The Library's Special Collections Department has a wide variety of materials including rare books, manuscripts, archival collections, maps, broadsides, and ephemera. Outstanding collections include:
Archive of pre-dueling correspondence between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Books, periodicals, newspapers, and ephemera on American history collected by Roger Butterfield, an historian and journalist.
Carl Carmer Collection
Books and manuscripts focusing on social and cultural history and folklore formed by Carl Carmer, folklorist and historian, regarded as one of the preeminent sources on the cultural history of the state beyond NYC. Repository for manuscripts of Carmer's published works and original illustrations of Betty Carmer, his wife; unpublished articles and correspondence with major twentieth century American literary figures.
Christman Family Papers
W.W. Christman was a poet and educational reformer; Henry, his son, was an historian, author, essayist, and conservationist.
First editions and archival collection of James Fenimore Cooper; Includes his personal library of over 300 books that reveal the sources and inspiration for his work. A permanent gallery in the Fenimore Art Museum highlights the formation of American national identity on the frontier of civilization through the works and paintings relating to the Coopers. Cooper's creation of the first American hero (the arch-individualist Natty Bumppo), his pioneering ennoblement of the American Indian, and his vivid literary descriptions of the unique American wilderness are amply represented in the collection.
Cooperstown Graduate Program Archives
These M.A. theses and projects contain original research on museum practices. The material collected by the folk students is a valuable record of the traditions, songs, legends, and lore of upstate New Yorkers. Includes slides, audiotapes, videotapes, and photographs.
Louis Jones was a nationally renowned folklorist, expert on folk art, and director of the New York State Historical Association (1947-1972) at a time when NYSHA established its reputation as a national leader in museum presentation and material culture studies. Part of his archives is comprised of the class projects done by his students when he taught folklore at the State University at Albany. These projects contain lore of upstate New Yorkers collected in the 1940s. Another part of Jones' archives is his personal papers.
Lincoln Autopsy Reports
Notes of autopsies performed on Abraham Lincoln.
New York State Social History Archives
Significant collection of family and business papers, including correspondence, account books, diaries, receipt books, etc. that describe the customs, lifestyles, and beliefs of ordinary people residing in upstate New York; particularly strong in archival materials of crafts people, farmers, blacksmiths, and store keepers.
Thirty-three separate collections of photographs, comprising nearly 200,000 images. The Smith-Telfer collection documents the activity of a studio located in Cooperstown between 1852 and 1959, forming a remarkable record of everyday life in the region during the course of a century. Other photographs record New York State's rural and city life from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Since 1996, NYSHA has begun to collect the work of contemporary photographers in upstate New York in order to extend this historic record forward into the twenty-first century.
Collection of glass plate negatives formed by G.A. Steiner on early twentieth century Native American basketry.
Harold W. Thompson was one of the earliest collectors of folklore of New York State, which he included in his book Body, Boots and Britches. His archive, arranged according to folklore classification, is made up of projects done by his folklore students at the State University of New York at Albany and Cornell University from 1934 to 1959. The students interviewed and collected folklore from New Yorkers whose remembrances went back to mid-nineteenth century.