Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play

Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play

Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, now known as The Strong, officially named their library and archive holdings the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play in 2009. With 130,000 volumes the library is “devoted to the intellectual, social, and cultural history of play.”1 They support the study of play through an interdisciplinary approach recognizing the “multifaceted and multigenerational scope of play.”2

With over sixty-five years of researching and teaching in the fields of educational and developmental psychology, folklore, and play theory, Brian Sutton-Smith was a professor, international lecturer, and the author of more than 350 books and articles.3 His landmark book, The Ambiguity of Play (1997), has become a standard in play theory. Brian's personal library of 2,500 play books and 45 bins of research papers were donated to The Strong National Museum of Play in 2007. He currently is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania.

Along with Brian's personal library and papers, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play includes professional journals and periodicals, trade catalogs, game design materials, comic books, manuscripts, children's books, business records, and works of art as they relate to the many facets of play.

Key holdings of the library collection are:

  • Association of Game and Puzzle Collectors Collection, 1850-2010 – more than 1,275 historical items in the game and puzzle industry
  • Children’s Books and Periodicals – from the early 1800s to the present, the collection includes children’s books and periodicals
  • Comic Books – with more than 21,000 titles from the 1950s to the present, the collection depicts societal and cultural changes through the years
  • Joe L. Frost Collection, 1967-2006 – noted author and advocate of children’s play and play environments, the collection includes Joe Frost's books and papers published prior to 2006
  • Little Golden Books – this collection of early childhood books includes nearly 2,400 titles written from the mid 1940s to the end of the century
  • Stephen and Diane Olin Toy Catalog Collection, 1850-2010 – a collection of more than 12,250 trade catalogs for toys, dolls, games, and other recreational items
  • Playthings Magazine Collection, 1903-2010 – the leading trade magazine for the toy industry documenting toy manufacturing and play in America
  • Trade Catalogsmore than 6,000 trade catalogs from the mid 1800s to present illustrating American recreational and leisure activities through products sold4

Key holdings included in the archival collections are:

  • Aeolian American Piano Corporation Collection, 1840s-1950s – design drawings and records of the world’s largest piano manufacturer in the early 20th century
  • Stan and Jan Berenstain Archive of Cartoon Art, 1940s-1980s – a glimpse of family life through syndicated comic strips and children’s books
  • Fields of Play Film Series – five documentary films that examine play in conjunction with learning, creativity, work, leisure, and other topics
  • Gruelle Family Collection, 1880s-2008 – the collection documents the development of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls
  • Vivian Gussin Paley Papers, 1973-2010 – documented works of this noted early childhood teacher, researcher, and writer who advocated for the importance of play for young children
  • C.J. Rogers Papers, 1993-present – papers of C.J. Rogers, psychological behavioral ecologist, who lives with wolves and studies their societal and emotional dynamics including play
  • Sid Sackson Collection, 1867-2000 – the complete professional archive of game designer, collector, and author Sid Sackson, who created more than 500 games
  • Toyland Digital Video Archive – approximately 65 hours of filmed interviews with American toy and game inventors and developers5

In 2009, The Strong created the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), which collects, studies, and interprets how video games and electronic games affect how people play, learn, and connect across cultural and geographical boundaries.6 The ICHEG's library and archival collections are housed in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play.7

The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is a non-circulating research center where scholars, students, collectors, and researchers are able to research on site by appointment. There is an online catalog of their holdings, and materials that are not irreplaceable, rare, or fragile may be loaned to other libraries.8

  • 1. “About.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/about > 4 April 2011.
  • 2. “Collections.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/collections > 5 April 2011.
  • 3. “Brian Sutton-Smith Biography.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/about/bio > 5 April 2011.
  • 4. “Library Collections.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/collections/library > 5 April 2011.
  • 5. “Archival Collections.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/collections/archival > 5 April 2011.
  • 6. “ICHEG Library and Archival Collections.” Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. < http://www.libraryandarchivesofplay.org/collections/icheg-library-archival> 5 April 2011.
  • 7. Op cit., “Library Collections.”
  • 8. Op.cit., “About.”