APA Materials at the Library of Congress


In 1966 APA entered into an agreement with the Library of Congress to manage and preserve a collection of the Association's records. Over a period of several years, more than 270,000 items from APA Central Office, Divisions, and State and Provincial Psychological Associations were transferred and processed by the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. While the time span covered is 1917-1985, the bulk of the records is concentrated in the period 1940-1980.

How to Retrieve APA Archive Materials from the Library of Congress Manuscript Division Reference Room

  1. Consult the APA Materials at the Library of Congress finding aid and write down the container numbers for every box you need or think you might need. It is better to have the Library of Congress staff bring all requested containers to the Reference Room at the same time as the APA Archives are stored off-site and there is a 24 to 48 hour turnaround. There is no Saturday delivery. If you plan to visit on a Saturday, make your request no later than Wednesday.

  2. Pick a date to go to the Library of Congress Reference Room. The hours are Monday - Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. No materials are served after 4:15 p.m.

  3. Call the LC Manuscript Reference room at 202-707-5387. Tell the librarian the date you plan to go and give the librarian the number of each container you want to see. 

  4. On the day you go to LC to look at the containers you will have to fill out a registration card. You must have a photo ID in order to register as a user.

  5. Once the registration is complete, fill out the request forms LC provides and the materials will be delivered to you. At that time the librarian will provide further instructions as necessary.

  6. For further information call the Manuscript Reference room (202) 707-5387.

Finding Aids

Finding aids are guides to the materials held by an archives. They also may be called inventories, registers, or indexes. Finding aids help researchers understand the range and depth of a collection by providing detailed descriptions of the collection.


The records of the American Psychological Association were initially given to the Library of Congress in 1967. Several large additions were given to the Library between 1968-1986.

The status of the copyright in the unpublished writings among the record of the American Psychological Association in these papers and in other collections of papers in the custody of the Library of Congress is governed by the Copyright Act of the United States (Title 17, U.S.C.).

A phonodisc sound recording and recordings of oral history interviews have been transferred to the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division where they are identified as part of the American Psychological Association records.

Portions of the records of the American Psychological Association were originally processed in 1968 and 1975.

Linear feet of shelf space occupied: 290
Approximate number of items: 270,000

Scope and content note

Founded in 1892 and incorporated in 1925, the American Psychological Association (APA), a professional organization for psychologists, numbered slightly over 72,000 members in 1991. The primary purpose of the organization, according to Article I of the original articles of incorporation, is "to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare." These objectives are accomplished through annual meetings, through publication of journals, pamphlets and books, and through administrative services which strive to improve standards and training for psychologists.

The chief governing body of the APA is the Council of Representatives, whose members include representatives from each of the association's divisions and affiliated state associations. The Board of Directors is the administrative agent of the council and exercises general supervision over the affairs of the association through interaction with the executive officer. The board is composed of six council members elected by the council and six officers of the association (president, past president, president-elect, recording secretary, treasurer, and executive officer). The executive officer does not vote.

The administration of the organization is vested in the executive officer, at various times called the executive secretary, executive officer and chief executive officer, who manages the central office located in Washington, D.C. Adjuncts to the executive are a number of specialized administrative offices which support the administrator according to the interests of the office. For instance, there are offices dealing with educational affairs, scientific affairs, women's issues, and professional affairs.

Associated with the organization are divisions, committees, and affiliated organizations which help define the interests of the association. Presently the APA has forty-two divisions, ranging from "general psychology" and "psychologists in private practice," to "counseling," "teaching of psychology," "personality," and "family." Committees guide projects and handle issues ranging from ethical standards to insurance and financial questions. Some committees are standing bodies; others are continuing or ad hoc. Committees are established by the council of representatives, board, or other committees. Affiliates are organizations which have merged or associated with the APA. One such group represented in the records is the American Association of Applied Psychologists.

The first installment of APA records came to the Library in 1967. Subsequent gifts were made in 1968 (61,500 items), 1973 (50,000 items), 1978 (85,000 items), 1982 (85,000 items), 1983 (50,000 items), and 1986 (125,000 items). The total amounts to over 270,000 items, spanning the years 1917-1986, with the bulk of the records concentrated in the period 1940-1980. The records consist of correspondence, memoranda, reports, minutes of meetings, agendas, ballots, financial papers, drafts of books, articles, and lectures, testimonies, printed and near printed matter, and miscellaneous material. They are divided into eight series representing the structure and function of the organization, including segments labeled Council of Representatives Files (1945-1986), Board of Directors (1946-1986), Administration (1918-1985), Boards and Committees (1920-1986), Divisions (1917-1985), Journals and Publications (1925-1986), and Affiliated Organizations (1932-1984). The records are replete with gaps. A lack of consistency in the retirement of APA records may have contributed to the absence of material regarding certain periods or subjects. Many divisions and committees did not retire their records to the Library, preferring the Akron University Psychological Archives, Akron, Ohio. The records of the APA held by that institution should be consulted where gaps exist here.

There are few records in the collection prior to 1930. Those interested in the formative period of the APA may wish to consult an article by Samuel W. Fernberger, published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1932, detailing the history of the organization from 1892 to the early 1930s.

The governing bodies of the APA -- the Council of Representatives and Board of Directors -- are represented in these records by separate series dating between the end of World War II and the beginning of the 1980s. Consisting largely of correspondence, memoranda, reports, and meeting data, they treat business and organizational issues and relate to the direction of the association.

More extensive in scope and chronology are the Administration files (1918-1985). Until 1955, much of the material in the records of the APA was maintained in the office files of the executive secretary of the association. Dating primarily from the 1930s, the executive portion of the Administration files reflect the managerial decisions of the organization's chief officers. They also document its main activities. Featured in the personal records of various executives -- from Donald G. Paterson and Willard C. Olson in the 1930s and 1940s to Arthur Brayfield and Kenneth B. Little in the 1960s and 1970s -- are the concerns and issues which defined their tenure as leaders. Themes of significance include APA-government relations, psychological testing, forensic information, loyalty investigations, the behavioral sciences, scientific exchanges, science and education, and the Peace Corps. Other important issues include legislation on aging, television projects, legal testimony, White House conferences, international cooperation, and ongoing publication efforts.

Organized according to individual officeholder, the executive files of the Administration series often contain their own subseries (correspondence, subject files, committee and organizational files, etc.). As a group, they support and amplify a larger Administration subgrouping called Departmental Office Files which comprise the records of eight departments within the association, including Educational Affairs, Professional Affairs, Programs and Planning, Scientific Affairs, and Women's Program. In subject matter, they document the main thrust of the APA's post-1950s operations from the minutia of daily activities to the practical applications of its programs and policies. As an example, within the files of the Professional Affairs office are studies covering abortion, contraception, population issues, and social attitudes, all under the term "family planning."

The Boards and Committees series (1920-1986) offers further documentation of the APA's outreach. Board and committee records are first arranged according to the status of the unit (whether standing, ad hoc, continuing, joint, etc.) and then by the name of the functioning body. Contained in these records besides a great deal of administrative matter is the substantive data accumulated by various APA units in the course of developing and promoting psychology as a profession and field of study. Principal groups represented are boards relating to professional affairs, scientific affairs, social and ethical responsibility, education and training, and publication. Featured as well are the files of temporary bodies: ad hoc or continuing committees such as boards on ethical standards in psychological research, on psychology in governmental and public affairs, on revision of test standards, and on the APA's association with the guilds of related disciplines.

Topics highlighted in the Boards and Committees series reflect the core concerns of the organization, especially after 1960. Prominent are women's issues, equal opportunity for minorities, drug use, attitudes toward homosexuals, Vietnam War veterans (their traumas and treatment), post-doctoral education, sex-role stereotyping, and social justice. Particularly extensive are files concerning the ethical treatment of human subjects during research. Also significant are testing and training issues; permeating the APA records as a whole is a gamut of health concerns, from licensing questions and insurance matters to community health centers and the relationship between psychology and psychiatry.

The remaining files of the APA consist of a large Divisions series (1917-1985), followed by Journals and Publications (1925-1986), Affiliated Organizations (1932-1984), and a small Miscellany Series (1931-1986). Diverse and incomplete, the Divisions files are organized by number, but the numbering is inconsistent and not all divisions are represented in the records. Of the files and fragments of files present, those of divisions 12, 14, and 17 ("clinical," "industrial" and "counseling psychology") are fullest.

The records in the Journals and Publications series are also fragmentary, with the stronger portion beginning in the 1970s. Included are editorial and administrative matter related to books, abstracts, monographs, and journals published by the organization.

The Affiliated Organizations series concerns the files of three organizations (which beginning in the 1940s eventually merged with the APA), the American Association for Applied Psychology, the Conference of State Psychological Associations, and the Virginia Psychological Association.

Correspondents include George Albee, Arthur Brayfield, Arthur Centor, Isador Chein, Kenneth Clark, Dorothy Clendenen, John Darley, Nicholas Hobbs, Erasmus Hoch, John McVee Hunt, Thelma Hunt, Kenneth B. Little, Joseph B. Margolin, Wilbert J. McKeachie, John J. McMillan, Willard Olson, Fillmore H. Sanford, Leona Tyler, Dael Wolfle, Robert Yerkes and Joan Zaro.