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Special Collections

  • For in-depth research questions, including anything involving the Wadsworth Family Papers or the Carl Schmidt Collection in Historic Architecture, please make an appointment using our Consultation Form.
  • To request access to specific in-library use special collections items, please use ourform.

Genesee Valley Historical Collection

Main finding aid:  GLOCAT

The Genesee Valley Historical Collection is the Library's largest and most accessible collection of local history materials.  Its geographical scope covers the eight counties surrounding the Genesee River in New York State:  Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, and Wyoming. The collection includes about 6,000 volumes, maps, atlases, video and sound recordings, pamphlets and ephemera, most of which can be browsed and accessed directly by users, plus some maps and rare primary source materials which are kept locked when not in use.  Some of the richest and most heavily-used materials, including local newspapers and detailed U.S. census information, are on microfilm.

Select titles from the collection are also available for purchase or online viewing through Milne Library's Genesee Valley Reprint Series.

Portions of the collection are continually being added to the New York Heritage Digital Repository including:

See the Local & SUNY Geneseo History Subject Guide for more sources and help in researching local history topics.

 Geneseo Main and Park Avenue Historical photo

Covered Bridge photo from Genesee Valley Historical Collection

College Archives Collection

Main finding aid:  GLOCAT

The College Archives Collection contains a variety of materials produced by SUNY Geneseo departments, offices, organizations, faculty, students, and alumni. Among these are faculty publications, books published by alumni and students, yearbooks, the Lamron (student newspaper), ENCompass (college newspaper), departmental and alumni newsletters, photographs, annual reports, undergraduate and graduate bulletins, theses (master's, senior, and honor), and other primary and secondary source materials.
Because this is a closed collection, a librarian will retrieve requested materials for in-house use only.

For help with research related to the collection, contact the Special Collections Librarian.

Here are some excellent books on the history of SUNY Geneseo:

 Homecoming 1950s photo from Special Collections College ArchivesYearbook Photo from Special Collections College Archives

Wadsworth Family Papers

Main finding aids:  Overview and Selective index

The Wadsworth Collections concern the first and continued settlement of land in the Genesee region known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase.  The collections consist of approximately 50,000 items from the land offices of the two branches of the Wadsworth family of Geneseo and cover the years 1790 to about 1950, with most dating from the 19th century. Business correspondence and ledgers, vouchers, deeds, maps and other business-related materials make up most of the collections. 

The Library's collection does not include official papers from the terms of Congressman James W. Wadsworth (1846-1926) or U.S. Senator James. W. Wadsworth, Jr. (1877-1952). The Library of Congress is home to The James Wadsworth Family Papers, a collection of personal and business materials which includes a large portion dealing with the Senator.

 Wadsworth Coat of Arms from Special Collections Archives

Martha Blow Wadsworth Photographs

A subcollection of the Wadsworth Family Papers, this includes thirty-three albums, and approximately 350 glass lantern slides, of photographs taken by Martha Blow Wadsworth (1864-1934) between 1890 and World War I. Many of the photographs depict family, friends, and scenes of the Genesee Valley, but some chronicle trips taken within the United States and to Alaska, Europe, and Panama during the time of the canal's construction.

A selection of the photographs can be found in the New York Heritage digital repository.

Martha Blow Wadsworth Family Papers from the Special Collections Archive

Carl Schmidt Collection in Historic Architecture

Main finding aids:  Inventory

Carl F. Schmidt (1894-1988) was a local architect who had a keen interest in historic preservation and conservation. The Schmidt Collection includes notes, manuscripts, slides, photographs, pencil sketches and measured drawings created and collected by Schmidt in preparing his many books on historical architecture, which focus primarily on homes in the Genesee Valley area. Copies of Schmidt's books are available in the Library's Genesee Valley Historical Collection and should be used as a starting point for all research.

A collection of Schmidt's pencil drawings of regional homes, especially entrance doors, can be found in the New York Heritage digital repository.

 Carl Schmidt photo from Special Collections Archive

Walter Harding Collection

Main finding aid:  Walter Harding Bibliography

The Walter Harding Collection consists primarily of Harding's writings about Henry David Thoreau and transcendentalism. Harding, a member of SUNY Geneseo's English faculty from 1956 until his retirement in 1983, was one of the 20th century's most prominent Thoreau scholars. Most of the materials in this collection are housed in either the College Archives or the "X" Special Collection, as indicated in both GLOCAT and the Bibliography.

 Walter Harding photo from Special Collections Archive

"X" Special Collection

Finding aid:  GLOCAT

The "X" Special Collection consists mainly of rare books held by the Library, plus books that are extremely fragile and/or valuable. It also includes an extensive collection of writings by and about Aldous Huxley and portions of the Walter Harding Collection. (The "X" Special Collection is so called because all of the call numbers within it are preceded by an "X.")

 Rare Books from Special Collections Archive

The James W. Kimball Collection

Portrait photo of Professor James W. Kimball, SUNY Geneseo ethnomusicologistIn his 40+ year career at SUNY Geneseo, ethnomusicologist James W. Kimball has documented traditional master musicians of New York State, specializing in the Eastern square dance tradition.

The James W. Kimball Traditional Music and Dance in New York State Collection is a curated selection of Kimball’s significant research recordings between 1976-2008 as well as earlier materials from various sources. It includes unique interviews and community performances of notable fiddlers, square dance callers, dance musicians, and community members whose knowledge bridges 19th-century repertory to contemporary practice of the tradition.

Full link to the collection: