Historical Collections

Hours of Operation:

By Appointment only
M-F 8 AM to 4 PM


Upstate Medical University Library
Historical Collections
766 Irving Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13210

Phone: 315-464-4585
Fax: 315-464-4584
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FDR Dedication


The mission of the Upstate Medical University Historical Collections is to preserve records that document the history, organization, policies, activities, and people of Upstate Medical University and Hospital, and its’ predecessor institutions; and the history of medicine, especially in central New York, and to make those records available to researchers.

The Historical Collections are available to faculty, staff, students and alumni of Upstate as well as researchers and the general public. Whether conducting research on the history of medicine, planning a display or exhibition, or hunting for genealogical information, the Historical Collections’ staff is happy to assist you.

An appointment is needed to use the Historical Collections, so please contact us ahead of time to schedule a session.



Books and Journals

The rare book and journal holdings are organized in several sub-collections:

  • Geneva Collection: Monographs and journals published by, once owned by, or otherwise pertaining to the earliest predecessor of SUNY Upstate Medical University, Geneva Medical College (1834-1871), its students, alumni, professors, patrons, or administrators. The core of this collection is the original library of Geneva Medical College. Highlights of the Geneva Collection include:
    • On Some Morbid Appearances of the Absorbent Glands and Spleen by Thomas Hodgkin, London, 1832.
      The first separately published edition of the description of Hodgkin’s Disease. The Historical Collection’s copy is a presentation copy inscribed by Thomas Hodgkin to Anson Coleman, who was professor of botany and medical jurisprudence at Geneva Medical College from 1834 to 1836. 
    • In Hoc Volumine Continentur Valerii Cordi Simesusii Annotationes in Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De Medica Materia Libros V by Valerius Cordus, Strasbourg, 1561
      A sixteenth-century work on medical botany; this work contains almost 300 woodcut illustrations. 
    • Elements of Surgery: For the Use of Students by John Syngh Dorsey, Philadelphia, 1813
      The first systematic textbook on surgery by an American author.
  • Americana: American imprints through 1820.
  • Rare: Imprints up to 1800 published in places other than the U.S.
  • Elsner: Materials written by, once owned by, or otherwise associated with Henry Leopold Elsner (1855-1916), prominent Syracuse physician and professor of the Science and Art of Medicine at the Syracuse University College of Medicine.
  • 19th Century: Materials with publication dates between 1801 and 1900 that don’t belong under the scope of any of the above named collections.
  • Post-1900: Materials with publication dates 1901 through the present that don’t fit into any of the above named collections. The bulk of the materials in this sub-collection are 1901 to1950, although it also contains more recent imprints.
  • Journals: Journal holdings number about 7,500 volumes, mostly 19th through early 20th century.


Institutional documents, papers, correspondence, reports, publications, and memorabilia of SUNY Upstate Medical University and its predecessors, the former SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse (1986-1999), the former SUNY Upstate Medical Center (1950-1986), and the former Syracuse University College of Medicine (1871-1950).


Papers of former faculty, records of the medical unit formed in Syracuse during World War II, records of former hospitals, and records of a local health services agency.

Subject Files

Biographical and topical files containing ephemera, news clippings, photographs, publications, and reports about people, organizations, and topics pertaining to the history of medicine in Central New York and the history of medicine generally.

Photographs, Negatives and Slides

Photographs, negatives and slides from the 19th and 20th centuries of people, places and events in the history of SUNY Upstate and its predecessors schools, the history of medicine in Central New York, and the history of medicine generally. There are several special groups of photographic holdings:

  • Medical Photography Unit negatives (1929 to 1984)
  • Photo-archives of the U.S. Army 52nd General Hospital
  • Edward C. Hughes lantern slides
  • Arthur D. Ecker lantern slides
  • 1885 Collection - photographs of the class and faculty of 1885, and several later classes
  • Mary Burnham Collection - photographs and documents about the House and Hospital of the Good Shepherd which belonged to Mary Burnham, the Hospitals House Mother (1870s to 1880s)

New York Heritage - Digital Collections

Over 1,000 items from our collections are available in digital format through the New York Heritage Digital Collections website. These items have been digitized and uploaded to New York Heritage online to facilitate greater access. Among others, the digitized materials include items relating to Geneva Medical College, the U.S. Army 52nd General Hospital, Elizabeth Blackwell, and the Roosevelts' visit to Syracuse.

SUNY Upstate Medical University New York Heritage Digital Collection External Icon


Using the Collections

The majority of the materials in the Historical Collections do not circulate and must be used in the prescribed area on the 2nd floor (through the Scholars Den) of the Health Sciences Library in Weiskotten Hall. There is a circulating collection of books on the history of medicine, as well as a non-circulating collection of reference books for research in the history of medicine. Those two collections are in open stacks and can be used without library staff assistance anytime the library is open.

Due to the rarity and/or uniqueness of the materials, researchers will be asked to observe the procedures listed below. These are designed to preserve the collections for both present and future users.

  • Coats and bags must be checked
  • Be prepared to present photo ID
  • Only pencils or laptops are to be used for note-taking
  • Requests for photocopies will be filled by a staff member, if materials can be copied without damage, and the request is within copyright law.
  • Copies of collection materials are provided for research and study. Permission to publish must be requested using our Request to Publish PDF Icon form.

In addition to onsite use of the collections, many reference inquiries can be answered via email, telephone, or letter.

Fighting 52nd


The Historical Collections welcomes donations of materials by faculty, staff and students of Upstate and collectors of historical and rare materials relating to the history of medicine.

We encourage faculty to donate their professional papers to the Historical Collections in order to extend the scholarly life of their work. It is important to preserve these research materials for the benefit of future generations of students and scholars. The Historical Collections can’t accept donations of personal or family papers, but the Curator can make suggestions about where to donate these types of materials

Alumni with materials relating to their time at Upstate are welcome to donate these items to the Historical Collections.

Though financial support is not required for a materials donation, cataloging, arranging, and preserving archival collections are costly tasks. Monetary donations are always appreciated, especially in support of a particular collection or materials deposit.

If you are considering donating materials to the Historical Collections, or would like to make a monetary contribution to our efforts, please contact the curator.