One of the nation’s leading archival/library repositories of source material on immigration and ethnicity, the IHRC collects, preserves, and makes available these resources on a national scope. These materials are particularly rich for immigrant groups that originated in eastern, central, and southern Europe and the Near East—referred to historically as the “new immigrants”—who came to this country during the migration wave that gained momentum in the 1880s and peaked in the first decades of the 20th century. The Center also documents the work of institutions and individuals concerned with service to and programs for immigrants, including the most recent newcomers from throughout the world.
The IHRC’s collections include printed, manuscript, and audio-visual materials of national and local origin. The print collection consists of 45,000 books and pamphlets, more than 3,500 serial titles and over 900 newspaper titles. Most of these publications are the products of ethnic presses in the United States and Canada from the late nineteenth century to the present; but there are also many academic and popular works from university and commercial publishers. The manuscript holdings consist of ca. 1,400 collections occupying over 11,000 linear feet. Audio-visual materials consist of small, but rapidly growing, files of phonograph records, photographs, and oral history tape recordings.
Over the years, efforts have been made to collect materials reflecting as fully as possible the social, political, religious, and cultural characteristics of immigrant groups. Manuscripts collections, for example, include archives of ethnic fraternal associations, churches, publishing houses, musical and theatrical societies, political and labor associations, and consumer cooperatives, as well as papers of ethnic community leaders and ordinary individuals/families. These primary sources are complemented by a library composed predominantly of publications of ethnic presses, including novels and poetry, histories and biographies, religious and political works. The Center’s extensive collection of newspapers and serials, covering a wide diversity of perspectives, constitutes a fundamental and often used source for researchers.
Through the records of service agencies, publishers, and research institutions, the IHRC has in recent years been acquiring significant sources documenting the migration and acculturation of immigrants and refugees in the post-1965 era. Among these materials are the records of Immigration & Refugee Services of America (and its affiliate U.S. Committee for Refugees), records of International Institutes in several U.S. cities, the research library and program files of the University of Minnesota’s pioneering Center for Refugee Studies, and the primary resource documentation accumulated by the publishers of Interpreter Releases, the nation’s leading digest of immigration policy and law.
The Center has also obtained significant collections of reformatted material made available commercially or from other institutions. These include INS subject files on Asian exclusion, Mexican immigration, and prostitution and “white slavery.” Increasingly, such sources are being commercially distributed in electronic form, and the IHRC (in cooperation with the UM Libraries) obtained a subscription to the Alexander Street Press digital collection “North American Immigrant Diaries, Letters, and Oral Histories.” Collections such as this now provide the opportunity for the IHRC to dramatically extend the reach of its collections to UM students, faculty, and outside visitors exploring a wide array of topics, cultures, and time periods.