The National Library of Israel: Archives and Manuscripts Division

The National Library of Israel is the leading academic research library in the state of Israel. It holds unique manuscript and archival collections which supplement the library collections.

The National Library traces its origins to 1892, when Joseph Chazanovitch (1844-1919) proposed the creation of a library in Jerusalem, the Sifriyah Abarbanel (Abarbanel Library). The collections became the basis for the Hebrew University’s library when it was established in 1924-25, and later became the Jewish National and University Library (since 2007 the National Library of Israel).

A number of relevant departments archival material and other important historical sources:

  1. The NLI has an extensive collection of digitized manuscripts.
  2. The NLI has collected and digitized a large number of historical newspapers.
  3. The National Sound Archive.
  4. The archives and manuscript department: This is the core archival section of the NLI. It contains approximately 1000 personal archives, both in the original and microfilm.

The archives collections includes prominent cultural and intellectual figures in Israel and the Diaspora, among them Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg), whose files were the first major collection acquired by NLI in following his death in 1927, as well as the papers and personal libraries Martin Buber, S. Y. Agnon, and Albert Einstein (whose papers are the basis for the Albert Einstein Archives). They also have the files of numerous Hebrew University scholars and other Jewish studies scholars from the Diaspora, among them the papers of S. D. Goitein and Saul Friedländer. There are also numerous photograph collections. There is also an extensive ephemera collection which includes posters and postcards.

One particularly notable collection is the files of Max Brod, which includes the archives of Franz Kafka.

Some collections are also available online.

The NLI continues to gather original archival material as part of its ongoing collections policy. In addition, they acquired the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, which is now a department of the library; it will be moved to the new National Library building, in the government precinct, when construction is completed.

research notes

The Archives and Manuscripts department is located in the main library building on Givat Ram. Upon entry to the library, researchers go through security and must check their bag at the front desk. You can bring a clear plastic bag to help carry your computer, camera, etc.

The Archives and Manuscripts Department is located in the building’s basement, in the Special Collections Reading Room. Following a series of tables with microfilm machines, there is a set of desks surrounded by card catalogues, which is the area for consulting physical archives. The card catalogue is a useful resource for browsing the archival collections in addition to the online search engine, which mixes archival materials with

The collections’ finding aids are integrated into the MERHAV catalogue search, with each individual series listed as a specific item.

In the reading room, a single reference staff sits in a desk in front of the main archives office (the desk is not always staffed unless there are researchers consulting materials), and they handle all requests. Before researchers are provided a file for consultation, it is weighed on a scale; and then it is weighed again upon return to ensure that nothing is missing.

Further Reading