The extensive collection of papers preserved in the archive at the Edison National Historic Site—approximately 5 million pages in all—is the product of Thomas Alva Edison's sixty-year career as inventor, manufacturer, and businessman. Until now, the sheer size and organizational complexity of the archive have deterred researchers from delving extensively into its wealth of documentary resources. With the publication of the selective microfilm and book editions, these historically significant papers are for the first time readily available to scholars and other researchers. Because the arrangement of the documents on the microfilm parallels the organizational structure of the archive itself, it is helpful to understand how the records of Edison's laboratories and companies were generated during his own lifetime and how the archivists entrusted with their guardianship have subsequently treated them.
This site is a vast database of Thomas Edison's papers including 71,000 pages of correspondence and 12,000 pages of technical drawings. Processes for searching the site are complicated and visitors are recommended to read a 3,000-word guide to searching it. The site may be searched by name, date, or document type, by Folder/Volume, or by Series notes. Series collect documents in groups, such as scrapbooks and legal papers. The site includes over 2,000 facsimiles of Edison patents from 1868 to 1931 for products such as the electric lamp and the phonograph. More than 7,000 clippings from 103 journals and newspapers discuss Edison's achievements. Journals range from the American Engineer to the Westminster Gazette. "Document Sampler" contains over 20 documents including Edison's wife's design for a light bulb and a list of 19 different possible names for the phonograph. A collection of photographs, maps, and prints depict Edison, his environs, and his inventions. There are two chronologies of Edison's life on the site, the longer one running 13,0000-word. The site offers an 8,000-word essay on Edison's companies and over 20 pages about Edison and the development of the motion picture industry. A 70-item bibliography and a shorter 10-item version direct visitors to books and articles about Edison. The site links to 20 Edison-related websites. Because it is somewhat difficult to search, this site will be most useful to experienced researchers.