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Whether for genealogical research, or to learn about your house, or any other aspect of local history, you will probably find something, in the Cornell Local History Research Library and Archival Collections.

We have over 2,000 family genealogy files, over 200 oral history interviews, 250 bound ledgers, 440 scrapbooks, 1,200 maps, more than 3,500 local history books, extensive manuscript collections, newspapers dating back to 1819, and dozens of regional photographic collections from as early as 1865.

Contact our archivist at with any questions about our holdings. Or schedule an appointment in to visit the Research Library

Access to the archival collections is free to all Tompkins County residents, $10/day fee for out of county researchers. 


Beginning on February 17th 2024, the Research Library will be open to walk-in visitors on Saturdays from 10:00-3:00 for limited research access.

Genealogy files, built environment resources, local history books, historic maps and atlases, and browsable photographs will be available for use.

For appointments on other days with complete access to all of The History Center's archival collections, email or call 607-273-8284, x224.

Appointments are strongly encouraged.

What's in an Archive?

Watch our 'Archives 101' featuring our archivist Donna Eschenbrenner explaining our process for creating archival collections, and how those collections are then stored and used by researchers. 

Explore our Archival Finding Aids to see what materials we have on hand that relate to your interests. Email with specific questions about our holdings. 


Archives & Library

Genealogy Resources

Photographic Collections

Over 100,000 images - reprints available!

  • General photo collection
  • Family albums
  • Photograph albums
  • Local professional photographers' collections
  • Identified Individuals photograph collection
  • Stereoviews & cartes-de-visite
  • Family, Business, and Organizations Collections
  • Daguerreotypes, tintypes, and ambrotypes

Built Environment Resources

  • HistoryForge Database
  • 1866 Atlas of Tompkins County
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps - 1893, 1904, 1910, 1919, 1929 (updated in 1961 and 1965)
  • 1836, 1851, 1868, 1872, and 1889 Ithaca City Maps
  • Historic Structure Reports and theses
  • Bird's Eye Views of Ithaca (1873, 1882
  • Military Tract Map and Balloting Book (1825)
  • Tompkins County Historic Maps Online

Thanks to a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation The History Center in Tompkins County received generous funds to support the creation of more Archival Finding Aids from our archival collections in 2021 and 2022. 


It is easy to think of history as static, and archival collections as immutable snapshots of time. However, recent years have been filled with life-changing, and generation altering events, reminding of us history's continuous ebb and flow. As the keepers of Tompkins County's past we have found ourselves called to actively request reflections and feedback from our community to help us preserve our history for future generations.

In 2022 we began working with local environmental activists to document their long and arduous struggle to ban hydrofracking in New York State. We have so far received multiple donations of materials including banners, scientific reports, legislative records, photographs, signs, and much more. This is part of our ongoing effort to expand our holdings on local environmental issues.

Many of our archival collections reflect the essential nature of history as a living, continuous process. For more information, or to request an opportunity to donate to our archival collections please email Our archivist and Collections Committee reserve the right to accept or refuse donations according to the terms of our Collections Policy. 


We are always striving to make our collections more accessible, and these days that means we get a lot of questions about digital copies and online databases. We are moving towards digitization for some collections, such as our HistoryForge database of Ithaca census records from the 18th- 20th centuries; but digitizing any collection takes a lot of time and associated cost to ensure the collection is easily searchable. The Smithsonian Archives released an excellent interview with two of their expert archivists detailing some of the difficulties with digitization that you can read here

We have partnered with other local organizations, including the Tompkins County Public Library and the South Central Regional Library Council's New York Heritage to host some of our materials on their platforms:

We are eager to explore more opportunities to further these important initiatives to make our collections as accessible online as possible.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to us if you'd like more information about one of our collections but aren't able to visit our Research Library


DIGITIZED WRITTEN WORKS ON LOCAL BLACK HISTORY from The History Center Archives & Reference Library

Our thanks to the New York State Council on the Arts for supporting

the digitization of these materials through grant funds in 2023.


The History Center in Tompkins County is a local history museum and our collections are focused on preserving the material culture of Tompkins County. We can accept donations based on the following criteria: 

  1. The material must be of local origin, or somehow connect to Tompkins County's past.
  2. It must be in good condition, and needs to be something that can be managed based on our space and organizational constraints.
  3. The material should not duplicate something that already exists in another local repository.
  4. All donation decisions are at the discretion of the archivist, curator, and Collections Committee.

If you're interested in donating physical items to our archival collections please contact

1863 Civil War letter, The History Center in Tompkins County Archives

Checks can be mailed to:

The History Center in Tompkins County c/o Ben Sandberg

110 North Tioga Street                 204 Suite A                               Ithaca NY 14850

Cash donations are accepted in our Exhibit Hall and Research Library

Cas Donations are accepted in our Exhibit Hall and Research Library

Please explore the local Inclusive Recreation Resource Center's profile of our handicap accessibility here.

This profile includes detailed information regarding the physical layout of the Exhibit Hall and Research Library, and alternate methods for engaging with our exhibits and materials for individuals with impaired sight or hearing. Print out visitor guides and auditory visitor guides can be requested at the docent desk to the right of the front entrance to the Exhibit Hall. 

We do not have a parking lot associated with our building, however visitors with physical and/or movement impairment are encouraged to contact us at in advance, and when possible they may use one of two staff parking spaces by the back entrance of our building. These spaces may not be used without advance communication. 

Email with any questions or feedback.

Physical Address

Located inside the Tompkins Center for History & Culture

110 North Tioga Street

(On the Ithaca Commons) 

Ithaca NY, 14850 USA

Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ Territory


Exhibit Hall Wednesday-Saturday 10am-6pm - CLOSED Sun-Tues

Cornell Local History Research Library & Archives - By appointment only. Please contact


Email: Refer to Contact page for individual emails, General inquiries to

Phone: 607-273-8284


Find us on social media @tompkinshistory


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