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Lyceum of Natural History Records

Identifier: MC-17

Scope and Contents

The Lyceum of Natural History records includes a variety of records pertaining to the management and travels of the Lyceum as well as the collection and cataloging of biological, paleontological and anthropological specimens by the students. The collectioon dates from 1835-1914.


  • Creation: 1835 - 1914

Conditions Governing Access

The Lyceum of Natural History Records are open for research. Researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections staff prior to a visit.

Conditions Governing Use

In consultation with Special Collections staff, reproductions may be made upon request. Please consult with staff regarding questions about publishing materials from Williams Special Collections. Researchers are responsible for handling any copyright issues that may be associated with collections and materials.

Lyceum of Natural History

In 1835, Professor Albert Hopkins and a group of Williams College undergraduates founded the Lyceum of Natural History. Organized originally as a secret society, Phi Beta Theta, the members almost immediately dropped this designation. The stated purpose of the society was "the study of the natural sciences, and the prosecution of antiquarian researches." During this period the Williams curriculum offered the students few lectures and no laboratory classes in the natural sciences. The Lyceum met every two weeks, at which time the members delivered papers written on various scientific topics. Members also cataloged specimens, the majority of which were collected by the students themselves. Profs. Albert Hopkins and Paul A. Chadbourne led most of the Lyceum's expeditions for specimen collection, including voyages to: Bay of Fundy (1835), Newfoundland (1854), Florida (1857), Labrador and Greenland (1860), South America (1867), and Honduras (1871). These expeditions secured the Lyceum's reputation, both in the United States and in Europe. In 1855, the members moved their records and collections into Jackson Hall, a building which had been donated by Nathan Jackson expressly to house the Lyceum. With the advent of a biology laboratory in 1882, the practical necessity of the Lyceum was diminished. However, the society continued periodically to hold meetings until 1909, and the Botanical Section of the Lyceum, organized in 1910, met until at least 1914.


2.29 Linear Feet (2 letter manuscript boxes, 1 legal half manuscript box, 1 records storage box)

1 Broadsides (1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Arranged into three series: I. Specimen Catalogs, II. Administrative Records, III. Miscellaneous.

Physical Location

L2 Storage, F4b and Library Shelving Facility

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown.

Processing Information

To facilitate access to the collection, an artificial organization was imposed on the records when they were processed in 1991. Later accessions, also from unknown donors, were incorporated into the collection in 1991 and 1992.

Processing Information

Processed by Allison Marston, April 1991 and revised March 1995.

Lyceum of Natural History Records
Nash, Katie
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Williams College Archives Repository

Sawyer Library
26 Hopkins Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267