The Social Welfare History Archives is a unique resource for studying the history of social services in the United States at a national level. Our collections are open to the public at the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. In addition to faculty, students, and other scholarly researchers, users of the Archives include policy makers, journalists, documentary filmmakers, family and local historians, History Day students, and more. The Archives is part of the Migration and Social Services Collections in the Archives and Special Collections Department.


Our mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to historical records that support research and understanding of social services and social reform in the United States. A part of the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities Libraries, SWHA supports the University's traditional mission of research, instruction, and service.


The Social Welfare History Archives was founded in 1964 through the work of historian Clarke Chambers. During his research in the early 1960s on voluntary associations, he discovered both a problem and an opportunity. Archives and manuscript repositories at that time had collected very few social welfare records, but many national service organizations had preserved substantial historical records and were eager to see them made available in an appropriate institution. Through his initiative, the University of Minnesota Libraries established the Social Welfare History Archives to document the history of social service and social reform in America.

Contact Information

Social Welfare History Archives
Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 21st Avenue South, Suite 320
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: (612) 624-6394
Fax: (612) 624-4848

It is strongly recommended that you contact Archives staff to make an appointment before you visit so that we can have research materials ready for you. Our collections are kept in archival storage, in some cases off-site, and we are not always able to accommodate researchers who arrive without advance notice.

When contacting the Archives with a reference question, please include as much of the following information as possible:

  • Name
  • Affiliation
  • Contact information, especially phone and email (we usually have follow-up questions)
  • Date by which you need the information

Note that while some questions can be answered remotely, if your question requires extensive research, we may ask you to visit us in person.