Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play

The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play® is a multidisciplinary research repository devoted to the intellectual, social, and cultural history of play. In addition to housing the personal library and papers of its preeminent namesake, the 199,000-volume research library and archives holds a full spectrum of primary and secondary sources, including scholarly works, professional journals, other periodicals, trade catalogs, children’s books, comic books, manuscripts, personal papers, business records, and more.

Named for America’s Foremost Play Scholar

Brian Sutton-Smith (1924–2015) was one of the foremost play scholars of the last 100 years. His The Ambiguity of Play (1997) stands alongside Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (1938) and Roger Caillois’s Man Play and Games (1961) as a touchstone of play theory. For more than half a century, in more than 350 books and articles, Sutton-Smith led or synthesized all the major advances in play studies. His collected works, papers, and personal library are a key element of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and they symbolize the import of its holdings.Library stacks

Key Holdings

The holdings of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play encompass a broad range of materials and play-related topics, including collections gathered and cared for through the work of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. The collections are especially strong in regard to the history of toys, dolls, video games, other electronic games, board games, and puzzles. Also included are significant holdings reflecting the work of leading American scholars and educators in the fields of play and early childhood education.

Library Collections

  • Association of Game and Puzzle Collectors Collection, 1850–2010
  • Children’s Books and Periodicals
  • Comic Books
  • Computer Gaming World Collection, 1982–2000s
  • Joe L. Frost Collection, 1967–2006
  • Kevin Gifford Video Game Magazine Collection, 1970s–Present
  • Little Golden Books Collection
  • Stephen and Diane Olin Toy Catalog Collection, 1850–2014
  • Playthings Magazine Collection, 1903–2010
  • Prima Games Collection, 1990–Present
  • Brian Sutton-Smith Collection, 1949–2009
  • Trade Catalogs—Toys, Dolls, and Games
  • Trade Catalogs—Electronic and Video Games
  • Video Game and Electronic Game Books and Periodicals

Archival Collections Related to Artifacts of Play

  • America at Play: Play Stories Video Archive
  • Stan and Jan Berenstain Archive of Cartoon Art, 1949–2006
  • Dan Blum's Sid Sackson Collection, 1980–1997
  • Coleman Family Papers, 19091990s
  • Ron Dubren Papers, 1975–2008
  • Dungeons & Dragons Collection, 1971–2013
  • Fields of Play Film Series Collection, 1981–1982 and 2010–2012
  • Gruelle Family Collection, 1888–2008
  • Floral Gill Jacobs Collection, 1873–2000s
  • LeRoy Howard Papers, 1892–1952
  • ​Greg Hyman Papers, 1957–2010
  • Philip E. Orbanes Papers, 1905–2012
  • Victor G. Reiling Papers, 1982–2005
  • Sid Sackson Collection, 1867–2000
  • Margaret Woodbury Strong Papers, 18971969
  • Garth Parker Premium Toy Design Papers, 1978–2012
  • Toyland Digital Video Archive, 2010
  • Tim Walsh Papers, 1996–2011
  • Women in Toys Collection 

Archival Collections Related to the Study of Play

  • Doris Bergen Papers, 1972–2014
  • Lella Gandini Early Childhood and Children's Folklore Collection, 1802–2012
  • Vivian Gussin Paley Papers, 1973–2010
  • Anthony Pellegrini Papers, 1921–2012
  • C. J. Rogers Papers, 1987­­­­–2011
  • Brian Sutton-Smith Papers, 1949–2009

Archival Collections Related to Video and Other Electronic Games

  • Cort and Barbara Allen Atari Packaging Design Collection, 1976–1984
  • Atari Arcade Design Collection, 1973–1991
  • Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1968–2010
  • Bill Budge Collection, 1971–1985
  • Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry) Papers, 1949–1998
  • Don Daglow Papers, 1977–2010
  • Brian Fargo Papers, 1983–2012
  • Kevin Gifford Video Game Magazine Collection,  1970s–Present
  • Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson Collection, 1967–1994
  • Jordan Mechner Collection, 1913–2014
  • Carol Shaw Collection,  1978–2002
  • Guy Welch Collection, 1988–2013
  • Ken and Roberta Williams Collection, 1979–1996
  • Williams Pinball Playfield Design Collection, 19461995
  • Will Wright Papers, 1989–2010

Video Game Company Collections

  • Scott Adams Adventure International Collection, 1970–2015
  • Atari Coin-Op Divisions Collection, 1972–1999
  • Brøderbund Software, Inc. Collection, 1979–2002
  • Her Interactive Collection, 1994–2012
  • Living Books Collection, 1993–2000
  • Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation Collection, 1968–2011
  • Microsoft Collection, 1993–2011
  • Nintendo of America Collection, 19832010
  • Penguin Software Collection, 19702013
  • Paul Sams Collection of Blizzard Games and Merchandise, 19922015
  • Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) Collection, 1979–2001
  • Tengen, Inc. Collection, 1987–1994
  • Westwood Studios Collection, 1985–2003

Access to the Collections

Scholars, students, collectors, and other researchers are welcome to conduct research on site. In order for library and archives staff to optimize collections access, please request an appointment. Appointments may be requested online, by phone at 585-410-6349, or by sending an email to Please provide a topic of research and indicate the materials desired and any special needs.

Library and Archives Hours

Monday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Please note: The library and archives will be closed to researchers from January 15 through March 31, 2020 for renovations.

The library catalog of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play provides a window into its vast collection of books and trade publications. The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is a non-circulating research center, but some materials are available through interlibrary loan. Trade catalogs, documents, and other items that are irreplaceable, rare, or fragile are not available for loan.

The archives catalog of The Strong contains detailed descriptive information about the archival collections housed in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. These collections include archival materials related to the study of play, artifacts of play, and video and electronic games. Researchers may search on keywords or browse by Collection, Subject, or Name.

Research Fellowships

To promote and advance play scholarship, The Strong invites academic professionals, independent scholars, museum scholars, and advanced graduate students at the Masters or PhD level to apply for research fellowships available through the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Fellowships provide financial support for scholarly play research conducted on site at The Strong in Rochester, New York, for periods of study ranging from one week to three months. Learn more about past fellowship recipients and their work.

Donate to the Collections

The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is actively seeking and acquiring a broad range of play-related materials. Of primary interest are the records of toy and game (including video and other electronic games) designers, inventors, and companies; marketing, advertising, and other promotional and informational materials about toys and games; trade publications of the toy and game industries; personal and professional papers and publications of play scholars; primary and secondary publications that document the history of play; and published and unpublished works written by historians and dedicated collectors of toys, games, and other artifacts of play.

The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play encourages queries from individuals and organizations that have important play-related documents, periodicals, books, and other materials that merit a permanent home where they can help inform future generations. Please email or call 585-410-6349.