Research Inquiries

Each year, the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library answers hundreds of reference inquiries, in person, by phone and by mail with inquiries coming from all over the world. Researchers have asked for images of the ship on which an ancestor first came to America, for information about medical practices in the early U. S. Navy, for copies of plans to build a small craft, and if the nearby Moshulu is the same ship that appears in the movie The Godfather: Part II. (It is.)

Genealogists should be aware that the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library collections generally do not support detailed genealogical research. Those beginning to undertake a genealogy project are strongly encouraged to view the National Archives Genealogy Page before contacting us. For passenger arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia, please contact the National Archives Mid-Atlantic branch

Photograph, Union Volunteer Hospital and Saloon, 1860s.

Conducting Research:

The J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library is open to the public by appointment only, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As with most special collections libraries, because the collections necessitate particular handling and staff time is limited, an advance appointment is required for admittance. J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library visitors must purchase a museum admission ticket or have a current museum membership - tickets and memberships may be purchased at the Visitor Services desk upon arrival at the museum.

For contact information, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.


When using the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library , we ask for your help in preserving and protecting the collections.

  • All materials should be handled with care and are for use in the Reading Room only.
  • Photocopying is done at the Director's discretion.
  • Independence Seaport Museum members are eligible for discounts on some service fees.
  • No eating, drinking or chewing gum is permitted.
  • Please use pencil when taking notes; no pens are permitted near any materials.
  • Electrical outlets for laptop computers are available.
  • Personal belongings should be stored in a locker.
  • Please ask the librarian if you require a pencil, magnifying glass, book support or scrap paper.
  • Note: Researchers more than one hour late to their appointment will have their appointment canceled, if they do not call or email the Archives staff for notification.

Online tools:

Many finding aids and inventories of individual archival collections are available to access either as a web page or downloadable as a PDF file. To see which finding aids and inventories are online, please visit the Online Resources page. Along with both tools, there are also collection guides accessible for further research help.

Contact Information:

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please:

Call: 215-413-8640


Mail to:  J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library
               Independence Seaport Museum
               211 S. Columbus Blvd.
               Philadelphia, PA 19106

Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for a response.

When writing for reference assistance, please be specific in stating your request and be sure to provide complete contact information.