Special Collections

About our Collections

The department’s holdings are wide-ranging in time period and subject. The earliest materials include twelfth century illuminated manuscripts and fifteenth century printed works. The manuscript collections are especially rich in material pertaining to nineteenth century Union College alumni, faculty, and administration. The rare book collection contains a rich subset of artists’ books, significant works of American and British literature, and important works on the history of science and early technology. The elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America is also available for viewing here by making special arrangements. Other areas of strength in the book collections include Schenectady history, the history of General Electric, and early American humor. Special Collections also houses the John Bigelow (Union Class of 1835) Collection which includes books, letters, and manuscripts. The Dudley Observatory collection of rare books is also on loan to Union and is housed here. This collection includes rare works on astronomy and astrophysics including works by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.

Special Collections and Archives is located on the third floor of Schaffer Library on the east side of the building. Materials housed here do not circulate and must be used in the department’s reading room. Items appearing in the Library’s online catalog marked (for example) “SpecColl Rare Book” or “SpecColl Union Coll’n” are kept in these stacks and are available for consultation in the reading room. Questions about other holdings in the department should be directed to the department staff.

The Special Collections and Archives department serves the students, faculty, and staff of Union College as well as national and international scholars and researchers. Visitors may use any of the unrestricted materials as long as they agree to the Guidelines for Users of Special Collections. Any questions about the holdings of Special Collections should be directed to department staff by phone or email.