We began in 1963 as the “Immigrant Archives,” a unit within the University of Minnesota Libraries. The vision of our founders was to fill an obvious gap in the historical and archival record regarding many immigrant groups who were not well documented elsewhere. Then, in 1965, the College of Liberal Arts, in collaboration with the University Libraries, chartered a Center for Immigration Studies. This Center was renamed the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) in 1974. From 1965 through 2013, the archives and library was managed in cooperation with the Center's other research and programmatic work. In 2013, these collections returned to the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections as its administrative home. We are now part of a group of four archival units which comprise the Migration and Social Services Collections and which share complimentary collections and expert staff.
Throughout our fifty-plus year history, we and our friends and supporters have succeeded in collecting and sharing sources on the experiences of migration. We are now one of the nation’s leading archival/library repositories of source material on im/migration and ethnicity. We provide access to oral histories, personal papers, and the organizational records of immigrants and refugees (and the agencies created to serve them) and to a library of printed material published by or about migrating people. Our collections are particularly rich on the labor migrants who came to the U.S. between 1880 and 1930s, on the displaced persons who arrived after World War II, and on the refugees resettled in the United States after 1975. This material is rich for study by researchers of many kinds, in areas of gender, ethnicity, race, migration, labor, industry, arts, and more.
The print collection consists of approximately 45,000 books and pamphlets, more than 3,500 serial titles, and over 900 newspaper titles. Most of these publications are the products of ethnic presses in the United States and Canada from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. The manuscript holdings consist of personal papers and organizational records in approximately 2000 collections measuring over 11,000 linear feet. Audio-visual materials and born digital material provide further rare and unique sources.
We work closely with our colleagues in the Immigration History Research Center, with whom we share an Advisory Council, and we are part of the Migration and Social Services Collections in Archives & Special Collections (ASC) in the University of Minnesota Libraries.