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Archives & Special Collections

Explore the History of City College

A daguerreotype of City College founder Townsend Harris circa 1846
Townsend Harris circa 1846

Are you curious about the history of The City College of New York and its people? Visit the Archives and Special Collections Division located on the 5th Floor of the Cohen Library to explore the records, artifacts, and achievements of our great New York institution.

City College students, faculty, staff, and alumni are encouraged to view and make use of the collection for scholarship and research. The space can be reserved by faculty and staff to conduct classes, present lectures, and host events. In addition, The Cohen Library Archives Gallery (open to the public) presents several annual exhibitions that feature artists from New York City and around the world as well as artists from the City College community. Look for upcoming shows on the Library Calendar of Events

Archives & Special Collections

Yoko Inagi-Ferguson, Associate Dean and Chief Librarian Charles Stewart, Archivist Sydney Van Nort, Sallie Rush,City College President Vincent Boudreau, and Shimoda City Assembly Chair Seiji Takeuchi in front of the United States flag Townsend Harris flew in Japan.
Photo by Philip J. Carvalho

The Archives and Special Collections Division was established in 1960 and is maintained in a controlled, secure environment which includes ample compact moveable shelving.

The archival collections document instruction, teaching, research, alumni and student life at the College through institutional records, publications, memorabilia, faculty and alumni papers, photographs, blueprints and media. Biographical information is collected on distinguished alumni, including the ten Nobel laureates who are City College alumni. These collections actively serve the City College community and are of continuing interest to scholars studying the history and sociology of higher education, as well as to biographers and journalists.

The Special Collections include books on clothing and costumes from around the world, the Thomason Tracts (140 pamphlets printed during the English Civil War), English drama and comedy written for the stage from 1660 to 1880, first editions of the works of William Butler Yeats, and early 20th century British writers. There is also a small but choice collection of 17th and 18th century titles in the fields of astronomy, mathematics and chemistry. Some of these are featured in the online presentation “Before the Textbook.”

We welcome and invite you to view a selection of items in our Digital Collections.

Above: Library hosts Yoko Inagi-Ferguson, Associate Dean and Chief Librarian Charles Stewart, and Archivist Sydney Van Nort in July 2018 with special guest Sallie Rush,City College President Vincent Boudreau, and Shimoda City Assembly Chair, Seiji Takeuchi, in front of the United States flag flown in Shimoda, Japan by Townsend Harris.

The College

The City College was founded in 1847 as the Free Academy of New York through the vision and activity of Townsend Harris, later the first United States Minister to Japan. Since 1961 it has been the flagship institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). The College offers programs in the liberal arts, engineering, architecture, education, and medicine.

The College moved from its original location near Gramercy Park to its present campus on St. Nicholas Heights in 1907. The collegiate gothic buildings, designed by George Browne Post, are on the National, State and City registers of historic places and are New York City Landmarked buildings. 

Grotesques designed to represent the practical and fine arts that appear on the buildings of The City College of New York.

City College buildings feature 600 grotesques custom designed to represent the practical and the fine arts.