This website provides a glimpse of the many kinds of unique cultural resources held among the library collections at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Founded in 1795, Union College was the first college chartered by the state’s Board of Regents and is situated in a campus that was the first in the nation to have been designed according to a comprehensive architectural and landscape plan.
A small, residential, independent liberal arts community, Union today remains one of the oldest non-denominational colleges in the country with a rich history that blends respect for tradition with an emphasis on integrating the humanities and social sciences with the natural sciences and engineering in dynamic and innovative ways. Union’s unique cultural resources are housed in the Special Collections and Archives Department of Schaffer Library, in its Permanent Collection, and at the nearby Adirondack Research Library of the Kelly Adirondack Center. Works of enduring value in the collections include archival records related to the College’s history, over 600 manuscript collections in a variety of subject areas, maps, drawings, photographs, other visual material, sound recordings, ephemera, and three-dimensional objects ranging from scientific instruments to works of art from ancient through modern times. Among the library’s book collections are nearly all of the materials purchased to create the first College library in 1795 as well as numerous first editions that span the disciplines; samples of the latter include Isaac Newton’s Principia, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and a complete elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which was purchased directly from the artist himself when he visited the Union campus in 1844. Thus many of these primary resources document not only the reach of Union’s programs but the social and cultural history of upstate New York and the involvement of its citizens in the wider world.
Union College is a member of the Capital District Library Council.