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Genealogy Resources

NARA Microfilm | Online Databases | Books | Volunteers Needed | Questions

At this point all of the books, finding aids and microfilm materials that comprised the collections of the NARA Pittsfield facility have arrived at the Berkshire Athenaeum and are housed in an area specially prepared for them on the lower level of the library. The computers that were used for online access at NARA are expected to physically transfer during the week of September 19th.  With the invaluable assistance of NARA archivist Jean Nudd-Elliott, Athenaeum Local History and Reference staff are currently in the process of gaining a basic knowledge of the most-used portions of the microfilm collection (which totals some 71,000 reels of film) through five different workshops that Jean is conducting. The knowledge gained through these workshops has given us sufficient information to develop a preliminary plan for providing researchers with access to these vast microfilmed resources.

Access to Microfilm Resources

Given the physical location in a non-public area of the microfilm resources formerly held by NARA, Pittsfield, Athenaeum staff have created a preliminary plan for providing access to the NARA resources for our patrons. On September 26, 2011 the library implemented the following procedures:
All of the printed finding aids that researchers and staff used at the NARA facility to locate specific microfilm resources will be shelved in the Local History Department available for access whenever the library is open.

A microfilm request form will be available for researchers to use to request specific reels of film. At specific times, Athenaeum staff will retrieve film from the lower level of the library for use by researchers on state-of-the-art digital microfilm equipment located in the Local History department. This form will also be made available on the library’s website so that users who are personally familiar with using online versions of NARA finding aids can submit film requests remotely.

Currently, the Athenaeum has established the following schedule:

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Access to Online Databases

The Athenaeum offers databases useful to genealogists, available from the Athenaeum website: Ancestry (Library Edition)*; New England Historical & Genealogical Society (American Ancestors). Most databases are available for home use by those with an Athenaeum library card.  Please consult the website for details and/or contact the Reference Department.

The Athenaeum offers public computers and printing service, for a fee, to those with a library card; public access to wifi is available to all visitors in most areas of the library.  For details or to make a computer reservation, contact the Reference Department.

Researchers are encouraged to consult the website for specifics on what these databases offer.  Professional assistance is available from Reference staff: or at the Reference Desk during regular library hours.

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Access to Book Resources

Providing access to the book collection transferred from NARA to the Athenaeum requires that all materials be processed through the Athenaeum’s cataloging department. Athenaeum staff have begun this process and will prioritize materials that are being specifically requested by researchers. Some materials will be shelved in the Local History Department and available whenever the library is open. For space reasons, other less requested materials will be housed in the lower level closed stacks and retrieved in the same manner that film is to be retrieved.

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Initial Important Role for Volunteers

Because the Athenaeum’s Local History Staff may not leave the department unattended at any time, it is hoped that the library will have a core of volunteers who will make it possible for access to the NARA book and microfilm resources to be more responsive to the immediate needs of researchers. Volunteers available at critical times, especially Monday thru Friday mornings, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Saturdays between 9AM and 4PM would allow the library to offer shorter turn-around times for film retrieval and provide assistance to researchers in navigating the finding aids to locate the resources they need. We are also hoping that volunteers will be available to staff a computer workstation in the Local History Department specifically reserved for teaching novice researchers to use the online databases so that they may more efficiently make use of the time available to them when accessing the databases through the Reference Department.

Additionally, we would hope that volunteers would continue to work at some of the projects begun under Jean and Tyrone’s supervision and would work with Athenaeum staff to identify other important projects that could be initiated. Please consider joining the Athenaeum as a volunteer in these new endeavors.

Volunteer Application available here.

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Questions, comments and suggestions are welcome and should be addressed to:
Kathleen Reilly or Ann-Marie Harris
Local History Department
(413) 499-9480 x 6

Updated September 2017