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Age of Empires collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2023.aoe
The Age of Empires collection contains two 14” × 17” sketchbooks (with loose drawings inserted), as well as graphics and animations used in the development of Ensemble Studios’ Age of Empires. Though the original materials are undated, they are likely from 1996-1997. (Access copies of the graphic files were created by the Senior Archivist at The Strong in 2023.) Additional information can be found in the Contents List section of this finding aid.

The collection is arranged into two series. Physical materials are stored in one oversized print storage box, and digital files are accessible on-site at The Strong.


  • 1996-1997, 2023


Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, they have given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


1.5 Linear Feet (1 oversize print storage box)

1.1 Gigabytes (Digital materials) : Accessible on-site at The Strong.


The Age of Empires collection contains two sketchbooks with loose drawings inserted, as well as digital artwork used in the development of Ensemble Studios’ Age of Empires. The original materials are undated but are likely from 1996-1997.

Historical Note

Age of Empires (1997), often abbreviated AoE, is a real-time strategy video game designed by Ensemble Studios. Based on historical events, the game allows the player to advance through time while leading one of 12 ancient civilizations from Europe, Africa, or Asia. Players experience the Stone Age, Tool Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, with each era introducing new items, weapons, and technologies. (The original working title of the game was “Dawn of Man.”)

Age of Empires’ campaigns follow the history of the Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, and Yamato civilizations, with four distinct architectural styles appearing in the game. Resources such as food, stone, wood, or gold are acquired through farming, fishing, foraging, hunting, logging, mining, or trading. Players research technologies; control civilian and military units; and construct buildings, infrastructure, and monuments. Using the Scenario Builder tool, players can even create their own game maps, customize rules, and establish specific conditions.

Microsoft published Age of Empires in 1997. The title received good reviews, and the success of the game spawned expansion packs and sequels. (The Microsoft Gaming Zone also supported multiplayer gameplay of Age of Empires online.) As of May 2023, there have been nine total games released in the Age of Empires series.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Sketchbooks, n.d. [c. 1996-1997]

Series II: Digital artwork, c. 1996-1997, 2023

Custodial History

The Age of Empires collection was donated to The Strong in May 2023 as a gift of Anonymous. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object IDs 123.1283 and 123.1652. Materials were received from the donor in one physical shipment and one digital transfer.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, May 2023


Finding Aid to the Age of Empires Collection, 1996-1997, 2023
Julia Novakovic
3 May 2023
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)