Historic Collections

Explore Collections

For more than 65 years, the Morris County Park Commission has amassed a wide variety of Historic Collections, all of which serve our mission.

The objects, images, books and archival material are integral to the stories that document the history of northern New Jersey. They provide a record of recreation, conservation, agriculture, botanical, social, technological, and industrial histories from the 16th Century to the 21st Century.

Documented are the activities of the Park Commission, residents who entrusted their land to the parks through donation, and life in Morris County and greater New Jersey as it relates to the history of the park properties.

The collection also serves as an essential primary source in horticulture, telecommunications, mining, and other histories significant to this region, the nation, and internationally.

Highlights

More than 200 casting patterns from industrialist Stephen Vail’s Speedwell Ironworks in Morristown. These patterns were used in the 19th Century for early locomotives, steam engines, and the S.S. Savannah, which was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Samuel Morse’s painted portraits of the Vail family done while Morse and Alfred Vail worked on the invention of the telegraph.

Mount Hope Mining equipment, records, and maps document early New Jersey mining industry and geological history.

Significant woman’s histories are captured in the images and papers of Martha Brookes Hutcheson, one of the first women to practice as a professional landscape architect in America.

The oldest treasure in the collection, published in 1517, Ortus Sanitatus, is an influential volume of medieval herbal, medical botany, and natural history.

The Park Commission collection features:

  • More than 51,000 historic items
  • 11,685 objects
  • 1,814 working collection objects
  • 1,381 linear feet of archives
  • 8,725 maps
  • 19,230 images
  • 7,540 circulating books
  • 2,980 special collection books and manuscripts.

As a collecting institution, our holdings are continually growing to help us better understand and connect our past and present.

If you have questions about the collection or would like to donate an item, please contact us at collections@morrisparks.net.

Access

Our Services

Historic collections are vital to research and scholarship, so the Park Commission provides access to collections in-person and remotely.

  • In-Person access to the collection is available by appointment only. Collections items do not circulate. All material must be reviewed in designated areas. An appropriate staff member will be present to assist with research and help ensure best practices are used when accessing the collection. Guidelines for use will be provided. Interested residents must file a written Access Request form and agree to the Access Policy. All requests must be reviewed and approved by a member of the collections staff. Requests should be sent to collections@morrisparks.net. Please allow up to two weeks for a response.
  • Remote access is available for patrons who are unable to visit our sites. Collections staff will answer specific queries by mail or email. Complete a Remote Access Request form agreeing to the Access Policy and send to collections@morrisparks.net.
  • Images or other content requested for publication, including commercial use, are provided in high-resolution files for a fee. Complete a Photographic Reproduction Request Form and send it to collections@morrisparks.net.

Links to Fees

Per the Park Commission’s Fee Schedule, access to historic collections, including up to two hours of staff time and 20 low-resolution copies or scans, is provided at no fee. Additional photocopies and/or scans or staff time will be charged according to the current fee schedule.

There is a flat fee for reproduction of collection items that includes up to five images. Extra images will be charged according to the fee schedule.

Research

Finding Aids

A finding aid is a guide to an archival collection. It provides information about its creation, content, and how it is organized. The Park Commission’s archival collections Finding Aids are descriptions of a collection’s contents. They are designed to help researchers find primary and secondary source information.

Due to the high volume of collection materials, the format and level of description vary, ranging from summary descriptions to detailed item-level inventories.

Search Online

The Morris County Park Commission uses PastPerfect Online to enable you to use a fully searchable online collections database.

There are multiple ways for web visitors to search, allowing you to easily chose the information you want to view from a large sampling of our collections. Keyword Search, Advanced Search, Catalog Search, Random Images, and Catalog Search allow you to customize your search preferences.

More records will be added to the database as staff continues to inventory and digitize collections, so check back for updates.

Historic Preservation

Our staff are dedicated to preserving and interpreting the historical resources located within our many parks and facilities, including culturally significant buildings and objects. 

Visit our Historic Preservation page for more info.

Exhibits

The Morris County Park Commission hosts a wide variety of exhibitions that attract horticulture, history and culture enthusiasts from across the county. From short-term changing exhibitions to our permanent displays within our historic house museums, our sites offer a diverse range that caters to every taste.

Visit our Exhibits Page for current exhibition information.