Search our online catalogue here!

funded in part by:

RMSC Collections and Libraries

We have more than 1.2 million objects in our collections and our holdings are summarized here. We are in the process of adding more and more of our collections to our on-line catalogue, LibCat. You can use the search box to the left, the word cloud, or the other links on this page to search the on-line catalogue, view information about ongoing and completed projects, or learn about library and special collections.
(more about the libraries...) | (more about the collections...)

cover of Wall Stenciling book
Books The books in the Schuyler C. Townson and Strasenburgh Planetarium libraries cover a wide range of topics with specialization in fields mirroring the museum’s collections, including Iroquois studies, early Euro-American technology, Rochester businesses, fashion and costume, outer space, museology, and collections care. The Special Collections include rare 19th century texts on science, cooking, manners and deportment, local history, and African-American history, including an autographed copy of Frederick Douglass’ Oration Delivered in Corinthian Hall, July 5, 1852 (Rochester, 1852). All of the 22,000+ volumes in the Library are now searchable in LibCat.
cover of an issue of RMSC Focus
Serials Serials in the Schuyler C. Townson and Strasenburgh Planetarium libraries form a large portion of the Library’s collections. The libraries carry over 1,400 titles reflecting the museum’s collecting interests in the fields of archaeology/anthropology, geology, history, and archives, as well as a large number of national museum and historic publications. 90% of the serial titles are now included in LibCat. RMSC volunteers and staff are updating serial inventories according to volume and issue on a daily basis.
cover for cd issue of Iroquoian
Media Video, audio and microfiche collections (150 titles cataloged; many more to be processed) are located in the Townson Library. Videos include documentary, educational, and feature films about: Native American culture; Rochester and the Genesee Region (NY) history; the natural sciences. Sound recordings consist of Native American music and language as well as oral history interviews with local Rochester leaders and community members. A small microfiche collection of archaeology and ethnology journals is available for in-house use. Those materials in this category which have been catalogued are all searchable on LibCat.
reward poster for escaped slave
Archives The Archives (60,000 documents) comprise manuscripts, ephemera, documents, prints, and maps. The individual and business archives collections represent a broad spectrum of topics including local businesses and industries, the Civil War, local architectural firms, fish culturist Seth Green, Iroquois Chief Freeman Johnson, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass. Highlights of the Archive collections range from a 1790 copy of the 1788 Deed of Conveyance/Treaty for the Phelps and Gorham Purchase of 2.5 million acres of land in Western New York from the Senecas, to the complete broadcast tapes of WHEC-TV news from the late 1950s through the 1960s. Other important collections include the papers and broadcast tapes of African American activist, publisher and radio disc jockey Howard Wilson Coles (1903-1996), the Danforth-Huntington Diaries (1863-1917) of three generations of Rochester women, the papers and objects of migrant and domestic worker Alice Mathis, and the papers of Rochester beauty-culturist Martha Matilda Harper. LibCat offers online finding aids for many of these collections. RMSC staff and volunteers are digitizing high-interest contents of some of the archives and making these digital images available through LibCat. Thus, primary sources such as 19th century letters can be viewed online.

Archives currently searchable in LibCat:
Freeman C. Johnson Archives

Photographs Photographic material (40,000 items) in the museum’s collections represent a wide variety of photographic processes including photographic prints, negatives (both glass plate and acetate), cased photographs (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes), card photographs, snapshots, albums, stereoviews, and post cards. Featured subjects are Rochester history in the early 20th century and Iroquois studies. The most frequently used collection in the museum is the collection of newspaper photographer Albert Stone (14,000 negatives) covering the years 1903-1936.

Photograph collections currently searchable in LibCat:
Albert R. Stone Negative Collection
Anthropology Department Negatives (partial)

History History collections (164,000 objects) include clothing and accessories, textiles, domestic economy and household items, children’s and child-rearing objects, communication devices, home furnishings, and items from Rochester technology and science-based industries. Acquired primarily by donation from local people who thought it important that these objects be saved in their community museum, the regional history collections tell the story of middle-class life in 19th- and 20th-Century West-Central New York. Collections of clothing (70,000 pieces), quilts (including two made by Susan B. Anthony), and coverlets are especially comprehensive and have been the subject of scholarly and popular research, publications, and exhibits. These collections represent the lives of the people of our region as well as famous Rochesterians such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Rattlesnake Pete. Other notable collections include the Martha Harper Collections of health and beauty products, the Cerino Collection of Italian immigrant objects, the household and personal belongings of migrant worker Alice Mathis, and a series of early Haloid-Xerox machines.

History collections currently searchable in LibCat:
Rattlesnake Pete Collection

plains-style headdress
Ethnology The Ethnology collections (20,960 objects) comprise the Seneca Collection which includes the 19th century Native American collections made by famed Rochester lawyer/anthropologist and author Lewis Henry Morgan, and the WPA/Indian Arts project encompassing 5,000 objects including paintings, jewelry, and other traditional and tradition-inspired objects created on the Tonawanda and Cattaraugus Indian reservations in New York from 1935-1941. The Ethnology collections also house 5,000 decorative and utilitarian objects from other indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America, Asia, and Africa. Other notable collections are the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School ethnology collection of objects obtained by 20th-Century missionaries, and the Freeman C. Johnson collection of Seneca materials.

Ethnology collections currently searchable in LibCat:
Iroquois Ethnology Collection (partial)
Indian Arts Project (partial)
Freeman C. Johnson Collection (partial)
Lewis Henry Morgan Collection (partial)

antler comb
Archaeology Archaeological collections (800,000 objects) include material from Native American and other indigenous people, as well as Euro-Americans. These collections, made over the past 80 years by Arthur Parker, William A. Ritchie, Alvin Dewey, Harrison Follette, and many other professional and amateur archaeologists, represent over 11,000 years of human history. The analysis of these site collections is in large part responsible for the discovery, documentation, and description of the cultural sequence in New York. The historic Iroquois archaeology collection, dating from 1550-1840, is a national treasure that documents the sequence of villages occupied by the Seneca and records the contact between Native people, Europeans, and Americans. Comparative materials from other Iroquois, North and South American, and European cultures are a significant part of the archaeology collections. Euro-American regional life is documented in Historic American archaeological collections (50,000 objects), with sites dating from the 1780s to the early 20th century, including pioneer settlers’ cabins, abandoned villages, farms, grist mills, woolen mills, chair, tile, brick and glass factories, taverns, military forts, and lighthouses.
passenger pigeons
Natural Sciences RMSC’s Natural Sciences Collections (26,000 specimens) represent a comprehensive record of west-central New York’s natural history. The paleontology collection (12,000 specimens) include regional and comparative vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. Local geologic specimens are complemented by rocks, minerals, and meteorites from throughout the world. Zoology materials include mammals, birds, eggs, nests, reptiles, insects, and marine and freshwater shells. The RMSC’s collection of extinct passenger pigeons is one of the nation’s largest, and cannot be duplicated. Other important collections include those from the University of Rochester (bird and mammal specimens), Alvin Dewey (rocks and minerals), John Hartfelder (minerals and fossils), Louis Kravetz (insect collections), and John Rivers. The acquisition of the Farview and East Bloomfield Mastodons, two of the most complete and carefully researched mastodons in the state, followed recent fieldwork.