Department Chair

  • James C. Harrison
    Professor of History
    Kiernan Hall 228

Local Archives & Special Collections

 Many primary source collections are within a short driving distance from Siena College, and thus suitable for student research. This is not a complete list, Please see the list of historic sites on the Internship page for more possibilities. If you are able to extend your search outside of the local area, consult “Repositories of Primary Sources Eastern US and Canada”: for more archives. The most comprehensive online list of manuscripts and archives is the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections: If you find incorrect information or wish to suggest additional archives, please contact Dr. Karen Mahar at

NOTE: Special collections are often open only during limited hours, and some require that you make an appointment with a librarian before visiting.   Please check. Also note that many local museums and historic sites that are not listed below also house limited archives. There is no harm in asking.

Digital Archives
Many local archives are going digital and Siena College archives will be among them. Only a fraction of archival collections are available online.
Capital District Library Council’s Digital Archives:
New York state-wide New York Heritage Digital Collections: 
 Histories of the region, counties, towns, villages and private clubs
Albany County Hall of Records:
Includes history of Albany Police Department, including criminal records before 1950, history of the Albany Almshouse, many local church records, Civil War allotment records, and city directories as far back as 1830.
Albany Institute of History and Art: From the website: “A non-circulating library, the library collection of more than 1 million items includes extensive collections of primary source material such as photographs, manuscripts, architectural drawings, broadsides, ephemera, maps and scrapbooks in addition to more than 14,000 history and art reference volumes and 125 periodicals and newsletters. Materials in the library complement and enhance the Curatorial Department's collections of fine arts, decorative arts and historical artifacts.” “Includes the family papers of the Cornings, the Van Rensselaers, John V. L. Pruyns; business records; and the papers of important regional artists including Thomas Cole, Sanford H. Gifford, Erastus D. Palmer and Will H. Low; and organizational records.” Check for limited hours. .
Albany Public Library:
“The Pruyn Collection of Albany History is the local history collection of the Albany Public Library. It is housed in the Albany History Room, which is adjacent to the Reference Department on the second floor of the Main Library. Albany’s long and fascinating history can be explored through books, pamphlets, clippings, newspapers, and photographs. The lives of citizens can be discovered through city directories, census records, and newspapers. While the primary focus of the collection is on the history of Albany City and County, there are also materials relating to other communities in the Capital District.”


City directories from 1893, Ballston Journal from 1847, County atlases showing property owners, family histories, church records.
Manuscript Collection, from their website:
·                         19th Century Pamphlet and Broadside Collection
·                         Aliciam Collection
·                         Anniversary Celebrations
·                         Building Histories 
·                         Calendars of Events
·                         Communications Department Master's Projects
·                         Delta Epsilon Sigma Records
·                         Directories of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province
·                         Family Rosary Bulletin
·                         Walter L. Hahn Collection
·                         Sister Honora M. Kinney Papers
·                         Mary McCormack Papers
·                         Jean Marie McEnroe Papers
·                         Sister Charles Marie Neat Collection
·                         Rosaverian Commencement Issues
·                         Rose Day Collection
·                         Sodality of Our Lady 
·                         Ursala Rita Casey Smith Collection


Emma Willard School:
“The Archive collects materials relating to Emma Willard School (formerly Troy Female Seminary), including archival records from the school and private records of faculty, staff, and students. Holdings include manuscripts, textbooks, and publications of Emma Willard dating from 1817. The collection also includes a large number of photographs, videotapes, audio recordings, and ephemera from the school. Also included are school records and catalogs; student records, letters, diaries, and notebooks; curriculum materials, and records from administrative offices, all dating from 1814 to the present.”
Historic Cherry Hill (Albany):
“The Van Rensselaer-Rankin family amassed several lifetimes and several households worth of personal papers and possessions during their 176 years of occupancy at Cherry Hill. . . .Today, the Historic Cherry Hill collection totals over 20,000 objects and 30,000 manuscript documents, all directly connected to the Van Rensselaer-Rankin occupants of Cherry Hill. . . . In addition, the family kept their own meticulous records regarding the history and provenance of individual objects as well as records of changes they made including furniture movement, placement, restoration, and decoration. Often, objects have a web of associated tangential material such as notes, photographs, letters, family lore and old parts that were removed and replaced but never disposed of.”
State University at Albany Grenander Dept of Special Collections, and Archives: Wide-ranging collection includes papers of many 18th and 19th century local businesses, including pre-Civil War maritime. Also includes clubs, organizations.
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (Saratoga):
Although they do not list an archive online, they do have collections, as several Siena students have completed successful internships there. Please contact the museum if you are interested in finding out more.


New Netherland Institute (Albany):
“Located in the Library of the State of New York in Albany, the New Netherland Project has been transcribing, translating, and publishing the official 17th-century Dutch colonial documents since 1974. About 65% of more than 12,000 pages held by the New York State Library and the New York State Archives have been translated and 18 volumes of the New Netherland Documents Series have been published. When completed, the series will consist of 24 volumes of official manuscripts, edited, annotated, and indexed for use by researchers.” 


Includes post-1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire factory investigations and Lusk Committee (1919/1920 Red Scare), and New York State film censorship records. From the site:
“The Manuscripts and Special Collections unit was established within the State Library in 1881. Its responsibilities include the acquisition, access and preservation of the Library's collections of archives and manuscripts, rare books, maps and atlases, prints and photographs, broadsides and posters, musical scores and ephemera. These collections document the history of New York State from the 17th century to the present and illustrate the history of many topics related to American history, literature, science and the arts.” “Some large research collections include:
  • Civil War history;
  • Protestant church records;
  • land records, particularly for eastern New York State;
  • 19th century geology;
  • Adirondack history;
  • organizational history;
  • New York State family history;
  • Shakers;
  • 19th-20th century politics;
  • railroad history;
  • 19th century New York State painters; and
  • women's history
New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center (Saratoga): "The library and archive holdings in the Veterans Research Center include a 2000 volume library of military and New York State history, over 6,000 photographs, unit history files, broadsides, scrapbooks, letters and maps. Highlights of the library and archives material include over 2300 Civil War photographs, a collection of Civil War era newspaper clippings arranged by New York units, and New York National Guard service cards and service records dating from the 1880’s to 1965. The Veteran Research Center operates and archives the New York State Veteran Oral History Program and the Veteran Questionnaire Program. The Oral History Program actively collects interviews of New York State veterans from all eras. The largest part of this collection is of World War II veteran interviews. The Veteran Questionnaire Program, similar to the Oral History Program, solicits and preserves the written and photographic record of the state’s veterans.” 
Rensselaer County Historical Research Library
Includes information on 19th century baseball in Troy.  From "Brief Index to Historical Records at RCHS":
Primary Sources - 18th - 20th centuries
·                                 Diaries
·                                 Letters
·                                 Scrapbooks
·                                 Business Records
·                                 Ephemera
Secondary Sources--19th and 20th centuries
·                                 City Directories
·                                 County Histories
·                                 Family Histories
·                                 Labor History
·                                 Social History
·                                 Town and Village Histories
Maps/Atlases--early 19th century-1990 & more
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Archives & Special Collections

 In addition to RPI history, “Special Collections are composed of manuscript collections, rare books, and pamphlets focusing on nineteenth and early twentieth century science and technology.” 

Saratoga County Historical Association
Their collection is divided into four categories: Photographs, Objects, Library, and Archives. It is a large local history collection with over 20,000 objects. Good online access will allow you to assess the collection before visiting.

“The park commemorates the pivotal American Revolutionary War victory over British forces on October 17, 1777. Material relating to British General Burgoyne's bold divide and conquer campaign through upstate New York are also on hand. Contained within the park is the country home of the victorious American General Philip Schuyler, with period furnishings. The historical collections include nine cannon tubes original to the battles at Stillwater in 1777 and a copy of the surrender document, the Convention of Saratoga.

Saratoga Springs Public Library:
 “The Saratoga Room, located on the second floor, houses the main body of the Library's local history collection. Books, pamphlets, clippings, and other written sources tell the story of Saratoga Springs' colorful and unique history. To complement these, there are photographs, prints, posters, scrapbooks, and audio-visual materials which help bring this history to life. We also have a few items that have been digitized and can be found on the Library of Congress: American Memory
Schenectady County Historical Society Grems-Doolittle Library and Archives:

U.S. census information, church records, 1942 WPA survey, vital records.

Schenectady County Public Library:

U.S. census for Schenectady frim 1790-1930 on microfilm, yearbooks, city and county government records, local newspapers since 1922. 

 “The Schenectady Museum Archives contains manuscript collections, photographs, trade literature, and other materials relating to the history of General Electric and Schenectady. The Archives was formed in 1997 through the merger of the Schenectady Museum and the Hall of Electrical History and is open to the public Monday through Friday. A highlight of the collection is the General Electric Photograph Collection, a collection of nearly 1.5 million images that depicts the development of the electrical industry and 20th century American life.. There are manuscript collections highlighting the founding and early history of GE. Papers from Gerard Swope and Owen D. Young, President and Chairman of GE from 1922-1939 and 1942-1944 highlight the welfare capitalism of the 1920s. Other collections highlight the GE Research Lab, the first industrial research laboratory in the world, and its researchers. There are also books and periodicals, including a complete run of the GE Schenectady Works News, the employee newsletter for GE's Schenectady Works. The Archives also has a growing collection of materials relating to Schenectady, from records of old Schenectady businesses such as the American Locomotive Company to Schenectady High School newspapers and ephemera of the 1920s. We are actively working to document the ethnic groups and immigrants of Schenectady. From the Irish and Germans of the 19th century and the Poles and Italians of the early 20th century to the recent immigrants of the last twenty years, all have combined to help make Schenectady "The City that Lights and Hauls the World."

Siena College Fleet Archives & Special Collections Center. The Siena Archives has four sections. The first group of holdings are Siena College publications. These include, from their inception, the College Catalogs, the College Newspapers, the Siena Yearbooks, and Siena Master's Theses.”

“The Skidmore College Archives maintains documents, publications, photographs, artifacts, and other items of significance to Skidmore College's history.  Although most of the material in the archives is not yet cataloged, collections inventories are available in the Department of Special Collections.”

Troy Public Library

“Our Troy Room Collection contains hundreds of books, pamphlets, and other local history and genealogy documents. Works by local authors, Troy City Directories, local newspapers, family histories, and census records are all part of this valuable collection

Underground Railroad Workshop:

Not an archive, but an organization that has knowledge of primary sources regarding the underground railroad in the Capital district. Please contact this organization if you wish to research this topic.

Union College Schaffer Library Archives & Special Collections:
    • College Archives & Union Book Collection
    • Bailey Collection of North American Wit and Humor
    • First Purchase Collection (Volumes acquired to set up the first library of the college)
    • Rare Book Collection
    • Schenectady Collection of Local History
    • Dudley Observatory Rare Books Collection
    • The original Ramee drawings for the campus.
    • Numerous other manuscript and archival collections are also housed in this area.
Waterford Museum and Cultural Center:
George and Annabel O'Connor Library for Local History. See “projects” for a better idea of their strengths: