From fish fossils to film memorabilia to 1880s Arguses to Korean zithers, Wesleyan University is home to thousands of artifacts and teaching tools that are available through a multitude of collections.
Learn more about some of Wesleyan’s major collections below, as they are among the best of Wes! Schedule your visit today!
THE ODGEN AND MARY LOUISE REID CINEMA ARCHIVES (website):
The Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives is located next door to the Center for Film Studies and provides a home for the University’s growing collections related to motion picture and television history. Committed to the care and preservation of paper materials, photographs, and memorabilia, the Reid Cinema Archives is open for research use by appointment only.
This scrapbook contains thousands of newspaper articles mentioning film director-writer Frank Capra’s 1934 romantic comedy It Happened One Night. The scrapbook is part of the Reid Cinema Archives and was compiled by Capra’s wife, Lucille.
THE JOE WEBB PEOPLES MUSEUM AND COLLECTIONS (website):
The Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections is located on the fourth floor of Exley Science Center and is maintained by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The museum has material from famous fossil collection sites, including the Burgess Shale, Mazon Creek, and Crawfordsville (Paleozoic), Solnhofen and Connecticut fossil localities (Mesozoic), Green River, the South Dakota Black Hills, Nebraska, and Florissant (Cenozoic). The mineral collection contains specimens from the Pegmatite Quarries in Connecticut. The museum also oversees an exhibition of dinosaur footprints in the Exley Science Center lobby, featuring examples found in Portland, Conn. The collections are open to the Wesleyan community and the general public.
Sajirat Palakarn ’20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period, which was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines. The fossil is part of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections.
Exley Science Center is home to a prehistoric specimen: a massive land animal known as a Deinotherium giganteum—or “terrible beast.” The skull cast is displayed in the hallway between Exley Science Center and the passageway to Shanklin Laboratory, and was installed in February 2019. It is part of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History.
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES (website):
Special Collections & Archives, located on the first floor of Olin Library, is the home of the University’s archives, local history, manuscript and rare book collections. The collection holds and provides access to 10,000 linear feet of archival materials along with approximately 45,000 rare books and 1,000 artists’ books. The collection covers a wide range of topics that match up to the teaching areas of Wesleyan along with Middletown and Wesleyan history resources, digital versions of our material, and much more.
Special Collections & Archives has an active program of teaching and outreach, with more than 80 class visits each academic year. They curate exhibits in Olin Library and hold open houses throughout the year that highlight different areas of the collections. For example, in honor of Constitution Day last year, Special Collections & Archives hosted a pop-up exhibit that featured early versions of the US Constitution, Federalist papers, the Connecticut State Constitution, and original letters by Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Special Collections & Archives is open to the Wesleyan community and the public.
WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY COLLECTIONS (website):
The Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collections (WUAAC) is located on the third floor of Exley Science Center and contains more than 30,000 archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world. These objects are used in the hands-on teaching of various subjects, including archaeology, anthropology, history, museum science, classics, and more. Wesleyan faculty and students are encouraged to utilize the collections for teaching and research. Pictured, the class is examining classical Greek pottery.
The collection contains Stone Age artifacts, South Italian pottery, ancient Greek and Roman coinage, Oceanic objects, Hopi and Tewa pottery, Staffordshire pottery excavated in Middletown, extant and fossil primate skull casts, ancient oil lamps, and much more. The collections are accessible to both the Wesleyan community and the public by contacting the collections manager.
THE WORLD MUSIC INSTRUMENT COLLECTION (website):
The World Music Instrument Collection, housed in the Music Department, contains more than 700 instruments from around the world and provides a resource for those interested in ethnomusicology. The collection started forming in the 1960s when visiting artists purchased instruments for instructional and performing purposes. Examples include a komungo zither from Korea, a nokan flute from Japan, an atsimevu drum from Ghana, and a ndruritana—a “clapper” from Indonesia.
While the World Music Instrument Collection is only available for viewing by appointment.
EAST ASIAN ART AND ARCHIVAL COLLECTION (website):
The East Asian Art and Archival Collection is located inside the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. The art collection includes painting and calligraphy, prints and rubbings, rare books, textiles, ceramics, and other miscellaneous media, from China, Japan, and Korea. The archival collection includes papers, documents, and historical photographs, mostly relating to the interaction between China and the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection supports teaching and research on East Asian languages, histories, and cultures. Wesleyan students and faculty are encouraged to contact the collections manager to coordinate access to the collection.
The wedding ball was used traditionally by girls in South China. A girl would toss a wedding ball to a group of suitors on Lunar New Year or the Mid-Autumn Festival; whoever caught the ball would become the girl’s husband. This piece and others were donated to the collection in honor of Houghton “Buck” Freeman ‘43 and his wife, Doreen.
DAVISON ART CENTER COLLECTION (website):
The Davison Art Center collection holds more than 25,000 works of art on paper, chiefly prints and photographs. The Davison Art Center gallery is currently closed as staff are engaged in moving the collection to new facilities. It is scheduled to reopen next fall. Pictured is Melchior Lorck’s 1548 engraving The Mole.
MUSIC LIBRARY AND WORLD MUSIC ARCHIVES (website):
The Music Library and World Music Archives, located on the third floor of Olin Library, are home to Wesleyan’s music collections, including scores, sound recordings, reference works, and archival materials. More than 10,000 CDs and albums are available in the collections, and more are available online through the library’s database.
Mirroring the unique history and strengths of Wesleyan’s world-class Music Department, the music collections are focused on 20th- and 21st-century experimental music, and on musical traditions from around the world. The material is accessible during library hours.
WESLEYAN LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTION (website):
Wesleyan Library’s Digital Collections are developed, maintained, and published in support of the research and teaching needs of the campus. Pictured is a hand-colored postcard of Fayerweather Gymnasium, a piece included in the Digital Collections’ Vertical Files Photograph Collection. Many relics in this collection are sourced from Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives.
The collection includes photographs, maps, oral histories, archived versions of Wesleyan’s website, World War I service records, copies of the Wesleyan Argus from 1868–1892, musical recordings, theses and dissertations, local postcards, videos, graduate student recitals, and much more. Pictured is The College Argus from July 2, 1868.
GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS COLLECTION (website):
The Government Documents Collection, housed in Olin Library, contains publications from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the United States government, on paper, on microfiche, and in digital formats. The collection includes congressional publications, statistics, and government policies. As a Federal Depository, Wesleyan receives many publications issued by agencies of the U.S. government. Contact Nancy Putnam, government documents librarian, to access this collection.
THE VISUAL RESOURCE CENTER COLLECTION (website):
The Visual Resource Center, located in Room 312 in Boger Hall, supports the pedagogical and publishing needs of the Wesleyan faculty, and maintains a collection of digital images that currently numbers more than 203,000. The images are available online to the Wesleyan community through the Artstor Digital Library. Contact Susan Passman, manager, of the Visual Resources Center, to access the collection.