Massachusetts Historical Society

Library FAQ

Welcome to the MHS Library Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page! Scroll down to see FAQs regarding General Information, Portal1791, Search Tools, Item Requests, and Reproduction Requests.

General Information

Who can use the MHS Library?

The MHS Library is open to the public, free of charge. All are welcome to come and use our resources, however, anyone wishing to access the library must complete our registration process.

What do I need to do to use the library?

Anyone wishing to use the library must go through our registration process. To begin the process, create a personal account in our online registration and request system, Portal1791. 所有首次到图书馆参观的人也必须坐下来拍照(只供内部使用),并出示有效证件, government-issued photo ID, like a driver's license or passport. Once registration is complete, first-time visitors receive a short orientation from a member of the library staff.

How long does the registration process take?

Upon arrival for your first visit to the library, plan for 20-40 minutes to complete your registration and library orientation. If you created a Portal1791 account in advance of arrival at the MHS, 与您需要在现场创建Portal1791帐户相比,该过程花费的时间更少(接近20分钟).

Do I need to make an appointment?

All researchers are encouraged to request an appointment in advance of arriving at the MHS. To request an appointment you must create a user account in Portal1791 (see more below). When you log in to your Portal1791 account, click the "Appointments" tab in the red banner at the top of the screen and then follow the prompts. 已确认预约的研究人员将保证在预约日期在阅览室有一个座位. Walk in researchers will be accommodated if spots are available on the daily schedule. If you have difficulty submitting an appointment request or have additional questions, please e-mail

What can I bring into the library with me?

Researchers visiting the library may bring any personal electronics and associated power cords, like laptop computers and tablets, mobile phones, and cameras. All carrying cases must remain with other personal belongings in designated lockers.

Outer clothing like coats, scarves, and sweaters may be worn into the reading room but, once removed, must be placed in a locker or hung in our coatroom. Loose clothing may not be draped on chairs or laid on tables in the reading room.

For more detailed information, see the page titled What to Bring.

Can I take notes in the reading room?

Yes! The MHS provides note paper, lined and unlined, for researcher use, as well as pencils for writing. Outside paper and ink pens are not allowed in the library.

If a researcher requires the use of personal notes written on paper, the reader services staff will copy up to 20 pages onto MHS-approved paper for use in the library.

All note paper will be inspected by library staff before you leave the reading room.

I am working on a group project. Can the whole group come in to view a collection item?

Our reading room procedures require all researchers to work at individual tables in the reading room. At the discretion of a reference librarian, special arrangements can be made to accommodate research teams (i.e., groups of two or more) that must work together to complete a project. If you would like to schedule a group appointment, please review our group research policy and contact a reference librarian at 617-646-0532 or Please note that a $45.00 per hour set-up and supervisory fee may apply.

A collection I want to view is stored offsite. How long does it take to get access to offsite materials?

We typically require at least two business days' advance notice for materials stored offsite. Researchers requesting more than six items from offsite should provide additional advance notice. This is to ensure that we can have the items recalled from storage and onsite in time for your visit. Please contact the library with questions about offsite collections and for additional information.


What is Portal1791?

Portal1791 is the Massachusetts Historical Society's online request system. Portal1791 enables researchers to request items directly from the MHS online catalog ABIGAIL and the MHS collection guides; to order reproduction services through a personalized online account; and to track the history of requests and orders.

Why do I need a username and password?

By setting up a personalized web account with a username and password, Portal1791 allows researchers to request materials, order reproductions, and track the history of requests and orders. Your username and password allow MHS to give you secure access to information about your requests.

How do I create a Portal1791 account?

Begin by clicking on the “First Time Users” link on the login page (under the "Create Your Account" heading). Read the First Time User registration policies and click on “Create New Account” to proceed. Fill out the New User Registration form, being sure to complete all required fields. When you visit the MHS library, you will be asked to present a valid, government-issued photo ID and to be photographed by a Readers Services staff member.

How do I request an appointment to use the library?

All appointment requests are processed via Portal1791. 任何希望预约使用图书馆的人都必须首先在系统中创建一个用户帐户. Once a user account is established, 登录并单击屏幕顶部红色横幅中的“约会”选项卡,然后按照提示操作. If you have difficulty submitting an appointment request or have additional questions, please e-mail

Do I have to request and appointment to use the library?

Researchers are strongly encouraged to request an appointment in advance of arriving at the MHS. 已确认预约的研究人员将保证在预约日期和指定时间在阅览室有座位. 如果每天的时间表上有空位,但可以使用阅览室和闭式资料库,则可以容纳预约的研究人员, as well as microfilm collections, is not guaranteed.

How far in advance can I schedule an appointment?

You may schedule an appointment up to 15 months in advance.

I scheduled an appointment but need to change the date. What do I do?

Log in to your Portal1791 account and click on the "Appointments" tab. Locate the scheduled appointment and click the "Actions" button on the right-hand side, then select "Edit Appointment" if you would like to change the date, or select "Cancel Appointment" if you no longer intend to use the library. If you select "Cancel Appointment," you may submit a new appointment request at a later time. When you cancel an appointment, all requests associated with that appointment are also cancelled, but you may still access information about those requests form the "Request History" tab in Portal1791.

How long will my account be active?

Your account is active for one year. If you have not updated your account in the past 365 days, you will be asked to update your information the next time you login to your account. Once you are logged in, 您可以随时通过点击“偏好设置”,然后点击“更改用户信息”或“更改密码”来更改或更新您的帐户信息.”

What if I forget my password?

If you forget your password, click on the “Forgot Password?” link on the login page. An e-mail will be sent to the address you provided when you created your account. Follow the link in that e-mail to reset your password.

Is security a problem if I use a public workstation?

Yes. Web browsers cache information and create a history file on the local workstation. 这允许工作站的后续用户使用浏览器的后退按钮以您的名字访问系统,从缓存中召回页面, or by finding a page with your personal information in the browser's history file. 

If you login to Portal1791 on a public workstation, 请记得在完成后,按下菜单左上角的“登出”,登出. Delete from the file history those pages that contain your personal information. Then exit from the web browser to prevent the Back button from accessing the pages you were using.

What web browser should I use?

You will need a web browser that can handle forms, tables, and preferably cascading style sheets (CSS). The MHS recommends the current versions of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Apple’s Safari.

Why does Portal1791 time out?

Portal1791 is set to time out after 30 minutes of inactivity. 超时是必要的,因为必须同时设置用户限制,以确保系统性能达到可接受的水平.

Who should I contact if I have questions or problems?

If you have any questions or problems regarding Portal1791, please e-mail or call the reference staff at (617) 646-0532.

Search Tools

What is ABIGAIL?

ABIGAIL is the Society's online library catalog. ABIGAIL provides bibliographic access to most of the Society's collections of manuscript, printed, and visual materials. 该目录不断更新,因为协会获得了新的材料,并为它们创建了书目条目. If you have questions about navigating the catalog, please email, or call the reference staff at (617) 646-0532.

How do I use ABIGAIL to request materials?

To request materials through ABIGAIL, search in the catalog for the item(s) you would like to view. Once you have opened a catalog record, click the red “Place Request” button near the call number to request the item. This action will prompt you to log in to your Portal1791 account. The request form will then automatically populate with the required item information. In the “Special Requests/Questions?” field, enter any concerns pertaining to your request. 然后,您可以选择将请求与预定的约会利记手机官网起来(见上文),或者通过选择“保存请求以供以后”选项将所需的项目保留在您的审查列表中.

Why can’t I request some items through ABIGAIL?

Some items in ABIGAIL have a “Place Request” button that does not function. This is because a collection guide is available through which you can place requests. In these instances, the catalog record contains a link (next to the “Electronic Resources” heading) to the collection guide. Follow the link to place your request(s).

Sometimes, an ABIGAIL record does not have a button at all. This happens because of a minor glitch in the system. 尝试关闭目录,然后返回再次尝试搜索,问题应该会自行纠正.

What are collection guides?

Collection guides are narrative descriptions of the context, arrangement, and contents of manuscript, photograph, and other collections. These online guides will show up in browser search results (like Google or DuckDuckGo), while catalog records in ABIGAIL will not. If you find a collection guide from a web search, consider searching ABIGAIL also to see if there are additional items of interest.

How do I use the collection guides to request materials?

To place requests from a collection guide, 点击ABIGAIL记录上的收集指南链接或使用收集指南搜索工具找到您想要查看的收集. Then click on the red “Request Items” button in the top right-hand banner. 向下滚动到标题“收集的详细描述”,并单击标题右侧的“扩展所有”链接,以显示收集指南中每个框或卷旁边的请求复选框. Continue to scroll through the guide and to select checkboxes for those items you wish to view.

To submit the requests, click on the red “Continue” button on the lower right-hand portion of the page. In the pop-up box that populated you may either associate the request with a scheduled appointment (i.e., 点击“请求在图书馆中使用”按钮)或通过点击“保存”按钮将所需的项目保留在您的审查列表中. Once you have chosen an action, click “Submit Request.” The “submit” action will prompt you to login to your Portal1791 account.

Can I request multiple items per collection guide?

Yes. Select up to 25 items from the collection guide. Each box/volume is a separate item and counts against your limit of 25 items.

Item Requests

How do I request to view materials at the MHS?

Anyone wishing to view materials in the library, or to request reproductions, must establish a user account in Portal1791. Then, you can use the online catalog, ABIGAIL, or the online collection guides, to begin initiating requests.

Is there a limit to how many requests I can make?

您可以使用Portal1791发出最多25个请求,并保存无限数量的请求以供以后查看. Once you schedule a retrieval, the request becomes active. Requests for later review and reproduction orders do not count toward your limit.

I want to view a request I already completed on a prior visit. How do I resubmit an old request?

To resubmit a request, simply click on “Completed Requests” under “Requests” in your Portal1791 account. Click on the request number for the item you want to see again. Click “Clone Request”; update the information on the request form as needed (e.g., any special concerns pertaining to the request); associate the request with a scheduled appointment; and click on "Submit Request." If you do not have any appointments scheduled, click on the "Schedule New Appointment" button; once your appointment is scheduled you will be returned to the request form where you left off.

How long are my requests saved in Portal1791?

All your requests in Portal1791 are saved in perpetuity regardless of the status of the request.

What is the Review Requests queue in Portal1791?

当您通过在ABIGAIL中选择“Save Request for Later”或在收集指南中选择“Save for Later”提交项目时, you are saving these items to the Review Requests queue in Portal 1791. This queue saves items that you can review later and submit for retrieval if you choose. There are no limits on how many items you may save to the Review Requests queue.

Reproduction Requests

Does the MHS offer reproductions of material held in the collection?

Yes. 卫生保健处提供三种选择,以取得本处馆藏的复制品:参考复制品(pdf或影印本), publication-quality TIFF images, or photo prints. Details can be found on our Reproduction Services page.

How do I order reproductions?

All reproduction requests should be made through Portal1791. Use ABIGAIL, the collection guides, or online resources 查找您希望购买复制品的物品或藏品,并按照系统提示提交复制品/使用许可请求. You must submit a separate Reproductions/Use Permissions request for each item or collection record.

How much do reproductions cost?

Prices vary depending on the type of reproduction requested, type of materials being imaged, method, and speed of delivery. Details on pricing can be found at our Reproduction Services page.

I looked at an item in the reading room and now want reproductions. What next?

如果你在阅览室工作,并且知道你将要求从你正在处理的馆藏中复制, please ask the reading room attendant for paper slips to flag the relevant items within the collection.

对于每次研究访问不超过25页的松散材料(无装订本),可要求当天提供复印件, dependent upon staff availability. 请向阅览室服务员索取影印申请表,并在申请表上注明需要影印的资料.

All requests for PDF files, high resolution TIFF files, and photo prints must be made through Portal1791. Within Portal1791, open your original request for the item or collection and choose the “Clone to Copy” option. 复制/使用许可表单将自动使用收集信息填充表单,并提示您添加有关复制请求的其他信息. Please be as specific as possible.

Do I have to pay up front?

Yes. The MHS requires all reproduction requests be paid before files are delivered. However, you will have an opportunity to review and approve your invoice prior to completion of the work. Once you have approved the terms of your order, you may pay at any point. Once an invoice has been paid, the MHS will only adjust it if the final cost changes more than $10.00 due to unforeseen circumstances. If the final cost of an order changes more than $10.00 following invoice approval and payment, you will be notified by email.

How long do reproductions take to receive?

Reference reproductions currently take 8-12 weeks from order approval to order completion. High-resolution images and photo prints typically take 4-6 weeks from order approval to order completion. Once an order has been completed and the invoice paid in full, files will be uploaded to your Portal1791 for access within two business days.

Rush delivery is not available for reference reproduction requests. Rush delivery may be negotiated for high-resolution images if staffing allows. If the length of time it will take to process your request is a deciding factor, please e-mail the Assistant Reference Librarian for Rights and Reproductions ( to discuss specifics prior to placing your request.

Do I need permission to quote/cite material or use images?

Yes. In most cases, 卫生部规定,在向公众提供的作品中引用/引用未发表的手稿材料,以及使用卫生部材料的图像,均须获得许可.

Categories exempt from the formal use permission process include reference/personal use; academic assignments (other than theses/dissertations); lectures, presentations, and classroom use; use of images from the MHS website on blogs/websites and social media platforms; and approved press requests (contact the Director of Communications).

在所有情况下,应该在图像出现的地方使用“马萨诸塞州历史学会收藏”的信用线. For more information see our Use Permission page.

The Latest