The RIT Library Special Collections include a wide variety of published and unpublished materials organized in distinct, but related collections. The collections include materials on all aspects of the fine and applied arts and photography, with greatest strengths in graphic design and applied photography. The major collections and their access systems are described below.
The Special Collections share staff and facilities with the RIT Archives on the third floor of the RIT Library building. Materials in this area do not circulate and are paged for patrons--it is a closed stack area with a supervised reading room. When the condition of materials permits, they may be photocopied or photographed.
Access to Special Collections materials is provided through Einstein, the RIT Library catalog, special finding aids, and the personal assistance of the Archives and Special Collections staff.
The Archives and Special Collections Reading Room is open to the public from 9:00 A.M. to 12 Noon every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and 1:00 P.M.to 4:00 P.M. on Tuesday and Thursday, and from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. on Wednesday during the academic year, September - May. Please call for summer hours. Researchers may also make arrangements to visit the collections at other times by contacting the staff at 475-2557
The Graphic Design Archives at RIT document and preserve the work of significant American graphic designers active from the 1920s to the 1950s. In addition, selected contemporary designers working in the modernist traditions are also included. The first collections came to RIT in 1984 through the vision of RIT Professor Roger Remington and have grown to include the works of twenty-five designers and typographers, including:
Walter Allner, Hans J. Barschel, Saul Bass, Lester Beall, Alexey Brodovitch, Will Burtin, Tom Carnase, Chermayeff and Geismar, Louis Danziger, Estelle Ellis, Mary Faulconer, George Giusti, William Golden, Rob Roy Kelly, Leo Lionni, Alvin Lustig, Joyce Morrow, Cipe Pineles, Paul Rand, Alex Steinweiss, Ladislav Sutnar, Ceil Smith Thayer, Bradbury Thompson, Fred Troller, and Massimo and Lella Vignelli.
The Graphic Design Archives are under the administrative care of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection and complement its extensive holdings in graphic communications history and printing technology. While many of the GDA collections represent the complete surviving work of a particular designer, some are smaller sample collections that document a portion of a designer’s career. Broadly summarized, the collections contain original source materials documenting the designers’ working lives, and include such unique items as original artwork, sketchbooks, sculptures, architectural models, reliefs, and printed samples (tear sheets, proofs and sample issues of publications). In addition, many of the archives includes photographs and slides, as well as audio tapes and film. Numerous scholars use the collections, including faculty or curators from such prominent institutions as Brigham Young University; the Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague; North Carolina State University; Rochester Institute of Technology; Rutgers University: and Yale University. In addition, the Graphic Design Archives contain significant visual artifacts which have been borrowed for exhibitions at national and international museums including the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC;
1. Walter Allner Collection
Walter Allner (1909-2006 ),
2. Hans J. Barschel Collection
Hans Barschel (1912-1998)
Saul Bass (1920-1996) played an important role in the development of movie graphics and corporate identity campaigns, and maintained important collaborations with Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock. His corporate identity programs include work for United Airlines, Quaker Oats and AT &T, among others. The Saul Bass collection is a sampling of his work, primarily posters, donated by his business partner, Herb Yager in 2004.
4. Lester Beall Collection
Lester Beall (1903-1969) was a key contributor to the modern movement in American graphic
5. Alexey Brodovitch Collection
Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971) was a pioneering art director, whose twenty-five-year tenure at Harper’s Bazaar makes him a key figure in editorial
6. Will Burtin Collection
Will Burtin (1908-1972) was one of the foremost information designers of the twentieth century. After emigrating to the
7. Tom Carnase Collection
Tom Carnase (1939-) was born in the Bronx and went on to enjoy a prolific career in
8. Chermayeff and Geismar Collection
Ivan Chermayeff (1932-) and Tom Geismar (1931-) formed a collaborative
9. Louis Danziger Collection
Louis Danziger (1923-) studied at the Federal Art Project classes in
10. Estelle Ellis Collection
Estelle Ellis (1920-) a creative marketing pioneer, helped launched Seventeen along with Helen Valentine, as editor and Cipe Pineles, as art director. Ms. Ellis has advised numerous magazines, corporations, universities and other institutions on how to position themselves demographically and economically as well as reach their primary audiences. She has worked for Seventeen, Charm, House and Garden, and a number of other Condé Nast publications and with such companies as Kimberly Clark. The principal Estelle Ellis Collection (1944-1994) is at the
11. Mary Faulconer Collection
Mary Faulconer studied under Alexey Brodovitch at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art where she taught in the Design Laboratory of the
12. George Giusti Collection
George Giusti (1908-1990) trained in
13. William Golden Collection
William Golden (1911-1959) was the influential art director for the Columbia Broadcasting System. He created the corporate identity and classic CBS “eye” mark during his tenure as creative director of advertising and sales promotion. The William Golden collection came to RIT in 1991 on deposit from Tom Golden.
14. Rob Roy Kelly Collection
Rob Roy Kelly (1924-2004) enjoyed high regard as a
15. Leo Lionni Collection
Leo Lionni (1910-1999) worked as a graphic designer, art director, painter and illustrator and began his design career in
16. Alvin Lustig Collection
Alvin Lustig (1915-1955) trained at the Art Center School of Design in
17. Joyce Morrow Collection
Joyce Morrow’s (1917-) distinguished administrative career during which she developed close associations with the leading graphic
18. Cipe Pineles Collection
Cipe Pineles (1908-1991) was one of the most prominent designers of the twentieth century and one of the first female art directors to work at a major magazine. She served in that capacity at Glamour, Seventeen and Charm. The Cipe Pineles collection came to RIT in 1991 and was deposited by Cipe Pineles’s two adopted children: Tom Golden and Carol Burtin Fripp.
19. Paul Rand Collection
Paul Rand’s (1914-1996) is an important figure in American graphic design history whose design work and educational writings are cornerstones of the discipline. He is best known for his corporate identity work he did for IBM, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, NeXT, United Parcel Service and ABC television among many others. His complete archive is located in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library,
20. Alex Steinweiss Collection
Alex Steinweiss (1917-) played a seminal role in record cover design as the art director for Columbia Records as well as other record companies,
21. Ladislav Sutnar Collection
The Ladislav Sutnar Collection numbers approximately 215 items dating from 1940 to 1970 documenting the work of Sutnar (1897-1976), a pioneer of information design. The collection includes printed samples of Sutnar's periodical covers, advertisements, catalogs, books, displays, and posters. Approximately 50 items in the collection were part of a travelling exhibition developed by the Cincinnati Art Museum and funded by the Champion Paper Company. The exhibition display panels were donated to RIT by the Champion Paper Company in 1968 and transferred to the Special Collections in July 1991. The majority of items were obtained from the collection of Noel Martin. The collection was sorted and re-housed by Pei-Ying Wu in July and August 1996. Ms. Wu also created a folder-level finding guide for the collection which is available in its entirety as a PDF file by clicking here: Ladislav Sutnar Collection: Finding Guide.
22. Ceil Smith Thayer Collection
Ceil Smith Thayer (1900-1988) worked in the
23. Bradbury Thompson Collection
Bradbury Thompson (1911-1996) was a seminal American graphic designer and art director. From 1938 to 1962, Thompson was designer and editor of Westvaco Inspirations, the arts journal of the West Viriginia Pulp and Paper Company. He produced the American Classic book series for Westvaco and designed the Washburn College Bible, one of the towering typographic works of the 20th century. He also worked as art director at several magazines and designed numerous
24. Fred Troller Collection
Fred Troller (1930-2002) was a distinguished American graphic
25. George Tscherny Collection
The George Tscherny (1924-) collection is a sample collection containing framed work for 166 pieces tracing the evolution of George Tscherny's career. Highlights includes examples of his poster design as well as many other printed pieces. The Tscherny collection was dontaed by George Tscherny in December 2006.
26. Massimo and Lella Vignelli Collection
The current collection is composed of graphic design, book design, posters, and printed materials designed by Massimo and Lella Vignelli. The work was originally donated for an exhibition in the RIT’s Bevier Gallery in 2002 concurrent with the celebration of Massimo's Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree, and Lella's Presidential Medallion awarded by RIT and has been supplemented over the past years with a choice selection of new material.
A selective collection of consumer periodicals central to the history of twentieth-century American design and photography is maintained as part of the Special Collections. These titles are recognized by historians for their notable art direction, photography, and/or illustration and complement materials in the archival collections described above. The periodicals collection includes long runs of the following key titles: Fortune, Harper's Bazaar, Life, Look, and Vogue. The focus of development for this collection is to complete the substantial existing runs of these titles rather than to add new titles. Shorter runs (1 to 5 years) provide additional material on designers represented in the archival collections (Junior Bazaar, Portfolio, Charm, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, for example) or document the work of other notable twentieth century American designers (Avant Garde, Eros, Audience, and Aspen, for example).
Full records for the periodicals are included in the library catalog. They are assigned the RARE locator and Library of Congress classification numbers based on their content.
The library's collection of advertising and promotional posters is international in scope with publication dates ranging from the late nineteenth century through the 1970s. The collection serves as a valuable primary source for the study of twentieth century design and illustration and includes examples of the work of many notable modern artists, illustrators, and designers. It should be noted the Beall, Barschel, and Burtin archival collections also include poster holdings. Areas of strength are described below.
Short records for approximately half the collection (900 posters) are included in the library catalog. Posters are assigned the locator RARE POSTER. They do not receive Library of Congress classification numbers, rather they are numbered sequentially as they are processed.
Talking Walls Project
In 2000, selections from each of the categories below were exhibited as part of a physical and online exhibition entitled, "Talking Walls:Visual Literacy through Interdisciplinary Dialogues. The physical exhibit took place from September 5 to September 20, 2000. The exhibition continues today as a virtual exhibition. Please click here to view the virtual exhibition.
Approximately 550 posters promoting travel in the United States, western and eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa were received as part of a poster collection donated to RIT Library by Rundel Library in 1974. Most of the posters were published by government travel and tourism bureaus and transportation companies from the 1930s through the 1950s. The collection includes posters for world's fairs, international expositions, the Olympics, and other special events. Examples of the work of many important illustrators and designers are included in the collection, including Jean Carlu, Ludwig Hohlwein, John Held, Jr., and E. McKnight Kauffer. Brief records for the posters are included in the library catalog.
2. World War I
Approximately 100 posters and placards encouraging public support for the war effort and the liberty loan, war savings stamps, and related programs, were received as part of a poster collection donated to RIT Library by Rundel Library in 1974. Most of the posters were published for the United States government, though a few British examples are included in the collection. The work of several important illustrators is represented in the collection, for example, Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, and Haskell Coffin. Brief records for the posters are included in the library catalog.
3. World War II
Approximately 60 posters issued by the governments of the United States, several western European countries, and China to encourage public support for the war effort were received as part of a poster collection donated to RIT Library by Rundel Library in 1974. Works by several important illustrators are included in the collection, among them Norman Rockwell and Ben Shahn. Brief records for the posters are included in the library catalog.
4. European Product Advertising Posters
Thirteen posters advertising products such as coffee, olive oil, and liquor were acquired in 1985 and 1991. The posters date from the 1900s through the 1930s and include examples of the work of major European designers and illustrators, among them A.M. Cassandre and Leonetto Cappiello. They are uncataloged.
5. Polish Posters
A collection of approximately 600 Polish posters dating from the 1960s was donated to RIT by Joanne Szabla, RIT professor of art history, in 1988. The posters were transferred to the Special Collections in July 1991. They were produced to promote cultural and entertainment events (films, theater, museum exhibitions, opera, circus), health, tourism, and political causes. The collection includes numerous examples of the work of noted Polish illustrators and designers, including Waldemar Swierzy, Maciej Urbaniec, Henryk Tomaszewski, and Roman Cieslewicz. Eight works from the collection have been framed and are on display on the first and second floors of the library building. You can also see digital examples of the posters online.
6. Jacqueline S. Casey Posters
A collection of 99 posters designed by Jacqueline S. Casey for events and activities at MIT from 1963 to 1990 was donated to the library in 1992 by the MIT Museum at the requested of Ms. Casey. A brief inventory of the collection was prepared by the donor and fuller descriptions and color reproductions of the works are available in Posters: Jacqueline S. Casey, Thirty Years of Design at MIT (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Museum, 1992). You can also see digital examples of the posters online.
7. Rock Concert Posters
A collection of 58 screen printed posters dating from the 1960s was purchased in 1974. The posters advertise concerts, most staged at the Filmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. The collection includes examples by Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, and other noted psychedelic illustrators and designers. Records for the works are included in the library catalog.
A selection of representative examples of contemporary (post-1960), inexpensive, artists' books and related multiples are acquired and maintained as a study collection. Collecting emphasis is on recent publications. There are no subject, language, or format restrictions for artists' books and related multiples. The collection includes examples of a variety of reproduction processes, subjects (political, documentary, conceptual), and physical presentations (materials, bindings).
Special areas of collecting interest are works that use photographic imagery or integrate actual photographs into the work, books with unusual bindings (styles or materials), books that use handmade paper, books that incorporate three dimensional or movable elements, books or multiples by significant contemporary artists, and books or multiples by RIT students, faculty, and alumni.
Records for all artists' books and multiples are included in the library catalog. Artists' books are assigned the RARE locator, are classed at N7433.4, shelved together (except for oversize items), and are assigned the Library of Congress subject heading "Artists' Books."
A small selection of original photographic prints, gravures, and facsimile-level reproductions is maintained as study collection. There are no date or nationality restrictions on the works in the collection. Examples of a wide variety of photographic processes and formats are included in the collection. Among the most notable holdings of the collection are Yosemite Valley, a portfolio of 16 original prints by Ansel Adams (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1960) and 50 original prints by Barbara Morgan.
Records for some works are included in the library catalog. Portfolios are assigned the RARE locator and a subject classification number. Single prints are assigned the RARE PHOTO locator and are numbered sequentially as they are processed. A descriptive list of the collection is available here.
The small collection of livres d'artistes was established with a gift from the Martin S. Ackerman Foundation in 1982 and is maintained as a study collection. There are no subject, language, date, or format restrictions. Contemporary works in English are favored, however. The collection includes examples of a variety of reproduction processes, subjects, and physical presentations.
Works are fully cataloged and assigned the RARE locator and Library of Congress call numbers based on their content--they are not shelved together in the stacks.
1. Photo Purchase Prizes
The library maintains a collection of photographs and photographically-based works by RIT students. Additions to the collection are selected every year from the annual Student Honor Show sponsored by the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. Established in 1981, the collection now numbers over 125 items. A record for the collection is included in the library catalog and a descriptive list of all items in the collection is available.
2. Elmer Messner Collection
The Elmer Messner Collection has approximately 1,500 original drawings for political cartoons by Messner published in the newspapers of Rochester, New York, and other cities in the United States between 1934 and 1977. Messner was a graduate of RIT and taught drawing at the institute for over 20 years. The collection also includes about 30 cartoons by other noted political cartoonists, many of which are inscribed to Messner. The collection was donated to the RIT Archives in 1978 by Grace Messner, the artist's widow. An inventory of the collection was prepared by Gladys Taylor.
3. John Scott Clubb Collection
The John Scott Clubb Collection has approximately 4,000 original drawings for political cartoons published in the newspapers of Rochester, New York, from 1905 to 1934. An inventory of the collection was prepared by Gladys Taylor.
Maintained by Kari Horowicz.