Not long ago, I had an opportunity to visit the DAR Library in Washington, DC. I have been there before as I’ve been a Daughter for 35 years and I have been lucky enough to visit our nation’s capital multiple times. However, I am always amazed by both the beauty of the building and the quality of the library.
The DAR Library is located at 1776 D Street, N.W. and there is little chance that you would miss it.
The entrance to the library is actually just to the right of the steps where the DAR banners are hanging.
The NSDAR library website has the following description of its holdings:
The DAR Library collection contains over 225,000 books, 10,000 research files, thousands of manuscript items, and special collections of African American, Native American, and women’s history, genealogy and culture. Nearly 40,000 family histories and genealogies comprise a major portion of the book collection, many of which are unique or available in only a few libraries in the country.
There are a couple of misconceptions about this gem. You do not have to be a DAR member to use the library. Until a couple of years ago, there was a $10 fee for non-members to research there, but that fee has been dropped. Access is free to all; the only restriction on public visits is in late June-early July during Continental Congress, which is the DAR national convention. During that week, only Daughters may use the library, simply because of numbers.
Upon entering the building, you will check in at the security window and receive a visitor’s badge. As you enter the library, the reference desk is on the left.
You can already get a sense of how beautiful this library is. The library was the original meeting room for the ladies before they outgrew the space and moved into the larger Hall.
The library is just about jaw-droppingly beautiful.
See those white rectangular things on the second floor? Those are actually rolling book shelves, full of fabulous genealogy books!
After taking in the room, it is sometimes a bit difficult to settle down and work, even for genealogy, but the work space is also beautiful:
The chairs are comfy modern, while the tables are vintage old wood with lots of new lighting.
While this is very much a “book” library (as in brick and mortar building), some of its holdings are becoming accessible online. Although its online databases are somewhat limited, they are growing.
How do you find anything here? At the library entrance, there are a series of handouts and brochures about the library. Among the most important are the floor maps:
Since the organization of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 125 years ago, members have regularly canvassed friends, family and neighborhoods gathering genealogical data from Bible records, letters, and other types of unique resources.
While the library has an impressive book collection, many of the books are not unique or hard to find at other genealogical repositories. Those unique records gathered by the Daughters through the years – the membership file documentation, research files, manuscripts and special collections are what makes this library stand out.
Research help is also available. In addition to the books, the library presents Genealogy 101 classes on an itinerant schedule:
And, since you are already in the building, take some time to visit the world-class DAR Museum:
Not only are there rotating exhibitions, there are period rooms representing many of the states. Docents give frequent tours.
If you find yourself in Washington, DC, make a note to yourself to visit and tour the DAR buildings at 1776 D Street, N.W. Allow yourself plenty of time to learn about their history and to do some research at this wonderful library.
Photos were all taken by me in April 2016. Library and museum brochures and papers are available free at the DAR Library.