How to Use the Local History Collections

Using the Local History Collections is a bit different than doing other types of research in the library. Most of the materials are archival, which means that they might be one-of-a-kind, unique items. They might also be manuscripts (unpublished) materials such as ledgers, correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and other types of paper-based items.

About Our Collections

  • Some of the items are quite old and pretty fragile, so they will need to be handled with great care and respect. In some cases, materials are so fragile that we made a digital copy or a paper facsimile for your use instead.
  • Some of the materials may be written in script, a handwriting method no longer taught in some schools, so be prepared to spend some time trying to decipher.
  • In archives and special collections, we organize materials by their creator. For example, the D. Smith Papers. We use finding aids to direct researchers to the subjects within the collections. The finding aids contain a lot of helpful information for the researcher, and we put these on line so that patrons can view them first and tell us exactly what part of a collection they would like to use.
  • We only collect materials that directly pertain to Chester, the immediately surrounding towns, Morris County, and New Jersey. However, we can help direct you to other resources where you can find information that we might not have here.
  • Researchers may only use the materials under the direction of the Local History Librarian, and cannot remove or check them out of the library. This rule is to protect the materials from damage or loss.
  • We store our collections in special conditions to help slow deterioration and prevent theft. It’s another reason why we like patrons to tell us in advance when they will need to use the Local History Collections for research. It takes time to retrieve materials from our archival storage area.

 Tips for Doing Research at Chester Public Library’s Local History Room

  • Do your homework in advance. Begin with some background research on your topic to have a better grasp of where you might find materials on your topic. It also will help the Local History Librarian to better narrow your search.
  • Use only one folder at a time and use acid-free paper markers to mark the place where you found a particular item of interest. This tip is especially helpful if you wish the Librarian to make a duplicate for you.
  • Keep everything in order you found it. This tip is very important if you need to return to use the same materials, and for those who will use the items after you.
  • Handle items carefully and with respect. Most are one of a kind and important to the history of the area.
  • Wear white cotton gloves (available from the Librarian) to protect materials from damage.