Using OHS Research Library Collections

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) Research Library is committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and research. OHS websites, catalog records, finding aids, and digital images are intended to enhance scholarship and promote educational use of both the digital and the original objects.

Downloadable Handout (PDF)


Users of OHS collections are expected to abide by all copyright and other intellectual property laws. OHS does not hold copyright to all the materials in the library’s collections. The nature of historical collections is such that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine. The absence of copyright or other information on restrictions is no guarantee that a work is in the public domain either in the United States or abroad. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright and other restrictions. OHS makes no express or implied warranty to others who wish to use or reproduce items found in its collections. In addition to copyright, some materials reproduced from OHS collections are subject to rights of privacy, publicity, and trademark.

Public Domain

Materials that are no longer protected by copyright are in the public domain and may be used for free without permission. The library does not charge usage fees, nor does it grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise use public domain materials. For a general guide to determining copyright status in the United States, see the Cornell Copyright Information Center,

Fair Use

Sections 107 and 108 of U.S. Copyright Law expressly permit the use and duplication of copyrighted works without permission “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.” OHS encourages “fair uses” of our materials whenever possible. We recommend that researchers retain a record of their fair use determinations or attempts to secure permissions.

Digitization Services

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library offers reproductions of OHS collection material as a service for research, personal, educational, creative, or commercial use. Researchers who seek the reproduction or retrieval of high-resolution materials may contact the library for reproduction services. Fees for reproduction and retrieval cover labor costs for technical services including, but not limited to: research, retrieval of original or digital materials, equipment setup, care and handling requirements, metadata creation, and delivery. Any use of reproductions from the OHS Collections exceeding fair use of copyrighted materials, including transferring or recopying, requires the permission of the copyright holder. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine copyright and secure permissions for any reuse of OHS materials.

For more information about Digitization Services, visit Reproduction and Research Services.


As a matter of scholarly best practice, we recommend that researchers using collection materials cite the Oregon Historical Society Research Library and/or OHS web pages as the source for collection materials.

The specific format for citing primary sources varies among citation styles, contexts, and institutions. There are a few elements that are frequently expected for proper citation. The unique nature of archival materials means that styles are more flexible than with published materials, and the content of elements can vary widely. When citing OHS materials, fill out as many relevant elements as possible. Refer to individual style guides, such as Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), Modern Language Association (MLA), or American Psychological Association (APA), for additional information about citing archival materials and maintaining a consistent internal format for citations.

See the examples below for including important identifiers when citing OHS archival materials.

 Item Information: Description of the item cited
 Author Joseph Lane to Joel Palmer
 Date 1851-05-26
 Title/brief description Letter or correspondence
 Unique Item Number No unique number for this item
 Reference URL for digital objects
 Collection Information: Provide context and point to original item
 Collection Name Joel Palmer Papers
 Collection Number Mss 114
 Box and Folder Box 1, Folder 18
 Repository Information: Where the original item is held
 Repository Oregon Historical Society Research Library
 Location Portland, Oregon
Letter from Joseph Lane to Joel Palmer, May 26, 1851. OHS Research Library, Joel Palmer Papers, Mss 114, box 1, folder 18

Chicago Manual of Style:

Item description, date, box number, folder number, unique item number, collection name, collection number, name of repository, location, URL (date accessed).

Letter from Joseph Lane to Joel Palmer, May 26, 1851, Joel Palmer Papers, Mss 114, box 1, folder 18, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon, (accessed February 4, 2019).

Modern Language Association:

Author. Item description. Date. Box number, folder number, unique identifier. Collection number, collection name. Name of repository, Institutional affiliation, Location. URL. Date accessed.

Lane, Joseph. Letter to Joel Palmer. 26 May 1851. Box 1, Folder 18. Mss 114 Joel Palmer Papers. Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon, Accessed 4 Feb. 2019.

American Psychological Association:

Author A.A. (Date). Title. [Description of Material]. Name of Collection (Call number, box number, file number, etc.). Name of Repository, Location. Retrieved from [URL}.

Lane, J. (1851, May 26). [Letter to Joel Palmer]. Joel Palmer Papers (Mss 114, Box 1, Folder 18). Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon. Retrieved from

Minimum Credit: For publication, not scholarly citation, use only when space limitations prevent full citation.

OHS Research Library, [collection number and box/folder or unique ID]

OHS Research Library, Mss 114, b1, f18