose NOT and have the keyword Sparrows Point.

How do I request items?

If you find a resource you would like to see in person, go to the top right of the screen and click “Citation.” Copy the text in the box “Cite Item Description.” This will ensure we know exactly what resources you are referring to. Then, go to our Contact Us page, fill in your information, and you can include this text in the Additional information box.

Why can’t I see the records online?

Digitizing material takes a lot of resources, so only a small portion of IAL’s materials is digitized. However, we are constantly adding to our digital collection. You can see all of IAL’s available digital collections online. We can digitize materials, but this may include a cost. Contact us for more information.

How can I do research/see materials?

IAL allows research by appointment only during normal business hours (M-F; 9-5). Please contact us to schedule an appointment or make alternative arrangements.

What if I cannot visit IAL?

If you are unable to visit IAL, please contact us. We may be able to make alternative arrangements or photocopy materials for a nominal fee. Contact us for more information.