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Forensics Research Guide: History of Fingerprinting

This guide provides links to online WVU Library resources and instructions for research in the area of forensic science. It also covers the International Association for Identification Collection.

Desperately Seeking Sherlock Holmes: the IAI Collection

On September 11, 2001, the importance of criminal identification to public safety became instantly apparent to every citizen in America. Events transpiring across the globe ever since have underscored this point time and again. Indeed, it is no longer difficult to imagine that the survival of civilization itself may one day rest in the hands of super sleuths charged with finding and apprehending those who would stop at nothing to tear it down.

If we could somehow transport the legendary dean of detectives from his 19th century flat at 221b Baker St. to the present, he would find himself to be seriously behind the learning curve. Modern criminal investigation has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past century, and especially over the last few decades. Fortunately, however, should Sherlock Holmes miraculously appear, an outstanding archival information resource exists which traces the evolution of this crucial field from its origins to the present. No, this marvelous collection is not at Scotland Yard. It’s in the West Virginia University Libraries!

In March 2005, the West Virginia and Regional History Collection and Special Collections became home to the library of the world’s oldest and largest criminal identification organization, the International Association for Identification. The IAI selected the WVU Libraries to house its priceless collection due to the University’s pioneering program in the field of Forensic and Investigative Sciences education. The program began back in 1997 when WVU signed an agreement with the FBI to create the world’s first forensic identification training center to help provide law enforcement with much-needed experts in the techniques of biometrics (scanning and analytical techniques to verify a person’s identity) and fingerprint identification.

Consisting of more than 100 linear feet of material, including archives and manuscripts, books, periodicals, and a wide assortment of ephemera, the IAI Collection is the most comprehensive forensics information resource in existence. The earliest materials in the collection date back to late 19th century when the field of scientific criminal investigationsology was in its infancy. Among the most valuable items are a set of scrapbooks containing the correspondence and personal papers of a giant in the history of forensics, Dr. Henry Faulds (1843-1930).... (MORE)

(This article originally appeared in the West Virginia and Regional History Collection Newsletter, Vol. 20: no. 2, spring 2005, pages 1-3.)

The International Association for Identification Collection

Please visit the IAI Collection Website at:


To view a list of books in the IAI Collection:

  • Go to the WorldCat catalog
  • Enter the terms international association for identification
  • Display Keyword in the pull-down menu
  • Select search

Books that circulate:

Books in the Archives and Manuscripts Collection:

  • All Users: Register as a researcher in the West Virginia and Regional History Collection or sign in if you are already a registered researcher. To register you will need a driver's licence if you are a member of the general public. If you are a member of the WVU community, you will need your Mountaineer Card or your driver's license. You also need to know your WVU ID number.

Rare Letters, Scrapbooks, and Photographs: 

Key Figures in Fingerprinting History