Processing the Ginsberg Family Collection

Jill A. Hershorin, MLIS
Archivist
Jewish Historical Society of NJ
jhershorin@jhs-nj.org

The Ginsberg Family Collection (1956-2013) has been processed and is now available for research at the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey (JHS of NJ). It is our hope to reach a wider audience by detailing the contents and procedure of how the collection was evaluated.

For decades, Pat Sebold, a local politician in Essex County, NJ, has been the keeper of some of her family’s memorabilia. This trove includes hardback and paperback copies of the family’s published writings, letters to and from family members, and newspaper clippings of the Ginsberg family. Finally, after a few years of convincing, Sebold donated the materials to our archive in 2016. We have known of Sebold’s accomplishments in the public and personally, we know that Pat is the first cousin of author, poet and philosopher, Allen Ginsberg.

While the official repository of the Allen Ginsberg papers is housed at Stanford University, the Ginsberg Family Collection resides in our small archive in Whippany, NJ. Our archive’s holdings contain materials that represent Jewish life in the nearby counties of Essex, Morris, Sussex, and Union. Because the Ginsberg family has its roots in Newark, NJ we thought it fitting that the collection should be with us. Convincing Pat Sebold was uncomplicated. Sitting with New Jersey Jewish News reporter Robert Weiner, Sebold says: “It is better it should go someplace where it will be treasured.” She added, “What are they going to do? Sit in a bookcase for the rest of my life?”

Processing the Collection

When the materials arrived, there were six large boxes with no discernable arrangement or order. Three of the boxes held hardbound and paperback books, and the other three contained assorted documents. The boxes of books were set aside and I began to sort through the documents. It was clear that there were items related to Allen Ginsberg, but I soon discovered other family members’ documents as well. There were correspondence and writings penned by Allen’s father, poet Louis Ginsberg; postcards from Allen’s Aunt and Uncle Hanna, and Leo Litzky; letters from Edith Ginsberg; a handwritten family tree, and other treasures.

Throughout the sorting process, I thought about the connections that this family shared – the activism, the appreciation for the written word, and their deep love for one another. After two weeks of sorting the materials, the direction of the collection began to take shape. The collection would be divided into four series: Allen Ginsberg; Ginsberg Family; Press; and Publications. Clearly there was an abundance of materials that belonged within the Allen Ginsberg series, but other materials belonged within series that had not been penned by Allen.

It became clear that the Allen Ginsberg Series had to be further broken down to subseries levels. The correspondence subseries range covers the period from 1956 to 1987, and contains outgoing letters and postcards sent by Allen Ginsberg and his aunt and uncles. The postcards are humorous and tell of Allen’s travels in his unique poetic voice: “Dear Clara and Murray. Happy New Year from Amsterdam – cheese, canals, windmills, bridges, dogshit, Indonesian restaurants, red light district, youth clubs with rock +roll + herb dopes… Love, I think of you fondly. Allen.” Each item was photocopied for researchers’ use, and the originals were placed in mylar enclosures. Other subseries are “Events”; “Photographs”; “Funeral Services”; and “Writings.” It is fascinating to see the silver gelatin photographs of the family members shot and captioned by Allen.

Ginsberg in Amsterdam New Year 1982077
Allen Ginsberg writes to his Aunt Clara from Amsterdam. 12/31/82. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey

The Ginsberg Family Series contain letters and postcards, photographs, flyers, and family trees. The items are from various family members and include some works by Louis Ginsberg. The correspondence is mainly between family members, and there are a few letters from outsiders. A letter penned by Louis titled, “A letter to my son, Allen Ginsberg,” reads more like an editorial than a personal letter. He writes of his displeasure with Allen’s stance on Israeli militarism to which Allen was deeply opposed. Allen felt that the Israelis victimized Palestinians and his suggestion would be to “let back in all the Palestinian Arabs and make it a non-Jewish state, secular state.” Louis responds by writing to Allen: “I read with commingled disappointment and distress, your article on the Arab-Israeli conflict…Allen, you (and your New Left cronies) are ready to help liberate all oppressed groups except your own.” We get a glimpse into the ideals and differences between the two men as they famously held opposing viewpoints on many social and cultural issues, but ultimately they remained close until Louis’ death in 1976.

Ginsberg photo taken in 1967061
(L-R) Edith Ginsberg, Allen Ginsberg who holds his cousin’s baby, Sam Gaidemak, Sam’s mother, Elaine (Baiser) Gaidemak and Louis Ginsberg, ca. 1967. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey.

Because of the numerous events, articles, and interviews with the Ginsberg family, The Press Series contains flyers, newspaper clippings, and press releases, and have been arranged into subseries based on theme or topic. All clippings have been photocopied for researchers to use.

The Publications Series contain books (many of which are first editions) and have been inscribed by the author(s). They are housed in three full-sized record storage boxes. Allen would personalize his books to his family and friends by drawing and inscribing on many editions using a wide range of motifs, symbols, messages, and settings. Allen’s drawings include a cross-legged Buddha, willowy flowers, Stars of David, the often inscribed “AH” and “OHM”, snakes, skeletons, and dreamlike cityscapes. For long term conservation, it was decided that these books would be stored, and the inscriptions were to be scanned and saved in our digital library. In addition, the book covers and inscriptions have been photocopied, and access to the originals is restricted.

Ginsberg, Allen - Verbatim, 1974 - inscription
Allen’s inscription to his cousin Pat Sebold. 12/10/74. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey
Ginsberg, Allen - White Shroud, Poems 1980-1985, 1986 - inscription 1
Allen’s inscription to Aunt Clara. 1/24/87. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey

After making entries into Past Perfect, the series description and finding aid were written, and the information was sent to the NUCMC cataloguer in Washington D.C, who created the OCLC record for the collection. We then contacted The Allen Ginsberg Estate and Stanford University to let them know about our collection.

Ginsberg gift of typewriter 1987056
Edith Ginsberg’s letter to Clara (written as Claire). 2/28/87. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey

Family History

It is 1985 and another postcard arrives at what would be Abe Ginsberg’s final residence – an assisted living facility in West Orange, NJ. He is well into his 80s, and his body may be slowed and his eyesight weakened, but what he can count on is the constant communication from members of his tight-knit family, seeking advice and sharing memories of their lives together. This postcard reads: 11-25-85: Dear Abe – Here we are in Minsk, Belarus where it all started! Big wide avenues, blank faces, ordinary eyes, circus tigers + lions + acrobats…” This postcard is another from his nephew, poet Allen Ginsberg.

Allen

When Allen Ginsberg sent his elderly uncle Abe Ginsberg the postcard from Minsk, Allen was already a well-established cultural icon. Allen was born in Newark, NJ in 1926 to poet and educator Louis Ginsberg and wife Naomi, a dedicated Marxist. His brother, Eugene was a lawyer and poet as well and penned under the name Eugene Brooks. Allen began keeping a journal when he was a pre-teen and discovered the poetry of Walt Whitman who remained a major influence throughout Allen’s life. Allen graduated from Paterson’s Eastside High School in 1943, and then Montclair State College. He received a scholarship from the Young Men’s Hebrew Association to attend Columbia University, where he wrote for the Columbia Review and the humor magazine Jester. As a freshman at Columbia University, Allen “met undergraduate Lucien Carr, who introduced him to William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, part of a diverse (and now legendary) circle of friends that grew to include Herbert Huncke, the young novelist John Clellon Holmes, and Neal Cassady… These friends became the nucleus of a group that named themselves the “Beat Generation” writers.”[1]

Allen soon dedicated his life to poetry, and Allen and Eugene watched as their mother Naomi suffered from paranoia, often being admitted to mental hospitals. Louis divorced Naomi while she was institutionalized and married Edith Cohen in 1950. In 1956 Naomi died after undergoing a lobotomy. Three years after her death, Allen penned what some consider his finest poem, the infamous elegy for his mother titled, Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg (1894-1956).

Allen was the perfect representative of the counterculture movement of the 1960s as he was vocal in anti- war efforts and was a key figure at the protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968. In the 1970s, he and poet Anne Waldman created a poetry school, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Ginsberg continued voicing his social/political stances throughout his life, until his death in 1997. He is buried in Newark’s Gomel Chesed Cemetery.

Louis     

Louis Ginsberg was born in Newark, NJ in 1895. He married his classmate, Naomi, who later became a grammar school instructor while Louis taught English and literature (a career he would keep for the next 40 years). He continued writing poetry and ran a weekly column of puns in Newark’s Star Ledger. His writings appeared in the New York Times and the New York Herald as well as many anthologies. He was the author of three books: The Attic of the Past, The Everlasting Minute and Morning in Spring.

Eugene

Eugene became an attorney specializing in international law and remained a poet. He wrote throughout his service in World War II, and these poems were published as Rites of Passage. He often collaborated with his brother and father as all three men (Louis, Eugene and Allen) presented many public readings together.

Honey

Louis’ sister, Hannah “Honey” Litzky was an educator. She was outspoken about the rights of the working class and connected political issues with educational concerns. She was very involved in forming the Newark Teachers Union with Bob Lowenstein and was involved with other local unions and organizations that helped the city’s needy population of the 1930s and 40s. She taught at Newark’s famed Weequahic High School. She was married to South Side High School Principal, Leo Litzky.

Louis Ginsberg died in 1976, Allen in 1997, Hannah in 1999, Edith in 2000, and Eugene in 2001

To date, we have not had any requests from researchers to examine The Ginsberg Family Collection. The Society promotes its archival holdings through our website (jhs-nj.org), bi-annual newsletters, stories and highlights in our local newspaper, press releases, Facebook posts, and catalogue entries to OCLC (Online Computer Library Center.) Within this small but dense and diverse collection of writings lies a deeper insight into the connection that this family had with each other.

 

[1] Source: http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-03394.html American National Biography Online June 2000 Update. Access Date: October 29, 2015 Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press.

Archivists to the Rescue!

Deb Schiff
Archivist
2017-2018 Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of SAA Lone Arrangers
debra.schiff@gmail.com

Volunteer members of the SAA Lone Arrangers; Reference, Access and Outreach; and Issues and Advocacy Sections are working on a pilot project, Archivists to the Rescue! This initiative aims to bring low- and no-cost basic archival training workshops to non-professional archivists and cultural heritage professionals who cannot afford typical professional development courses and/or the transportation costs required to travel outside of their areas for similar workshops. This effort will strive to help small organizations and local communities preserve and make accessible their archival records that are hidden due to a lack of access to information on preservation and archival practices, as well as increase the awareness of the profession and the Society of American Archivists, and promote a more inclusive profession.

The pilot program will comprise a series of workshops covering the essentials of preservation, archival processing, arrangement, description, digital archives (handling born-digital materials and digitizing materials), and identifying and caring for photographs. Archivists to the Rescue! Will partner with affiliated cultural heritage organizations and other sister SAA Sections to roll out the pilot to religious archives and small historical organizations in New Jersey.

The Lone Arrangers will update members about the pilot progress in the coming months, and are thrilled to develop a practical means of reaching more and more communities.

Archivists to the Rescue!

Arthur Howe, Jr.: From Watertown to the World with AFS Online Exhibition from the AFS Archives

Nicole Milano
Head Archivist and Historical Publications Editor
AFS Intercultural Programs
nicole.milano@afs.org

In my role as Head Archivist and Historical Publications at AFS Intercultural Programs, I oversee a fascinating collection of historic material dating as early as World War I, when AFS was created as a volunteer American ambulance corps serving alongside the French military. Today, AFS is a non-profit, international intercultural learning and student exchange organization headquartered in New York City, with offices in more than fifty countries.

The Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS Archives) was founded in 1980 to serve as a center for research and as a repository for the records, photographs, and memorabilia from the organization. In the last several years, the AFS Archives has greatly increased access to its archival collections, due in large part to the success of a 2010-11 NHPRC basic processing grant that allowed for basic intellectual and physical access to all of our World War I and II archival material. This new level of accessibility has led to several-hundred research requests each year. Our researchers are varied, from AFS partner offices and grandchildren of our wartime volunteers, to academic researchers and museum curators, who are using the collections in a number of exciting ways.

In 2014, Arthur “Art” Howe, Jr., one of the most influential individuals in the history of AFS, passed away at the age of 93. Art was an AFS ambulance driver during World War II, and a director, vice president, president, and life trustee of the AFS student exchange programs created in 1946. He also was also dean of admissions at Yale University, among his many other roles. Listing his series of titles and accomplishments simply doesn’t do him justice, however. As archivists, we usually don’t know the creators of our collections, but in this case I was fortunate to have met Art several times. He complimented his rich professional life with an enthusiasm for volunteering and helping others. Art fought for diversity and inclusion among the institutions he participating in, including being the first to call for admission of women into Yale’s undergraduate program in 1956. He also sought to create a more peaceful and just world through his work with AFS, and was one of the influential voices in the creation of the AFS secondary school exchange program.

Arthur Howe, Jr., 1943. Photograph by Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr.
Arthur Howe, Jr. in 1943. Photograph by Loftus B. Cuddy, Jr., courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

AFS sought to commemorate Art in several ways, including establishing an endowment fund in his name to provide scholarships to deserving AFS students; an international AFS award for outstanding volunteer families, named for Art and his wife, Peggy, another longtime AFS volunteer; and a project to preserve, digitize, catalog, and create access to his archival collection in the AFS Archives.

The archival project was made possible thanks to generous donations from individuals around the world, many of whom knew or worked with Art in some capacity over the years. Through their incredible support, I was able to hire one of our former interns, Elena Abou Mrad, to assist the AFS team during the course of the project. We were also able to work with the fantastic team at the Center for Jewish History in New York City on the digitization of 2,065 unique photographs and documents as part of the project.

The Arthur Howe, Jr. Collection in the AFS Archives documents the impactful life of an AFSer who had, in his own words, “a burning desire to do what one could” to make the world a better place. The collection consists of correspondence, administrative files, media, memorabilia, and other papers related to Howe’s long association with AFS. The collection also includes a significant amount of photographic material, which primarily depicts his volunteer activity in North Africa and the Middle East during World War II, including camp life, ambulance maintenance, group photos, individual AFS volunteers, British military personnel, local civilians, scenery, and occasional visits to cities and archaeological sites, among other subjects. The photographs also document his service as a volunteer with the AFS exchange programs after World War II, including visits to local AFS chapters. In addition to this collection, the AFS Archives contains official administrative records and photographs related to his presidency.

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AFS ambulance drivers evacuating Tobruk Hospital in Libya in 1942. Photograph by Arthur Howe, Jr., courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

While providing access to Art’s collection through traditional archival processing and digitization was a very important component of this project, it was also important for AFS to make his story and his collection more easily accessible to our international audience. A large number of these individuals cannot visit our research site in person, and many are unfamiliar with traditional archival finding aids. The solution was an online exhibition intending to demonstrate the indelible impact he made on the organization.

In May 2017 we were extremely pleased to launch Arthur Howe, Jr: From Watertown to the World with AFS! This online exhibition enables visitors to follow in the footsteps of Art on some of his many adventures with AFS, discovering the world through his eyes and words. Using an interactive map feature on the open-source StoryMap platform, along with many of the newly-digitized photographs and documents, visitors to the exhibition will learn more about Art, a lifelong and passionate AFSer who had a significant impact on people and communities around the globe.

Arthur Howe, Jr. in Damascus, Syria in November 1965
Arthur Howe, Jr. in Damascus, Syria in November 1965. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

In order to publicize the exhibition, we shared the news with international staff via our intranet and are coordinating with our marketing team to create posts on social media over the next six months. We also included mention of the project in the Spring 2017 issue of the AFS Janus magazine, a publication of the AFS Archives which is read by more than 4,000 recipients around the world, and are exploring other options to help share Art’s story, which resonates strongly with us today.

Driven by his desire to help others, Art traveled the world, discovering new cultures and meeting new friends, while embarking on important work with AFS. For him, interacting with different people around the world was a way to promote open discussion, mutual understanding, and ultimately, peace.

Arthur Howe, Jr. pointing to Iran on a globe during his AFS presidency in 1967.
Arthur Howe, Jr. pointing to Iran on a globe during his AFS presidency in 1967. Several years later he traveled to Abbasabad, Iran to give a speech about AFS and its role in international education. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

Visit http://afs.org/archives/arthur-howe-jr/to explore Arthur Howe Jr: From Watertown to the World with AFS, or www.afs.org/archives to learn more about the AFS Archives!

Digitization Project for DAR’s 125th Anniversary

 

Amanda Fulcher Vasquez
Archivist
Daughters of the American Revolution

In 2015 the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) celebrated the 125th anniversary of their founding. NSDAR is a women’s volunteer service organization that focuses on education, patriotism, and history. During their anniversary year, many projects were completed that involved telling the story of NSDAR throughout the years from multiple perspectives. For the NSDAR Archives, this meant an increased use of our resources, specifically our photograph collection.

As one of two archivists at the NSDAR Archives, I must confess that I am not a lone arranger. However, I am familiar with the struggles of lone arrangers. I know that working in a small repository means that you need to be a “jack of all trades” archivist. We juggle multiple priorities, and use our limited resources to find creative solutions for the many issues that we encounter. In the years prior to NSDAR’s 125th Anniversary, our small team was able to keep up with the manageable interest in photographs from our collection that needed to be digitized in order to improve access and aid in preservation. As a result, we took a “digitize on demand” approach, digitizing items as they were requested and storing the images in shared electronic reference files that were organizing by subject matter.

As my time as an archivist at NSDAR progressed, the demand for access to digitized photographs increased exponentially. In a brief period, I went from regular correspondence with members who did not have email addresses to members needing large quantities of images emailed to them. Many technological changes have occurred in the 13 years I have worked for NSDAR, and I began feeling challenged at work as many new projects involved mastering these technological advances. The archives profession has been impacted by many of these changes as well. All of this led me to enroll in Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) courses in 2012.

This brings us to NSDAR’s 125th anniversary in 2015 which resulted in an intense need for digital images by NSDAR’s Public Relations Department. Specifically, this department needed digitized images from our photograph collection to create content for promotional videos, website, and other outreach ventures that would tell the story of the NSDAR.

With limited resources and time, we needed a solution. A veteran NSDAR Public Relations employee went through a photograph collection that consisted of 70 boxes to select photographs for digitization. This employee was an ideal candidate to select photographs for two reasons. First, she was familiar with the history of NSDAR as well as the popular and frequently used images. Additionally she was the driving force behind the content created for NSDAR’s 125th. This made her an ideal person to select photographs to be digitized.

The results were a win-win for everyone. Sharing resources helped create shared success. Using institutional knowledge and expertise, the Public Relations Department employee who selected photographs for digitization did a great job. Together we determined that it was not necessary to digitize this collection 100%. This was because of limited resources and the subject matter of the photographs. As a small repository, it was great to team up with another department to achieve the goal of making key images more accessible by combining man power and resources. The Public Relations Department even helped with some of the scanning.

The DAS education made us more adept at facing this digitizing challenge. We were able to implement a better system for organizing the images produced from this digitization project. This was accomplished by making simple changes, such as having both a high resolution master copy and a low resolution access copy of digitized images. Each file was named for its location within the archives, rather than by their subject matter. Shortcuts to the access copy images were created in our shared electronic reference files, as to not overload the system with too many copies of the same image and avoid confusion.

Not only did this project allow us to properly organize our digitized images, we were also able to improve searchability. We placed low resolution copies of the images in our collections management database. This aided in our search functions and access; as well as preservation as we will not need to retrieve these photographs to view them. Our software was recently upgraded to include a public search function, and in-house researchers can now search and view these images.

The Public Relations Department’s needs were met; the outreach content they created for the 125th anniversary was wildly successful. However in helping them reach their goals, many of our own outreach goals were met. The promotional content they created for NSDAR’s 125th anniversary showcased events recorded in the NSDAR Archives, thus increasing our exposure and bringing awareness to our department. In 2015 digitized items were frequently posted on NSDAR social media. The NSDAR Facebook page began featuring a #ThrowBackThursday post. I wrote a guest blog post on the NSDAR President General’s blog explaining what it meant to be an archivist at NSDAR and detailing exciting projects that were in the works. The archives’ outreach partnership with the Public Relations Department has continued past the 125th project year and has now become a routine cooperation. A recent example of this is a Facebook Live post we promoted on October 5, 2016 for #Askanarchivist Day.

As a result of this positive partnership, the Public Relations Department has become an advocate for the archives program within our institution. Our 2016 goals include revitalizing some of our foundational policies and among them our records management policy. The Public Relations Department has volunteered to be the first department to go through this process and serve as an example for other departments.

My takeaway from this small scale digitization project is to look inside your institution for resources and collaborators. If you share goals with other departments, why not share resources and accomplish more together?

vasquez-lart-slide
Slide for: Preserving in Digital Formats: Challenges and Solutions in Small Archives, SAA Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, August 3, 2016