Cornell's Rare and Manuscript Division features major collections of visual materials documenting a vast array of subjects. These collections include photographs, posters and broadsides, watercolors, prints, drawings, film and videotape, and digital files.
The photographic collections are exceptionally rich. Nearly all 19th and 20th century photographic processes and formats are represented: daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, salt prints, stereographs, cyanotypes, cartes de visite and cabinet cards, lantern slides, and glass plate negatives, as well as modern prints and negatives.
Highlights include the Stephan and Beth Loewentheil Family Photographic Collection, which contains more than 16,000 19th-century American photographs including important concentrations of photographs by preeminent Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, images of the Civil War, a significant collection of hand-colored photographs, and images documenting African-American life and westward expansion.
Contemporary music collections feature the archives of noted photographers and documentarians, such as Hip Hop photographers Joe Conzo, Jr. and Ernie Paniccioli, and filmmaker Charlie Ahearn. The Human Sexuality Collection also features major photographic collections, including the Harry Weintraub Collection of Gay-Related Photography which provides a wide view of men's bodies and gay men's lives, styles, and activities from the 1850s onwards through thousands of photographs.
The University Archives preserves significant photographic documentation captured or collected by Cornell faculty and alumni working in multiple fields, Specific collections of note are those of Arthur Allen (ornithology), Gerow D. Brill (China and the Philippines), Gustav E. Kappler (Vietnam War), Leslie Severinghaus (China) and Willard Straight (China). The Andrew Dickson White Architectural Photographs form a collection of approximately 12,000 nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photographs of American, European and Middle Eastern architecture and sculpture which were used to teach art and architecture students at Cornell in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Large collections of Cornell photographs contain more than 100,000 items documenting the history of the university from 1868 to the present,
Other photographic collections of note include those of Niels Douwes Dekker (Indonesia), Francois-Jules Harmand (Southeast Asia), Frederick Howell (Iceland), Hedda Morrison (Sarawak), John Nolen (city planning) and Ellen Shipman (landscape architecture).