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Group of students in Herman Melville Memorial Room learning about local history

Local History & Genealogy 

Explore the history of Berkshire County and beyond from the 17th century to the present. Using books, maps, photographs, manuscripts, files, specialty databases and a wide range of other resources, the possibilities for exploration are endless. Trace your family history through time using both in-house and online resources. Discover the rich literary history of Berkshire County in the area dedicated to Berkshire Authors. Visit our Herman Melville Memorial Room to experience a glimpse into the life of the renowned author of Moby-Dick and other great works.


Herman Melville Memorial Room

The Herman Melville Collection, housed in The Herman Melville Memorial Room, is a unique research collection of works by and about Herman Melville, who lived in Pittsfield from 1850 until 1863. The collection includes family correspondence, legal papers, annotated volumes from Melville’s library, first editions of the author’s works, family photographs, framed and unframed prints from the author’s personal collection, family portraits and a large collection of personal memorabilia, considered to be the largest of its type in the world, including the desk at which Billy Budd was written.

Berkshire Authors' Room

Housed in its own room, the Berkshire Authors Collection is comprised of books, off prints, letters, vertical files, and other materials by and about authors and illustrators who have lived and/or worked in the Berkshire area from the 18th century and into the present.


Local History Resources

The Athenaeum’s Local History Collections are the largest and most comprehensive in the western part of Massachusetts, and include a broad range of primary and secondary source materials relating to the history of Pittsfield, Berkshire County, and adjacent areas of New York, Massachusetts, and the other New England States.

Genealogy Resources

Our extensive genealogy collection provides visitors the opportunity to explore their family history. Online sources include newspapers, vital, town, church and cemetery records, published genealogies, histories, manuscripts, military and court records. The wide-ranging collections at the Athenaeum encompass materials related to New England and Eastern New York. The addition of the National Archives microfilm resources expands these genealogy resources to the national level. This microfilm is restricted to in-library use only; visit the Local History department to access it.

Local History Events


Local History & Genealogy Databases



Ancestry (Library Edition)
Census, vital, military, immigration, and more historical records.



U.S. military records, starting in the Revolutionary War.



Census, Revolutionary War, Freedman’s Bank, and other records.

For our full collection of Local History & Genealogy Resources, visit Online Databases.