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Senators' Papers and Archives

The records created and maintained within a senator's office are the property of the senator. Most senators donate their collections to a research repository in their home state when they leave office. At the repository, the records are made available to researchers after an appropriate amount of time has passed. Senatorial collections are valued by research libraries because they are rich sources for the study of local and national history, regional issues, national affairs, political science theory, foreign affairs, and public policy. While print and broadcast sources contain a great deal of congressional information, it is the senators’ personal papers that contain the most comprehensive and authentic record. Senators' papers are one of the two major sources (the other being records of Senate committees) that document the history of the legislative branch of government.

Typically, senators’ collections include correspondence, memos, reports, press communications, appointment calendars, speeches, voting records, photographs, recorded interviews and broadcasts, and social media communications in both textual and electronic formats that document the legislative and constituent services work of the office. They may also include information on personal and political activities, legislation development, constituent services, media activities, and basic office administration. Many collections include papers from family members and from senators’ pre- and post-Senate careers. Because of their breadth and coverage, these collections are valued as major primary resources for the study of America's past.

More than 2,000 individuals have served in the United States Senate, and most of those careers have been documented in personal collections. In addition, many records can be found in the collections of their professional colleagues, other contemporaries such as journalists, and in the archives of professional organizations and associations. Approximately 600 publicly accessible research institutions across the country hold these collections. They include senators’ personal papers, family papers, staff papers, correspondence with key individuals and organizations, and oral history interviews. Collectively, these materials document the lives and careers of former senators, their legislative priorities, and the legislative, political, and democratic processes of the United States Senate.

For information about the location of any senator's archival collections see his or her entry in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress. For access to Senate web harvests see the National Archives' Federal Web Harvests.