The Van Rensselaer-Rankin family amassed several lifetimes and several households worth of personal papers and possessions during their 176 years of occupancy at Cherry Hill. In 1963, when the last surviving family member died, the house and its contents became the Historic Cherry Hill Collection — an intact assemblage of one family's material possessions spanning five generations and over three hundred years of American history.
A wealth of information for scholars of social history and material culture, Cherry Hill is a unique resource because of the well-documented provenance of its collection. Family members kept meticulous records regarding the history of individual objects and their placement in the household. What is more, objects are often ensconced in a web of associated material, such as notes, photographs, letters, family lore, and old parts that were removed and replaced but never discarded.
In all, the Historic Cherry Hill collection totals over 20,000 objects, 30,000 manuscripts, 7,500 textiles, 5,000 books, and 3,000 photographs. This remarkably complete household “hoard”—including even the mundane items of daily life—sheds light on the complex workings of a household across multiple generations. Yet, as one might expect of the accumulations of a Van Rensselaer estate, the collection also contains some very rare and fine examples of American material culture. Historic Cherry Hill proudly cares for the family's ENTIRE estate from the lowliest toothbrush to the rarest 18th-century silver tankard and everything in between.
The Edward Frisbee Center for Collections & Research houses the papers and most of the objects in Historic Cherry Hill's collection. Researchers are welcome to contact the curator to schedule appointments to view specified materials. We will do our best to accommodate requests, but appointments must be scheduled within the limited availability of the Curatorial & Research Department, and generally on Tuesday-Friday between the hours of 10:00 and 4:00. A fee of $5 is charged per visit.
If you are unable to perform your own onsite research, you may request that the Curatorial & Research Department conduct research on your behalf. Due to limited staffing, the department may or may not be able to undertake this research. If your research request is accepted, a research fee of $25 per hour will be charged. Included with this fee are all related photocopying costs and the cost of transmitting research findings to the researcher.Click here for a List of Historic Cherry Hill Manuscripts Series and Subseries