Special Collections & Archives has a broad range of collections that take the form of rare books, archival collections, digital materials, maps, ephemera, posters, and local history. Here are some highlights of our collections. If you have specific questions, please get in touch with us.

Archival Collections

  • Archival collections database

    The University Archives documents the administration and activities of Wesleyan University since its founding in 1831. More about the archives

    We have over 10,000 linear feet of records that cover a broad range of topics and are in a variety of formats including audio, videotapes and film, photographs, and now electronic records.

    Our institutional records document the presidents, faculty, student groups, and departments of the university with materials that focus on how Wesleyan has grown and changed over time.

    We also have several major collections of personal papers of those associated with Wesleyan, including Henry Bacon, John Cage, and William Manchester.

Book Collections

  • Artists' Books

    Artists' books are works of art using the format of the book. Many artists' books challenge the reader to think about the nature of the book and the act of reading in new ways. We hold more than 1000 artists' books, and we actively collect them.

    More about artists' books

    Strengths include:

    • Social justice
    • Environmental issues
    • Responses to books of the past
    • Text and textiles
    • Books by women
    • And many more
  • Rare Books

    Wesleyan’s over 45,000-volume rare book collection ranges from medieval manuscript codices and early printed books (circa 1455-1505) to 21st-century fine press books, and covers numerous formats, including books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps.

    More about rare books

    The core of the rare book collection was donated to the University by George W. Davison (class of 1892) from his personal collection, featuring numerous incunabula, the four Shakespeare folios, and first editions from notable authors including Milton, Dickens, Austen, Byron, Shelley, the Brontës, and others. SC&A also holds the collections of other significant donors, such as Frank Kirkwood Hallock (class of 1882), Leonard Baskin, Caroline Clark Barney (class of 1895), Hugh Lancelot Beales, and Nathan Comfort Starr.

    The collection represents the activities, hopes, and visions of hundreds of donors and collection builders over more than 17 decades. See our Major Donors and Provenances page for a listing of some of our major donors that helped shape the rare book collection.

Middletown Collection

  • We hold local history materials about Middletown and the surrounding area. Our Middletown history resources guide has a complete description of resources available at Wesleyan, online, and at other repositories. More about the Middletown collection

     These resources can include:

    • Middletown city directories and maps
    • 18th and 19th century Middletown books
    • 19th century photographs
    • Local association records
    • Diaries and correspondence

    Our holdings support a world of possibilities for research. Wesleyan students have researched aspects of social history, immigration, civil disturbances, transportation, civic associations, the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls, local economy, and other topics.


Online Collections