American History Collection Policy


subject description and guidelines

American history consists of the factual study and analysis of the political, social, intellectual, cultural, diplomatic, military, ethnic, gender, or local history of the geographic area between Mexico and Canada. It includes the study of native populations and colonial history prior to the establishment of the nation.   In recent years, interdisciplinary study of American history has become the norm.  Because of the breadth and depth of the general field, many librarians are involved in the acquisition of materials in American history.


The American History collection serves the needs of faculty and students in the History Department as well as a number of other departments and colleges across campus (especially Government and the Department of Labor Relations, Law, and History in ILR). There are over twenty faculty members directly involved in the field of American History and an indeterminate number, in such diverse areas as American Studies and Science and Technology Studies, who are interested in various aspects of the history of the United States. The collection supports a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses.


collection strength

Cornell's American History collection has been historically strong across the board. Collecting has been as comprehensive as possible with strength and depth in all chronological periods of US history (colonial and national eras).  The collection is intended to support dissertation-level research.  All major academic journals are included, as well as many local history journals. An important feature of Cornell's collection is our strength in New York state local history, with selected strength in other geographic areas (such as Kansas).  We continue to support areas such as the American Civil War or western land expansion in which we have strong collections but little current on-campus interest.  Specialists in specific subject areas (for example, African-American history or gender studies) nurture strong collections that support the faculty in those areas.  We acquire printed primary sources (letters, diaries, and personal accounts of an event), and are trying to increase our collection of digitized primary research materials.  Microfilm and audiovisuals are purchased primarily in response to specific faculty requests.

collection level

  • research 
  • geographical guidelines

    The area comprising the continental United States plus Alaska and Hawaii.

    areas of significant geographic coverage

    • United States of America 

    language guidelines

    Material in English is collected extensively, as a major scholarly publications in French and German. To a lesser extent, academic studies on American history in Italian and Spanish are selectively acquired.


    • English 
    • French 
    • German 
    • Italian 
    • Spanish 

    chronological guidelines

    Works relating to the post-Columbian settlement and development of the United States (roughly 1580 to the present).


    • Juvenile literature
    • Genealogy (except for some broad resources and works on New York state families)
    • Rare books
    • Newspapers
    • Textbooks
    • Unrevised doctoral dissertations (except when requested)
    • Popular histories
    • Regimental and military unit histories (other than for New York)
    • Non-scholarly local history (except for New York)
    • Documentaries and other audiovisuals (except when requested)
    • Major microfilm sets of primary research materials (except at the request of faculty)

    Many items, while not excluded, are the responsibility of individuals other than the American history selector. Material on the native populations of the United States is collected by the Anthropology selector. Area selectors are responsible for works relating to the involvement of the people of their areas with the United States. For example, the African selector acquires material in African American History; the Southeast Asian selector acquires material relating to the Vietnam War and Vietnamese and other ethnic groups in the U.S.; etc. Works relating primarily to American religious, economic, political, legal, literary, or military history are acquired by selectors in each subject area.

    material types

    The collection consists of all formats, though the emphasis is on print.  For academic journals, electronic access is preferred, though the major journals are acquired in both print and electronic formats.  Audiovisuals are acquired primarily at the request of an instructor.


    housed in

    • Olin Library 

    related library subject collection


    academic department(s)

    • Government (GOVT) 
    • Labor Relations, Law, and History (ILRLR) 

    academic unit

    • American Studies Program 


    • History (HIST) 


    library contact
    • Furnas, Heather. -  American Studies Librarian