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UN Online Archives
Many students and researchers fall in love with the archive as a place – the smell of old files, the feel of often strangely delicate carbon copy paper, the serendipitous finds at the end of a long afternoon of leaving through irrelevant documents. But the current Covid-19 pandemic has closed archives around the world and made international travel impossible for billions. We are fortunate that international organizations have digitized significant amounts of material over the past few years. These online archives offer myriad visual, audio, and written materials to explore the people, places, and policies of international organizations. Like physical archives, these online repositories have gaps and silences. They do, though, offer exciting opportunities for original research.
Our guide provides an overview of archival materials that are freely available online. We have included materials on the League of Nations, United Nations, UN agencies, and several major philanthropies. If we have missed any repositories, please do e-mail us.
United Nations Digital Library
The United Nations Digital Library contains all UN documents since 1993 and a large amount of digitized documents written before 1993. Additionally, it offers maps and multimedia resources on both the United Nations and the League of Nations. It also provides metadata and item descriptions on some of its files, and links between related files such as agenda to resolution. For a detailed guide on the advanced search functions of the library, please visit its FAQ section.
United Nations Official Document System
The older United Nations Official Document System is similar in scope but offers some documents that are not available at the UNDL. For a detailed usage guide, please visit the Dag Hammarskjöld library website.
United Nations Audiovisual Library
The United Nations Audiovisual Library offers a wide variety of video and audio recordings, and photos on the United Nations. Among its collection are UN-produced documentaries, footage of UN operations, UN concerts, UN Radio programmes, proceedings of selected international conferences, and Security Council and General Assembly meetings, and historical and thematic compilations.
Note that only low-resolution versions of the videos are available for viewing free of charge. Reproduction and access to high-resolution videos are subject to a licensing fee.
Food and Agriculture Organization
FAO Document Repository
The Repository contains FAO publications, reports, and studies dating from 1946.
A comprehensive database of statistics on food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, natural resources management and nutrition.
Database of national legislations on regulations and policies on food, agriculture and natural resources management.
International Civil Aviation Organization
International Fund for Agricultural Development
International Labour Organization
ILO Digital Collection
Includes founding documents of the ILO in 1919, the personal collection of Albert Thomas, the first Director-General of the ILO, and the personal collection of Albert Guigui, dealing with the historical and political context of the labour movement.
ILO Digital Repository
The repository contains ILO publications such as books, reports, and journal articles, and working papers of the ILO meetings.
A comprehensive database of labour statistics.
Thematic Research Guides
International Monetary Fund
IMF Data provides data of IMF lending, exchange rates and other economic and financial indicators. There are also guides and manuals on the statistical practices of the IMF, member states, and the statistical community.
The library offers periodicals, books, working papers and studies, and data and statistical tools of the IMF. It also published a reading list and topic guides for researchers.
International Maritime Organization
Circulars and meeting documents of the IMO. A free online account is required for access.
International Telecommunication Union
ITU Digital Collections
Documentation, publications, and statistics of the ITU and its preceding International Telegraph Union and the International Radiotelegraph Union, dating back to 1849.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO Digital Library
The UNESCO Digital Library contains not only official documents and publications of UNESCO, but also third-party publications that are of interest to the organization.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics
A comprehensive database of statistics of UNESCO, organized by themes and countries.
UNESCO: Put a World of Pictures into Words
An online project seeking volunteers to help organize 5,000 newly digitized photos on the activities of UNESCO since 1945. Volunteers are asked to transcribe captions of the photos, and add appropriate tags such as subject, location, date, and language.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Access to some of the UNIDO statistics are subjected to a subscription fee. Students may contact UNIDO for access to specific subsets of their data free of charge, as per its FAQ.
World Tourism Organization
The library contains books, journals and statistical reports by country and by indicator. Some UNWTO publications are locked behind a paywall.
Universal Postal Union
World Health Organization
Global Index Medicus
A index of open access biomedical and public health literature produced by and within low-middle income countries
Institutional Repository for Information Sharing
A digital library of WHO’s publication and technical information produced since 1948
Global Health Observatory
Statistics of global health indicator collected and compiled by the WHO
WHO Historical Collection
A small selection of digitized historical publications of the WHO and its preceding international public health organizations
WHO Photo Library
A library of photos of the activities of the WHO since 1948.
World Intellectual Property Organization
World Meteorological Organization
WMO Publications and Resources
Reports, periodicals, and other publications of the WMO.
World Bank Group
See the bibliography section of this website.
The Yearbook of the United Nations
Published by the Department of Global Communications, the yearbooks are posited as an authoritative reference work for scholars on the activities of the United Nations.
The United Nations Statistical Yearbook
Published by the Statistics Division, it is an annual compilation of internationally available statistics on the world’s economic and social activities on a world, regional, and nation level.
The United Nations Disarmament Yearbook
Published by the Office for Disarmament Affairs, this yearbook provides an overview on UN disarmament effort.
The United Nations Demographic Yearbook
Published by the Statistics Division, this yearbook contains international demographic statistics, such as birth and death rate, marriage and divorce, language, and population composition.
Dag Hammarskjöld Library Research Guides
A series of well-written research guides providing an introduction to different aspects of the United Nations with links to relevant primary and secondary sources.
Index of UN Resources
An index of digital resources provided by the UN, such as statistical datasets, glossaries, dictionaries, thesaurus, and information centres on various specialized subjects.
Member States on the Record
This section of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library provides an overview on the history of all UN member states’ involvement with the UN. It also links to general debate statements and speeches made by the member states, draft resolutions that they have sponsored, and their relations with other member states.
League of Nations Total Digital Access Project
An ongoing project aiming to completely digitize the entire League of Nations Archives with approximately 15 million pages of content. Registry files of the Political Section from 1919 to 1927 and the photo archive are currently available for online access.
League of Nations Search Engine
A massive database of people, places, organizations, and topics connected to the League of Nations. Not only does the database provide descriptions on the subjects, it also illustrates the connections and relationships between them. It currently covers 12468 people, 3871 places, 1161 organisations and 21 topics.
League of Nations Council Documents
A complete collection of official documents of the Council of the League of Nations.
League of Nations Films
A collection of contemporary films about the League of Nations, made available by the UN Audiovisual Library.
Permanent Court of International Justice
Documents pertaining to the judgements, advisory opinions, and orders of the PCIJ from 1921 to 1940.
International Labour Organization Documents
Selected official documents of the ILO and database access to labour statistics and legislations.
WHO Historical Collection
A small selection of digitized historical publications of the WHO and its preceding international public health organizations, including the League’s Health Organization. Some documents are available only in French.
Carnegie Corporation of New York Digital Archive
A digital archive with selected primary documents on the activities of the corporation and a large volume of interview transcripts with the corporation's officers, staff, and grantees conducted since 1966.
The Online Collections and Catalog of Rockefeller Archive Center
A partially digitized archive of the Rockefeller Foundation. A wide array of archival documents and the foundation’s officer diaries are available online. The archive is searchable by keywords, date, place, people, and organization.
The Rockefeller Foundation - A Digital History
A thematically organized history of the foundation's history, illustrated with digitized primary documents, photos, and videos from the Rockefeller Archive with archive signature attached. The website could be used as a finding aid of sorts for the archive and as an introduction to the foundation’s history.
The National Archives (United Kingdom)
The UK National Archives have a large collection of primary documents on the League of Nations and the United Nations, some of which are digitized. Access to digitized files is normally subjected to a fee. However, the fee is temporarily waived during the Archives’ closure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Users may register for a Discovery account and download up to 50 files in 30 days.
The archives are searchable by keywords and can be filtered by date and availability online.
The following are some digitized files that may be of your interests.
Private paper of various ministers and officials of the UK Foreign Office 1824-1968
Private paper of Sir Anthony Eden as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1935-1946
Cabinet Office minutes and memoranda on the Washington Conference on Disarmament and on Pacific and Eastern questions 1921-1922
Cabinet Office minutes and memoranda on the International Economic Conference of Genoa 1922
Archives Nationales (France)
The Archives Nationales (France) holds very interesting documents concerning the United Nations and the League of Nations, some of which have been digitized. All the digitized images are available for free download.
To see some of the holdings, search
for the exact terms “Nations unies” or “Societe des nations,” and check “only digital archives.”
The German Federal Archive has a large collection of digitized archival material on the relationship between the League of Nations and the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. There are also some documents on the German Empire’s view of the proposal of a League of Nations during the First World War.
Digitized materials can be accessed from the Invenio system. Instructions as follow.
- Click Suche ohne Anmeldung to browse the archive without an account.
- Click Suche, and then Erweiterte Suche to begin an advanced search.
- Enter “Völkerbund” into the Suchbegriffe field, check nur Treffer mit Digitalisaten anzeigen.
- To further limit your search, enter more keywords under Suchbegriffe or specify a time period under Zeitraum.
- Click Suche in the bottom right corner.
- Select fonds under Treffer in der Tektonik and Treffer in der Klassifikation on the left side of the screen.
- Click Digitalisat anzeigen to view the digitized file.
- Note that the digitized file often takes more than a minute to load.
Other National Archives
As of May 2020, the national archives of Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and Switzerland do not have substantial holdings on either the United Nations or the League of Nations freely available online.