Brian Sutton-Smith Library & 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 220,000-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.

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

Archival Collections

Access to the Collections

Scholars, students, collectors, and other researchers are welcome to conduct research on site. 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. Request an appointment for an on-site visit.

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 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.

Library and Archives Hours

Monday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Interlibrary Loan

Libraries may make requests using an American Library Association (ALA) form via fax, mail, or email. Loans are for four weeks and are restricted to library use only. Trade catalogs, documents, and other items that are irreplaceable, rare, or fragile are not available for loan, but may be sent as a reproduction.

Attn: Interlibrary Loan
Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, NY 14607
Email: library@museumofplay.org
Fax: 585-263-2493

Rights and Reproductions

Photocopies and scans may be requested for scholarship, research, or private study. Use the online form to make a request. Items too fragile for safe copying are excluded. A nominal fee is charged. No images  may be published without prior written permission of The Strong.

Research Fellowships

To promote and advance play scholarship, The Strong invites academic professionals, independent scholars, museum scholars, and advanced graduate students at the MA 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 to four weeks. 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 library@museumofplay.org or call 585-410-6349.

Contact a Librarian

The Strong’s staff is glad to assist with research inquiries, questions about collections, and requests for images. Please fill out the contact form completely, providing a topic of research, the materials desired and any special needs, so that Library and Archives staff optimize collections research. Staff will respond within two weeks of initial request.