The Institute maintains collections including more than fifty thousand items illuminating the American Revolution and its legacy. These collections document the nature and conduct of the Revolutionary War, the lives of the soldiers and sailors who fought it, the ideas that motivated them, and the events that shaped the Revolution and made it one of the most important events in modern history. The Institute makes these collections available to researchers at all levels, exhibits highlights from the collections to the public, employs them to promote the preservation of Revolutionary War battlefields, and uses the collections to enrich materials provided to teachers and students.
The library collections consist chiefly of printed and manuscript materials that support advanced scholarship on the American Revolution. The heart of the library is the Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection, which brings together rare books, broadsides, manuscripts, maps, prints and other contemporary sources relating to the theory and practice of warfare in the eighteenth century. This continuously growing collection includes manuals and treatises studied by officers of the revolutionary generation as well as official records and personal writings that document their experiences in the war. Nearly three hundred period maps and battle plans delineate the Revolutionary War on land and at sea, as well as the changing boundaries of the American colonies and the early United States. Political pamphlets, contemporary histories and memoirs, literature and popular prints document the influence and memory of the Revolution. The library also houses the archives of the Society of the Cincinnati, beginning with the founding of the Society in 1783. The most precious document in the archives is the original manuscript Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati, completed in the summer of 1783 and signed by George Washington, Henry Knox and thirty-four other founders of the Society.
The museum collections provide insights on the revolutionary era and its enduring influence. The collections include paintings, sculpture, armaments and other military equipment, medals, ceramics, textiles, daguerreotypes and other historical artifacts. The museum collections are strongest—and growing fastest—in portraits of Revolutionary War participants, weapons used during the war and objects documenting the history of the Society of the Cincinnati. Most of the portraits depict American and French officers who led the allied forces to victory and include works by outstanding artists such as Charles Willson Peale, Ralph Earl, Gilbert Stuart, John Trumbull, Frederick MacMonnies and Paul Wayland Bartlett. The armaments collection includes weapons manufactured in Britain, France, Spain, German principalities and the United States. Among its treasures are two of the fifteen presentation swords awarded by Congress to Revolutionary War heroes. Portraits of members, depictions of Cincinnatus, Chinese export porcelain bearing Society emblems and other art and artifacts document the history, ideals and symbols of the Society of the Cincinnati. The Society owns the most extensive and important collection of its own insignia—informally called the Eagle—in the world. This collection includes the Diamond Eagle, presented to George Washington in 1784 by officers of the French navy and worn on ceremonial occasions by each of his successors as president general of the Society of the Cincinnati.
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