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Colleges with Awesome Archives

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 @ 11:46 AM

Dr. Kat's List: Colleges with Awesome Archives

College LibraryIt's National Poetry Month, which has us in a literary mood! College libraries are a great place to pursue your passion for the written art form and further offer students a popular place to study, socialize, and even sleep. While Harvard University, Yale University, and University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign boast the nation’s largest collegiate libraries, you may be surprised by some of the colleges that house unique and rare archive materials. These schools' collections of  historically and culturally significant manuscripts, maps, and sketches might provide just the right inspiration for your next literary masterpiece.

The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

As the second oldest college in the nation, it’s no surprise that The College of William and Mary is home to some seriously significant documents. The collection includes correspondence from notable alumni, such as Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Marshall. The school’s assemblage of Americana includes the 1782 Frenchman’s Map of Williamsburg and military papers from Confederate and Revolutionary War Generals and Colonels. On a different note, Swem library also has sheet music from the 18th-20th centuries, including “Menuet In G" by Ludwig van Beethoven.

United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

Graduates of the United States Military Academy, commonly known as West Point, earn a Bachelors of Science degree as well as commissions as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. A gateway for past and present American leaders, the school’s Cadet Library contains records of the National Archives of the United States. The library is home to the daily correspondence of Robert E. Lee (from his time as superintendent of the Academy, 1852-1855), Civil War maps, and material on anybody who attended or was accepted to West Point, including Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Smith College, Northampton, MA

Smith College is an independent, women’s college and a member of the Five College Consortium. Nestled in the Mortimer Rare Book Room is a collection featuring 370 cuneiform tablets that date back as far as 2700 B.C.E. The room also houses 80 incunabula (a book printed before 1501), including the Epistole devotissime of St. Catherine of Siena. More modern highlights of the collection include the literary papers of Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Plath was a Smith undergrad and instructor, and the college holds successive drafts of her work including her most famous novel, The Bell Jar.

Berea College, Berea, KY

Founded in 1855, Berea College was the first interracial and coeducational college in the south. Adhering to its founding goals, Berea does not charge tuition and continues to educate students, mostly from Appalachia, who show academic promise and who have limited financial resources. Berea’s mission of inclusion is reflected in its archival holdings, most notably, its Anti-Slavery Collection. The Collection is comprised of materials from 1769-1865, such as bills of sale, deeds, letters, and publications, which document the institution of slavery in the U.S. The collection includes a letter by Levi Coffin, President of the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati. The Berea library also holds the Abraham Lincoln Collection of documents and memorabilia, as well as an original letter written by Lincoln.

Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY

Around the world, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is known as a leading eduational resource for the study of fashion, design, art, communications, and business. Between textile design classes and visits to Soho galleries, FIT students can catch a glimpse of the college’s collection of periodicals, sketches, illustrations, and scrapbooks pertaining to fashion, tailoring, the textile industry, interior design, architecture, and more. Fashion lovers can peruse the more than 500,0000 original sketches by European and American designers and firms from 1888 to the present, featuring the work of Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior.

These rare and famous findings may serve as sources of inspiration to you while you’re in college, and who knows – maybe one day your doodles, notes, and essays will be in the archives at your alma mater!

Need help creating a balanced list of colleges based on the resources that are important to you? Contact us today for more information!


Sarah Shanahan

Written by Sarah Shanahan

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