Stony Brook University’s Special Collections and University Archives held an open house Wednesday afternoon in Melville Library.
Among the historical artifacts and primary documents on public display were a letter written by George Washington to spies in Setauket during the American Revolution, a letter written to Thomas Jefferson regarding the building of the Montauk lighthouse and an early printed history book from the 15th century.
“I think we have such a nice variety of materials here that anyone wanting to do research on anything could find something that would interest them,” Assistant Head of Special Collections and University Archives Lynn Toscano said.
The open house was held in observance of American Archives Month, an initiative started by the Society of American Archivists to raise public awareness for archives across the country.
“This is a big day for us, we’re excited,” Head of Special Collections and University Archives Kristen Nyitray said. “The goal is to let people know that these are public documents. They aren’t private or tucked away in a closet. They’re here for them to use, enjoy and to learn from. So everyone is invited to benefit and learn from them.”
Most of the items displayed focused on the history of Long Island. These items included 18th- and 19th-century maps, which mostly depicted farmland. Some areas had no sign of civilization for miles. Also displayed were photo galleries that included pictures 19th century LIRR stations, which often just consisted of one building next to the tracks.
“I think it gives perspective and context it shows how we’ve gone from a rural agricultural region to suburbanization,” Nyitray said. “And now we’ve come full circle and are looking for more ways to become sustainable so it definitely provides kind of the foundation for how to be more thoughtful with planning.”
A sizable portion of the archives also focused on the history of Stony Brook University. The collection on The university, which was founded as the State University College on Long Island (SUCOLI) in 1957 and had its campus in Oyster Bay until 1961.
Old copies of The Statesman — which was originally called The Sucolian because of the SUCOLI name — were put on display to chronicle the history of the school.
One old copy of The Statesman had an article about an Allman Brothers Band concert held at the school during the 1970s. The price of admission? $1.
“It is important for Stony Brook to maintain its own history,” Toscano said.
Most of the items displayed on Wednesday came from outside donors and alumni.
“When the library was first started, many of the books were purchased in huge lots so that makes a portion of it,” Toscano said. “We receive primarily from donations. The Washington letters are different. That was a donation of money for us to be able to get the letter. Otherwise, it’s usually people who know they have valuable material or are recording the history of something and decide that they’d like it to be preserved and be in a place where people can have access to it.”
Several observers from inside and outside of the school came in to look at the displays.
“I had no idea that we had an archive,” Stony Brook junior Naveen Mallangada said. “Seeing original letters from George Washington and seeing materials from the first graduating class, it was just overall fascinating.”