Thompson Memorial Library

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Vassar's Thompson Library Thompson Library (Vassar College).jpg
Vassar's Thompson Library

The Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library is the main library building at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Vassar College private, coeducational liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States

Vassar College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, it was the second degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States, closely following Elmira College. It became coeducational in 1969, and now has a gender ratio at the national average. The school is one of the historic Seven Sisters, the first elite women's colleges in the U.S., and has a historic relationship with Yale University, which suggested a merger before they both became coeducational institutions.

Poughkeepsie (town), New York Town in New York, United States

Poughkeepsie, officially the Town of Poughkeepsie, is a town in Dutchess County, New York, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 43,341. The name is derived from the native term Uppuqui meaning "lodge-covered", plus ipis meaning "little water", plus ing meaning "place", all of which translates to "the reed-covered lodge by the little water place", or Uppuqui-ipis-ing. This later evolved into Apokeepsing, then into Poughkeepsing, and finally Poughkeepsie.

New York (state) American state

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.



Central Tower and Tapestries Thompson Library Central Tower.jpg
Central Tower and Tapestries

When Vassar opened in 1865, the library was a mere single room in Main with a collection of only three thousand books. In 1893 Frederick Ferris Thompson, a Vassar trustee, gave the college an extension to Main hall that served as a library until the new Thompson building was completed in 1905 by Mary Clark Thompson as a memorial for her husband. Mrs. Thompson's continuing generosity enabled the library to be enlarged in 1918, and in 1924 her bequest to the College became an endowment for its support.

Frederick Ferris Thompson (1836–1899) was a prominent American banker.


Architecturally, the style of the building is Perpendicular Gothic, and is constructed from Germantown stone with Indiana limestone trimming. [1] The general plan of the building, as designed by Francis R. Allen and his associate Charles Collens, is three wings built about a central tower. Rising with buttressed walls, the tower is crowned with battlements and pinnacles. Flanking the entrance, below the ceiling windows in the central hall, is a stone frieze of college and university seals from (left to right): the "Lux et Veritas" of Yale, Vassar, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Smith, and the "Veritas" of Harvard. Below the gargoyles on the bottom corners of the tower (above the doors) are the seals of Oxford and Cambridge. Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge all started as male institutions and their seals are on the edges of the library tower, representing pillars. The other schools started off as female institutions and their seals are in the middle of the tower. The architect of the library wanted to remind Vassar women that their education was on par with the male pillars of education. Below the frieze of seals in the central hall hang five seventeenth-century Flemish Gobelin tapestries portraying Apuleius' romance of Cupid and Psyche.

Wellesley College Private womens liberal arts college in Massachusetts

Wellesley College is a private women's liberal arts college in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Founded in 1870 by Henry and Pauline Durant, it is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. Wellesley is home to 56 departmental and interdepartmental majors spanning the liberal arts, as well as over 150 student clubs and organizations. The college also allows its students to cross-register at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University, Babson College and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Wellesley athletes compete in the NCAA Division III New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.

Bryn Mawr College Historically womens liberal arts college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US

Bryn Mawr College is a women's liberal arts college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Founded as a Quaker institution in 1885, Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sister colleges and the Tri-College Consortium. The college has an enrollment of about 1,350 undergraduate students and 450 graduate students.

Smith College private womens liberal arts college in Massachusetts

Smith College is a private women's liberal arts college in Northampton, Massachusetts. Although its undergraduate programs are open to women only, its graduate and certificate programs are also open to men. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters. Smith is also a member of the Five Colleges Consortium, which allows its students to attend classes at four other Pioneer Valley institutions: Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In its 2018 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked it tied for 11th best among National Liberal Arts Colleges.


Henry Van Ingen Dutch-American painter

Henry Van Ingen was a Dutch painter who for many years taught art at Vassar College in the United States.

Study area and stacks Vassar Library Study Area.jpg
Study area and stacks

Cornaro Window

The Cornaro Window Cornaro Window.jpg
The Cornaro Window

In the West Wing is the Cornaro Stained-Glass Window commissioned for the library and installed in 1906. The image shows Elena Cornaro Piscopia, a young Venetian who had previously been denied the Doctor of Theology degree as a woman, receiving her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Padua. She is thought to be the first woman to earn this degree in European history.

Elena Cornaro Piscopia Italian philosopher

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia or Elena Lucrezia Corner, also known in English as Helen Cornaro, was a Venetian philosopher of noble descent who in 1678 became one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university, and the first to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Doctor of Theology is a terminal degree in the academic discipline of theology. The ThD is an advanced research degree equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy.

Birmingham Major city in the English Midlands, 2nd highest population of UK cities

Birmingham is the second-largest city and metropolitan area in England and the United Kingdom, with roughly 1.1 million inhabitants within the city area and 3.8 million inhabitants within the metropolitan area as of their most recent estimates, which also makes Birmingham the 17th largest city and 8th largest metropolitan area in the European Union. Although there has been noticeable attention towards the status of Manchester as a potentially more significant major city than Birmingham due to its growth and development in recent years, as well as Manchester having a larger urban area, Birmingham is still commonly referred to as the nation's "second city".

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

The west wing of the Thompson Library, featuring the Cornaro Window Thompson Library West Wing.jpg
The west wing of the Thompson Library, featuring the Cornaro Window


The library collection today - which actually encompasses seven total libraries at Vassar - contains about a million volumes and 7,500 serial, periodical and newspaper titles, as well as an extensive collection of microfilm and microfiche. [2] [3] [4]

Archives and Special Collections Library

Archives & Special Collections holds the rare book, manuscript, and archival collections of the college. It collects, preserves, and makes available rare and unique collections, and also engages in teaching and outreach activities. It is located on the ground floor of the Ingram Addition (north end) of the Library.

Among the rare books, particular strengths exist in women's history, first editions of English and American literary and historical works, examples of fine printing, collections of courtesy and cookbooks, children's books, and rare maps and atlases. Important manuscript holdings document topics such as literature, politics, and women’s history. [5]

Government Documents Collection

Thompson Library: Spires Thompson Library Spires.jpg
Thompson Library: Spires

Vassar has been a Federal depository library for selected U.S. Government documents since 1943 and currently receives approximately 25% of the titles available through the Federal Depository Program. Since 1988, Vassar has been a New York State Reference Center, part of the New York Depository Program. The library also selectively purchases United Nations documents. [6]

Microtext collections

The Thompson Library has an extensive microfilm, microfiche and microcard collection. In addition to newspapers and periodicals in microform, some other important primary source microform collections are:

Media Cloisters

The Media Cloisters was created in 1999 as a state-of-the-art space for collaborative learning and instructional technology exploration. It is designed for collaborative academic work using high-tech tools where students, faculty, librarians, and information technology specialists meet to explore emerging pedagogies made possible by the latest technologies. Situating the Cloisters at the heart of the library—it is on the second floor just south of Thompson's central axis—was a deliberate affirmation of Vassar's commitment to the importance of place in education. [7] The subsequent rebranding of the Media Cloisters to the DMZ (Digital Media Zone) was also a deliberate affirmation of Vassar's commitment to the important of place in education.


  1. 1 2 Daniels, E, p44
  2. Costopoulos, J. 2008
  3. Fitchett, C. 2008
  4. "Vassar College Libraries" . Retrieved 2008-04-12.
  5. Patkus, R. 2005
  6. Vassar College, 2008
  7. Winum, J. 2000

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Coordinates: 41°41′15″N73°53′53″W / 41.687579°N 73.897924°W / 41.687579; -73.897924