Letters of Introduction: A Valuable Tool when Conducting Research

It is sometimes difficult to gain access to institutions while doing research. This is why the American Historical Association (AHA) provides Letters of Introduction to assist researchers in gaining access to foreign research facilities, special collections, and government archives. These letters are very effective because the executive director signs them and they are embossed with the official seal of the AHA.  The only requirement for obtaining the letters is that one must be an AHA member.  If interested, please submit a request to Matthew Keough via e-mail or by mail at

American Historical Association
400 A Street SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
Attn: Matthew Keough

The following information should be included in the request. Please be as brief as possible.

  • The address where you will be receiving the Letters of Introduction.
  • Name of every research institution/archives/library to which you will give out a Letter of Introduction.
  • Your name.
  • Your academic/professional status (e.g. PhD candidate, professor).
  • Your affiliation.
  • Your AHA member number.
  • A brief description of your research topic.
  • The type of sources/material you will be using.
  • The type of material you wish to study when you are at the research institution/archives/library. What is the goal of your research project?

Courtesy Requests for independent historians (scholars without formal affiliation with academic institutions) seeking access to archives, colleges, or university libraries in the United States or abroad, for research purposes, are also available upon request. Please include a short statement on research plans, access needs, and a current c.v. or resume. Requests can be sent to the same address as Letters of Introduction.

Update: This post was updated in 2011 to note that Letters of Introduction and Courtesy Requests are available to historians researching both in and out of the U.S.

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