Officially established in 1980 with the help of a generous donation from the Gebbie Foundation, Wheaton’s Archives and Special Collections houses the college’s archives, rare books and manuscripts as well as realia that relates to Wheaton’s rich history.
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Location & Hours
The archives are open to researchers Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and other hours by appointment. Because portions of the collections are housed offsite, please email us to coordinate your research at least 24 hours prior to your visit.
The archives are accessible via the stair tower in the rear of the library. Walk down two levels from the Main Level of the Library. For elevator access, call (508) 286-3712 in advance or ask for assistance at the Information Desk.
To search our archival holdings, visit our research database, ArchivesSpace.
The archival collections contain a multitude of primary source materials relating to Wheaton College and its long, spirited history. These include administrative records of Wheaton Female Seminary and Wheaton College, College publications, papers and manuscripts of the Wheaton family, alumnae classes and faculty, photographs, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia, audio and video tapes of Wheaton events, materials related to student organizations and academic pursuits and the records of the Alumni Association.
The archives holds the administrative records of Wheaton Female Seminary, Wheaton College and the Alumni Association as well as associated nonofficial records and papers that relate to the history of the institution. Publications of the College, records of the founding of Wheaton Female Seminary and of the Board of Trustees, administrative records, and photographs, sound recordings, films, and videos form major portions of the collection.
The archives also houses a number of manuscript collections. The majority of these relate in some way to Wheaton, its graduates, or members of its faculty, staff, or Board of Trustees. Those collections not related to Wheaton provide contemporary glimpses into issues of work, family and gender along with many other topics, enriching the research experience for students and other scholars.
Oral Histories of Wheaton College
In 1983, the archives undertook an Oral History Project supported by the Wheaton College Venture Fund. A growing number of Trustees, faculty, alumnae, staff and friends of the College have been interviewed since then.
Rare Books and Special Collections
The Wallace Library maintains several special non-circulating book collections, some of which are housed in the archives. These items are discoverable in the library catalog. Below are brief descriptions of each of the collections.
This collection introduces readers to children’s and juvenile literature of historical import or containing valuable illustrations. It includes eighteenth through twenty-first century titles from The New England Primer to Kate Greenaway to adventure series.
The personal library of the Reverend Samuel Valentine Cole, poet and President of Wheaton from 1897 to 1925, forms the nucleus of this collection, which consists of English and American poetry and literature. This collection is shelved in the Cole Room and circulates only to faculty on special loan.
Founded in 1929 by the Reverend J. Edgar Park, President of Wheaton from 1926 to 1944, this endowed collection contains titles from as early as the seventeenth century relating to women, their families and all aspects of their education and employment. It is the oldest thematic collection maintained by the College. Special strengths of the collection are in books on etiquette, advice, cooking and vocational training. Advice books for men and issues of gender are also represented.
Honors Theses represent the best of original research undertaken by undergraduate honors students in various disciplines. The first honors thesis was prepared in 1928, and each year approximately 15-30 titles are added to the collection. The collection also includes theses for the few master’s degrees that Wheaton awarded throughout the years. While not all honors theses were submitted for binding, particularly in the 1960s-1980s, most recent theses are submitted in both paper and digital format, and can also be found in Wheaton’s digital repository.
Lucy Larcom, a widely popular nineteenth century poet and one of the original “mill girls” of Lowell, MA, was an influential and beloved teacher of English composition at Wheaton from 1854 to 1862 and from 1865 to 1867. She established the student literary magazine, The Rushlight, which remains in publication. This collection, established in her memory by family members, contains books by and about Miss Larcom and volumes from her personal library. It also contains letters, manuscript poems and lectures, copy books, diaries, artwork, furniture, photographs, memorabilia, and family papers generously donated by Larcom descendants to form an extensive manuscript collection.
Rare, fragile, and valuable books, many with fine illustrations as well as some association (autographed) volumes are collected here. This collection consists of the humanistic record in its longest form, spanning the Middle Ages to the present.
Books known to have been in the Seminary Library from 1838 to ca. 1912 were culled from circulation to create this collection. Many titles bearing the stamp, “Wheaton Female Seminary Library,” remain in the stacks and continue to circulate. Textbooks necessary for study at Wheaton Female Seminary were listed in the annual catalogues, and this collection also contains a small but representative sample of those required texts.
Paul H. Smart, a former member of the Library Visiting Committee and son of the late Wheaton Trustee and Acting President, George T. Smart, established this collection in 1967 when he generously donated his collection of private press editions and fine bindings to the College. The collection’s strengths include books produced by Doves Press, Groliers, Riverside Press, and Bruce Rogers. Only artists’ books are currently added to this collection.
This collection is comprised of the published works of faculty, administrators, and staff that were written, researched or published while they were employed at Wheaton and of alumni publications whenever they were produced.
Use of the Collections
Faculty are welcome to hold class sessions for the use of archival and special collections materials in the Gebbie Reading Room. Archives staff can prepare presentations or make materials available for use in the class. If desired, the archivist can also visit classes to explain the use of the collections for primary research. A limited number of seminars may be scheduled to meet in the Gebbie Reading Room. Please contact the archives at least two weeks in advance to arrange a mutually convenient time for your class or program.
Several archival and manuscript collections contain materials under restriction. A researcher may submit a written request for access to restricted records. This request will be sent for approval to the appropriate officer with the recommendation of the archivist.
Rules and guidelines for use of the collections
Archival and special collections are non-circulating. All manuscript materials and books must be read at tables in the Reading Room under the supervision of archives staff.
No food or drink is allowed in the Reading Room. No pens are allowed in the Reading Room. Only paper, notebooks and pencils or laptop computers may be used in the Reading Room.
Researchers should wash their hands before handling materials. Archives staff will instruct users in the proper handling of archival and special collections materials.