Special Collections and Archives

Welcome to Special Collections & Archives!  Located in Olin Library, this department is the home of the University’s archives, local history, manuscript, and rare book collections, and is open to the Wesleyan community and the public.  Our department holds and provides access to more than 500 collections of archival materials and over 30,000 rare books.  In addition to being the official repository for historical University materials, we have strong holdings of artists’ books and local history materials, as well as the papers of Lincoln Memorial architect Henry Bacon, avant garde musician John Cage, and biographer and popular historian William Manchester, among others.  Please see our “Collection Overview” page for more details about our collections.

The holdings of Special Collections & Archives are both broad and deep, and they include something for just about everybody.  But there’s more to Special Collections & Archives than our collections.  In addition to functioning as a full-service library and archives within Olin Library, we offer class instruction and Personal Research Sessions for Wesleyan faculty and students, and we welcome Wesleyan alumni, visitors from other institutions, and the public.  We answer thousands of reference questions every year, and we participate in University events during Homecoming/Family Weekend, Reunion/Commencement, and throughout the year.  Our blog, events, exhibitions, and open houses all highlight our holdings and services.

Questions about Special Collections & Archives?  Ask us!
  • A selection of pamphlets from the Beales Collection of 19th- and 20th-century British social and economic history.
  • Members of Wesleyan’s Class of 1881 at a reunion, June 27th 1888.
  • A view of College Row, from the 1870s.
  • The artist’s book <i>Crazy Quilt</i>, created by Maureen Cummins in 1998. © Maureen Cummins
  • Student protesters in Fisk Hall, 1969.
  • William Morris's <i>Syr Perecyvelle of Gales</i> (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1895).  Illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones.
  • Wesleyan students conducting research in the Special Collections & Archives reading room, spring 2011.
  • <i>Common Monsters of the United States</i>,  by Michael Kuch (Northampton: Double Elephant Press, 2004). © Michael Kuth
  • Isaac B. Truitt, who worked at Wesleyan, was a Civil War veteran, and a member of the Cross Street Church.  Photograph ca. 1870.
  • The book of Genesis, from the “Koberger Bible,” printed by Anton Koberger in Nuremberg in 1483.  Gift of George W. Davison, class of 1892.
  • The second edition of Walt Whitman’s <i>Leaves of Grass</i> (Brooklyn, N.Y., 1856). Purchased with funds from Caroline Clark Barney, class of 1895.
  • William Manchester, Writer-in-Residence, at his desk in Olin Library, February 1967.
  • Wesleyan’s Natural History Museum was located in Judd Hall from 1871 until 1957.
  • Laura Stark’s class, Reading Medical Ethnography (SISP300), visits the Davison Rare Book Room to research the Wesleyan cemetery, February 23, 2011.
  • Good news in the Wesleyan Argus, October 26, 1966!