Library and Archives

The Margaret H. Hall Library and Archives at the Berkshire County Historical Society contains over 200 cubic feet of manuscripts, 170 linear feet of books, 150 maps and atlases, 350 oral history tapes, and 14,000 photographic images.

A partial finding aid to the manuscript collections can be found here. Details about several of the collections are outlined lower on this page.  

Transcriptions of articles from Berkshire Historyour long-running scholarly journal, can be read here.

The Archives is available by appointment for public use. Members of the Berkshire Historical Society receive the first hour of research free. For non-members, the charge is $15 per hour or portion thereof, with a minimum 1-hour charge. Quick look-ups cost $5.00 each. These fees apply for in-person research or work done by Society staff or volunteers. Our complete Archive Policy, including fee schedules, can be found HERE. Research inquiries may be addressed to: Berkshire County Historical Society, 780 Holmes Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201 or by using our contact form.


Several of the collections in our archives are detailed below:

M. Douglas Sackman: Herman Melville Collection, 1833-1979  pdf file

4 boxes (2 cubic ft.)
Collection number: AM-203


Collection of published and unpublished material relating to Herman Melville assembled by Melville scholar M. Douglas Sackman, including books by and about Herman Melville, original letters, journals, reviews, catalogs and bibliographies, pictures and ephemera.
Finding aid by Louisa Lebwohl, July 2012.

Melville Collection, 1844-2012 (ongoing)  pdf file

7 boxes (3 linear ft.)
Collection number: AM-205

Abstract:  Collection of published and unpublished materials relating to Herman Melville, assembled by the Berkshire County Historical Society in connection with its occupancy of Arrowhead, Melville’s home from 1850-1863. The collection includes family letters, original published forms of Melville’s short stories, criticism and interpretation of Melville’s works, and biographical material on Herman Melville and other family members.

Finding aid by David Wood, 1995; updated by Louisa Lebwohl, June 2012.


Arrowhead Collection, 1870-2012 (ongoing)  pdf file

1 box (0.4 cubic ft.)
Collection number: AM-272

Abstract:  A collection of materials related to Arrowhead, the house in Pittsfield, MA, which was acquired by the Berkshire County Historical Society (BCHS) in 1975 for use as its headquarters and to operate as a museum. The collection relates to the history of the house and the work of the Society to restore it to the state when it was the home of Herman Melville (1850-1863).  Finding aid by David Wood, 1995; updated by Louisa Lebwohl, August 2012.


Invisible Community, 1830-2012   pdf file

3 boxes (1.2 linear ft.)

Collection number: AM-348

The Invisible Community: African Americans in Berkshire County was a project of the Berkshire County Historical Society in the late 1990s. Ethnic groups, most notably the African-American community, have traditionally been overlooked in histories of Berkshire County. The Invisible Community project intended to collect information on the historic presence of African-Americans in Berkshire County, and the role that community has played in the county’s history. This collection includes information concerning specific Berkshire residents, as well as institutions & events associated with the African-American community in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  Finding aid by Louisa Lebwohl, June 2012.


Mill Collection   pdf file

1 box (1.1 linear feet)
Collection number: AM-353

Abstract: This collection contains information on various mills and factories throughout Berkshire County, Massachusetts, most operating in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Plans for specific mills also evidence changes in building ownership, and company affiliation, over time. The predominant industries are paper, cotton, and wool; of the companies, the most significant is Crane Paper, based in Dalton.  Finding aid by Louisa Lebwohl, 2012.


Bousquet Collection, 1864-1987    pdf file

3 boxes
Collection number: AM-354

Abstract:  This collection was donated by Russell Bousquet, a Pittsfield resident. It focuses primarily on the city of Pittsfield, its history and events, through a variety of printed materials. Documents range from mid-19th-century annual reports on the Town of Pittsfield to late-20th-century newspaper clippings and tourist publications.  Finding aid by Louisa Lebwohl, August 2012.


Bliss/West/Backus Collection  pdf file

Collection number: AM-­‐349

Abstract:  The Bliss, West, and Backus’ were three early Pittsfield families, some of whom settled here even prior to the city’s 1761 incorporation. The Backus family had significant involvement with the Pittsfield Fire Department, and owned a prominent storefront in the downtown area. During the 19th-­‐century, intermarriage created associations between these three families. Members of the Bliss, West, and Backus families are referenced throughout the four-­‐volume History of Pittsfield, covering the years 1734-­‐1955. The four volumes, and a comprehensive index, are available in the Margaret H. Hall Library at the Berkshire Historical Society.  Finding aid by Louisa Lebwohl, July 2012.


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