Social Science and History Department

Monday, August 23 – Message from Staff

The Social Science and History Department is open for in-person services, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You may telephone us at 215-686-5396 or email us at

Due to the Newspapers and Microfilm Center renovation, limited microfilm and print retrieval & viewing services will be available out of the Social Science and History Department (Rm. #201) after Monday, April 25. Please feel free to call us with any questions regarding these service changes, or our newspaper and microfilm services, in general. 

1901 Vine Street, Room 201
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Feb. 20 : Closed Presidents' Day
  • Fri., Apr. 7 : Closed Good Friday
  • Sun., Apr. 9 : Closed Easter
  • Mon., May. 29 : Closed Memorial Day
View all holiday closings


  • Computers for public use
  • Electrical outlets available
  • Photocopier (black/white)
  • Printing (black/white)
  • Scanner
  • Self-service checkout
  • Water fountain
  • Wireless internet access (wi/fi)

Upcoming Events

Virtual Event - PMC Shares: Paul Titus Criminal Court

Wed, February 15, 2023 6:00 P.M.

Register When taken to court, criminal matters involve very high stakes for anyone involved. Therefore, developing knowledge of the criminal process beyond TV dramas and movies is vital for an…

Hybrid Event: Philadelphia Legal Assistance Workshop - Property Tax and Mortgage Issues

Wed, March 1, 2023 3:00 P.M.

REGISTER In this workshop, an attorney from Philadelphia Legal Assistance will offer a presentation about property tax and mortgage issues in Pennsylvania. PLA provides free legal services to…

Virtual Event - PMC Shares: Expungement of Records & Clean Slate

Wed, March 15, 2023 6:00 P.M.

Register In this presentation, we will navigate the process of expungement and clearing your record after a criminal incident, including a review of the documents required for completion and where…

Virtual Event: From Religion to History: How our culture wars over the schools have changed

Mon, March 20, 2023 6:00 P.M.

Register Americans have always argued over their public schools. But for most of our history, these conflicts focused on questions of religion and faith. Now we’re arguing about our…


The Social Science and History Department (SSH) is the central collection for research in history, sociology, anthropology, government, law, criminology, and sports. Collection strengths include local Philadelphia history and genealogy, biography, travel, and spectator sports. Our Legal Reference Collection includes popular guides to civil law for the lay person.

Goverment Publications Department (GPD) reference services are offered within the Social Science and History Department. 

Research File Collections

The Social Science and History Department maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government. These files include article clippings, books, pamphlets, maps, prints and other related ephemera. To access these files, please consult a librarian at the department reference desk.

Philadelphia Communities and Neighborhoods

Pennsylvania File


The Social Science and History Department subscribes to a broad collection of academic journals and popular serials. Many are accessible on our department’s magazine racks. Back issues of our periodicals are also maintained. For more information, please consult the librarians at the reference desk.

Current Periodical Subscriptions


The Free Library offers access to a broad selection of databases that support research in the areas of history, anthropology, sociology, government, law, sports, as well as genealogy. The following have a particular focus on topics in these areas:


  • American Broadsides and Ephemera - This is a collection of broadsides (1820-1900) and printed ephemera (1760-1900) from the American Antiquarians Society collections.
  • Archive of Americana - The comprehensive historical collections that form the Archive of Americana contain books, pamphlets, newspapers, government documents and ephemera.
  • Biography in Context - This is a comprehensive online biographical reference database containing 414,000 biographies.
  • Civil War Archive - Full text of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860 to 1865 is available here.
  • Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans (1639-1800) - Based upon the renowned American Bibliography by Charles Evans, this is a definitive resource for every aspect of life in seventeenth and eighteenth century America. Covering every aspect of American life during the early decades of the United States, these primary source collections provide full-text access to American books, pamphlets and broadsides published from 1639 to 1800.
  • Early American Imprints, Series II Shaw- Shoemaker (1801-1819) - This database covers every aspect of American life in the United States during the early nineteenth century, providing full access to the 36,000 American books, pamphlets, and broadsides published from 1801 to 1819.
  • Sanborn Maps GEO Edition (1867-1970) - This database provides digital access to thousands of large scale maps of American towns and cities, searchable by address and GPS.
  • U.S. History in Context - This database provides a complete overview of U.S. History, covering historical events and issues, as well as current information.
  • World History in Context - This is a multicultural, global resource that moves chronologically from antiquity to the present, and geographically around the globe, ensuring that the events, movements and individuals that defined and shaped our world are covered with a sense of balance.

Government Resources

  • American State Papers 1789-1838 - This is a source of primary material on many aspects of early American history.
  • Archive-It - This is a web archiving service that collects and stores the websites of Philadelphia government agencies and selected cultural institutions. You can search or browse the collection to view these sites as they existed in months or years past.
  • Declassified Documents Reference System - Declassified U.S. Government documents are available to view here.
  • HeritageQuest Online - This is an expanding collection of research materials to help you trace your family lineage, including United States population census records.
  • U.S. Citizenship Test Prep - Find information about the U.S. Citizenship test, as well as study materials and practice tests.
  • U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1817-1980) - Full-text reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are available here.


Multidisciplinary Subject Databases

  • JSTOR - This digital archive offers access to back issues of over 300 journals. Database is only available at all Free Library locations.
  • Salem Press Reference - This is a searchable database of reference tiles developed by the Salem Press covering literature, history and science
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context - This database offers information and articles on a variety of controversial social issues.