In 2000, the VHS acquired the old Spaulding School in Barre, which we renovated to house our library, galleries, collections storage, and administrative offices. In July 2002 the VHS's library opened to the public on the second floor of the newly named Vermont History Center. In November 2007 the library was named the Howard and Alba Leahy Library.
The Leahy Library of the Vermont Historical Society, open to the public four days a week, is a center for individualized research and discovery. The curious researcher will find a variety of resources documenting the history and people of Vermont, including a collection of books and pamphlets dating from the 1770s to the present. The voices, ideas and commerce of the past are preserved here in unique letters, diaries, ledgers and scrapbooks. Some of Vermont's earliest maps and planning documents are available here. Extensive photograph and broadside collections create a visual record of the state's past.
With a special interest in family history, the library has the largest printed genealogical collection in the state. This is the place for genealogists, researchers and students to leave the present behind and explore Vermont's rich heritage.
Books and pamphlets
The largest group of materials in the library are books and pamphlets that date from the 1770s to the present and cover all aspects of Vermont history. The library also has materials related to the history of other New England states, northeastern New York State, and neighboring Canada.
Books are cataloged in the online catalog and main card catalog. Not all materials are listed in both places, so both catalogs need to be consulted. There are special sections in the catalogs for Vermont biographies and imprints. An annotated copy of Marcus McCorrison's Vermont Imprints, 1778-1820 can help researchers locate early printed materials.
The Leahy Library collections complement holdings at other institutions such as the Vermont Department of Libraries, UVM’s Department of Special Collections, the Sheldon Museum, and the Bennington Museum.
The Leahy Library of the Vermont Historical Society is a noncirculating research library, so no materials leave our building.
The manuscript collection contains unique hand- and typewritten letters, diaries, account books, records of governments and organizations, and research notes. The collection is particularly strong in family history, agriculture, railroads, personal accounts of military conflicts, religion, emigration, government and politics, and early crafts and trades.
Items in the manuscript collection can be identified through online catalog, through keyword searching below, and through the Brigham Index and Calendars in the library. Only a small portion of the library’s manuscript holdings are in the online catalog. A few of our manuscripts have been transcribed for online reading.
The finding aids to our manuscript collections can be searched using keywords entered into the box below:
The photograph collection may be the library's most popular holding. Among the most important images in the collection are the earliest known photographic views of Vermont, taken by Thomas Easterly about 1845. The library also has the glass plate negatives of Will D. Chandler and R. C. Bristol, the Civil War scenes of George H. Houghton, the covered bridge photographs of Edmund H. Royce, and the Vermont Album collection assembled by Ralph Nading Hill. The majority of the photographs are arranged in the picture file by size and subject; stereoviews and postcards are filed separately. Finding aids include a subject heading list and an index to portraits. A photographic duplication service is available for a fee. None of the library’s photographs are cataloged online; some are included in UVM’s Landscape Change database. Visit our image galleries on this website to see a sampling our our collections.
The Vermont Historical Society has an extensive collection of Vermont broadsides, posters, and flat paper ephemera dating from the late eighteenth century to the present. All broadsides prior to 1820 and other significant broadsides are cataloged; others are not cataloged but are arranged by size and subject. A guide to the broadside collection is available in the library.
The Vermont Historical Society library subscribes to and collects general-interest Vermont periodicals, scholarly history journals, museum magazines, and newsletters from historical societies across the state. The card catalog includes entries for articles on Vermont subjects from non-Vermont scholarly journals, The Vermonter (1895-1946), and early issues of Vermont Life. Also available in the library are indexes to the Society's periodicals, Vermont History and Vermont History News.
The library houses about 300 pieces of Vermont-related sheet music cataloged in the online catalog by title, composer, lyricist, subject, and date. There is also a printed user's guide for the sheet music collection.
The library has films, videotapes, records, and audiotapes about Vermont subjects; oral history tapes created primarily in the 1970s; over 300 reels of microfilm (much of it copies of material not available elsewhere in the library); vertical files of newspaper clippings and un-cataloged materials on Vermont and selected non-Vermont topics; architectural drawings, and a collection of Vermont bumper stickers.
The library staff is ready to help with the materials and research tools in the library and can make referrals to other collections and institutions. Use our Ask a Librarian service to request assistance online.
The Vermont Historical Society welcomes monetary donations, personal and family papers, business and organization records, published works, and research studies that fit the Society's collecting interests. Because of limited funds and potential conflicts of interest, the Society cannot appraise or hire appraisers of gifts. Donors should consult outside advisers concerning the deductibility of their gifts.