Union History


For more than two hundred years Union College has been offering a strong liberal arts/engineering curriculum to young men and women (since 1970). Its distinguished faculty has produced notable alumni in every field of endeavor including the arts, social sciences, education, and engineering. The institution’s history is a rich one and many of the resources to study that history can be found in the Special Collections and Archives department of Schaffer Library.

One of the definitions of an archive is a repository of the non-current records of an institution or organization. The primary function of the Special Collections and Archives department is the collection of material documenting all aspects of the history of the College. In the case of Union we also, when possible, gather current materials with the view that it is easier to obtain them when they are first issued, rather than waiting to find them later. In fact, Special Collections even holds College-related materials produced before the founding of the College in 1795. All formats – text, photographs, digital images and files, maps, blueprints, audio recordings – are collected. These materials are available to anyone with a legitimate research interest and with the proper identification whether or not they are a member of the Union community.

Among the many kinds of records and documents housed in the department are Trustees minutes, Union College Academic Registers (catalogues), a complete run of the Concordiensis, a complete file of the College yearbooks, books by faculty, administration, and alumni, Commencement programs, and various alumni publications. The department also holds the records of individuals who attended Union, whether or not they graduated, from 1795 through 1929. The alumni files of persons who attended after 1929 can be found in the Alumni Office. Scrapbooks, correspondence files, and various manuscript collections also support the study of the College and the people associated with it.

Some of the archival material housed in Special Collections and Archives can be discovered through the Library’s online catalogue. If your search produces results that include “SpecColl Union Coll’n” for an item, please come to the department and the staff will retrieve the material you’re seeking. If you are searching for a topic connected to Union’s history and a keyword or subject search of the catalogue doesn’t produce any results, please come to Special Collections and consult with one of the staff.

The best single volume history of the College is the Encyclopedia of Union College History published in 2003. This is not a narrative history, but as the title indicates an encyclopedia with short articles on various topics and individuals associated with Union’s history. Other books on parts of Union’s history have been written. A review of these is found in the Encyclopedia under the heading “Histories of Union College.” At the present time there is no single volume narrative history which covers the College from its founding in 1795 through the current period. For more on the history of Union College click here www.union.edu/about/history/ .