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.

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A Critical Response to The Archivist (2015)

Catherine Lucy
Technical Services Manager/Archivist
Fontbonne University
clucy@prodigy.net

Depictions of archivists and archives are ever-increasing in popular culture. From popular fictional characters like Abigail Chase in the blockbuster film National Treasure to unusual examples such as the fruity wine label The Archive or the French perfume Archives 69, archival images are all around society. Unfortunately, these depictions reinforce stereotypes that surround the profession, particularly of archivists. Aldred, Burr, and Park (2008) analyzed nineteen films containing archivists as characters. They determined that film archivists “follow generally accepted stereotypes” in their physical and behavioral characteristics, as found in published literature on the subject (p. 58). The following study describes and summarizes a recent depiction of an archivist in popular culture, and then analyzes the portrayal for stereotypes and other thematic elements found in existing literature.

The Archivist is a short film produced in the United Kingdom in 2015. Peter Owen Brook is the writer, director, producer and editor of the film. Visual artist Jamie Topp served as co-producer, cinematographer, and costumes/set design. The Archivist is a color film 13 minutes in length, which gained attention in the United Kingdom for its selection in the 2015 London Short Film Festival.

Nathan Mathers, a young man likely between the ages of 25 and 30, works as a news archivist for a television station. His position is very solitary, as he works alone in the basement of the station. As he is reviewing old PAL videocassettes and indexing their contents, he begins seeing himself in some of the archival news clips. Through telephone calls and a recorded video message, his girlfriend Alice pleads with him to leave the job because it is making him miserable. A reporter from one of the news clips (identified by the filmmakers on YouTube as a “spectre”) spies on him and then confronts him over a grudge she has been holding. The entire short film takes place in the television station’s basement where the archival news tapes are stored. The audience is only shown glimpses of the outside world through some of the news clips that Nathan watches.

This film is an original story of Brook’s. Both Brook’s and Topp’s individual works prior to this film show that they have an interest in the visual element of film. This interest contributes to the mood of the film, as they likely wanted to establish an element of mystery through their use of the camera and sound. As far as genre is concerned, the film is a drama with a supernatural element. The character of Abigail, the news reporter, is supposedly a ghost or apparition. Although the filmmakers do not make this completely clear to the audience in the context of the film, it is explicitly stated on the YouTube page where the film resides for viewing.

There is not a specific audience for this film other than film enthusiasts and archivists. The general public is unlikely to see an artsy short film such as this, so it mostly appeals to adult cinephiles. The main character Nathan seems to be an archivist for the purpose of creating a sense of mystery and exploiting the isolation of his job. Due to this isolated nature, Nathan feels socially out of touch with his girlfriend, his parents, and even society. The only person he confronts face-to-face in the film is most likely a ghost (Abigail), although it is not clear why she is a ghost. She is shown in past news footage, so either she was a real living person at one time or she is a figment of Nathan’s imagination. The audience is left to draw its own conclusion about Nathan’s mental state, but his character seems to be an archivist solely to portray the elements of isolation and mystery that the filmmakers strive for.

Aldred, Burr and Park’s study defines an archivist “as a person, male or female, who works within a variety of institutions, deals with records in any format, at any point in their life cycle” (2008, p. 68). Main character Nathan Mathers is an archivist for a TV station (which is a type of a commercial or private institution). He works with old PAL videocassettes in an isolated room in the building’s basement, which is a stereotypical location for archives. His main task is cataloging the videocassettes by indexing tags of each tape’s content. When talking to Abigail, Nathan says, “I ingested one of your videos yesterday.” He says this to acknowledge that he recognizes her even though they have not met before. The film’s screenwriter appropriately uses the industry term “ingest,” which in general means to absorb the information or data from the archival record into computer software.

In addition to the stereotype of locating the archives in an isolated place like a basement, there are other stereotypes employed in this film. Nathan embodies many of the physical stereotypes of an archivist as mentioned in Aldred, Burr, and Park’s study (2008): he is male, has short hair, dresses conservatively (white shirt, dark pants, and a tie), and performs technical tasks. He only veers from the path of a stereotypical archivist because he is a main character (as opposed to a minor character) and he does not wear glasses.

He also embodies the stereotype of an employee with low status. He is “non-aggressive, mild and quiet” (Schmuland, 1999, p. 39) in his one physical altercation with Abigail (in which he tries to save a tape that she is determined to destroy). Also, the location of his work room in a basement is representative of his “lack of status” at the organization (p. 43). In fact, this work area is symbolic of “death and [a] tomb” (p. 44), which foreshadows the urgency of Nathan realizing he must leave this job because it (or its ghostly inhabitant) might literally kill him.

There are some echoes of realism in the film. In the introduction to Levy and Roble’s report for the Society of American Archivists, archivists are noted as “suffer[ing] from the belief that somehow they don’t deserve more” (1984, p. 3). This is a real problem in the archival world and in Nathan’s world. He has little self-worth and feels that he is only good enough for a lowly position at the television station. When asked by his girlfriend to quit his job or even just get away to meet with her, he makes excuses to avoid any contact outside the office. Uncomfortably settled into his job, Nathan realizes it is no longer a healthy environment for him. He tells his girlfriend Alice he is nervous about applying for other jobs because of the responsibility it might have and that he is “not used to it.” He makes an excuse that he cannot leave because his contract at the station does not end for another year.

There are other common themes in popular cultural portrayals of archivists. Buckley (2008) discusses the archivist as guardian or protector of the truth (p. 103). Nathan is the protector of the videocassettes, and he has to protect one from Abigail, who wants all copies of a particular newscast destroyed. Buckley also mentions the common occurrence of the truth being kept “from those desperately seeking it” (p. 104). Nathan is trying to discover a truth about his own self by viewing the station’s tapes, many of which he appears in (perhaps unknowingly, perhaps not—it is part of the mystery).

The search for self is another theme in Buckley’s article. Nathan is viewing these news tapes and recalling moments of his past in the outside world. He has phone conversations with his girlfriend and strange in-person conversations with the Abigail the reporter. He is desperately seeking to restore his identity before it can no longer be recovered (much like an archivist works to preserve records). A third theme of Buckley’s is closed spaces as “sites of surveillance” (p. 106). Similarly, Ketelaar states that “archives are places of surveillance” (2002, p. 237). The theme of surveillance is present in The Archivist. Abigail gives Nathan a video to watch, which ends up being footage secretly taken of him working in the archives. Even the news clips he appears in are a form of surveillance because they are capturing moments of his life he did not realize were being recorded.

The mysterious nature of these news clips adds to the film’s dream-like quality because the audience is never quite clear what is real and what is not. Other dream-like qualities include the repetition of certain sounds (which often cut out other sounds) and an abstract sense of time. Abigail tells Nathan he has been there weeks, implying he has not physically left the facility in a long time. He is shown sleeping on the job, then waking abruptly and acting surprised that he missed a date with Alice. Whenever he leaves the video room or its adjacent break room, the camera cuts away and the scene ends. Viewers never sees Nathan outside of his basement surroundings.

It is also not clear how much time is passing because he wears the same outfit throughout the film and sports a couple days’ growth of a beard on his face, which also does not change. Abigail, who appears twice on seemingly different days, wears the same clothes, as well. Another element of the dream-like nature is that telephone conversations between Nathan and Alice are often garbled or end abruptly, symbolizing their lack of effective and frequent communication. When they do speak, she mentions that he sounds “so cold on the phone.”

Nathan’s portrayal of an archivist is not a positive image since it embodies the stereotype of a socially awkward loner who works in an isolated basement with outdated equipment. However, this film is more about an isolated man entrapped by his job and intimidated by a mysterious co-worker. The filmmakers perhaps thought this was an ideal professional for Nathan’s character. They probably came to that conclusion because of existing stereotypes, but they seem driven by a sense of mystery and wanting to paint a dream-like picture.

The director chose not to show other typical aspects of an archivist’s job, such as acquiring materials or helping others. Nathan does not conduct any administrative work at all, such as these common tasks mentioned in Aldred, Burr, and Park’s study (2008, p.76): reference, research, acquisitions, or outreach. His profession could be any job that requires an individual to work in an isolated area (closed off from the outside world) that could potentially affect their mental well-being.

Unfortunately for archivists, this portrayal is just another stereotype that makes their work seem mysterious and unappealing to the larger population. While the portrayal is unique in the sense that the main character is an audio/visual archivist instead of one surrounded by dusty books and paper, it is still representative of known stereotypes. What does this mean to archivists? It means that while fictional archives and archivists might make for entertaining examples of popular culture, archivists must strongly advocate to wider audiences to teach society who they really are and what they actually do. There are many truths to reveal about the profession that can be accomplished in just as many entertaining ways as the stereotypical examples if only writers, filmmakers, and others would take the time to learn what those truths are. Accurate portrayals of archives and archivists would help bring much needed credibility to the profession.

 

References

Aldred, T., Burr, G., & Park, E. (2008 Fall). Crossing a librarian with a historian: The image of reel archivists. Archivaria, 66, 57-93.

Brook, P. O. (Producer/Director), & Topp, J. (Co-Producer). (2015). The archivist. [Motion picture]. United Kingdom: POB Productions. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7jjEpNpfrg

Buckley, K. (2008, Fall). “The truth is in the red files”: An overview of archives in popular culture. Archivaria, 66, 95-123.

Ketelaar, E. (2002). Archival temples, archival prisons: Modes of power and protection. Archival Science, 2, 221-238.

Levy, S.J. & Robes, A.G. (1984 December). The image of archivists: Resource allocators’ perceptions. Society of American Archivists. Retrieved from http://files.archivists.org/governance/reports/Image-of-Archivists-Levy1984.pdf

Schmuland, A. (1999 Spring). The archival image in fiction: An analysis and annotated bibliography. The American Archivist, 62, 24-75.

Strange and Slightly Spooky: Unique Findings at Illinois College

Samantha Sauer
Illinois College Archivist, Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives
Curator, Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum
Assistant Professor of History
samantha.sauer@ic.edu

Jenny Barker Devine
Associate Professor of History
Illinois College
jenny.barker-devine@ic.edu

I am a lone arranger at Illinois College. I manage and coordinate our archive and museum, and I also teach courses in public history, offered in the Department of History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion.

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is the oldest degree-granting institution in the state and is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 2014 the College received a $200,000 Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), resulting in its first archive – a state of the art facility, the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College. As a three-year old young archive for a 188-year old institution, there is much to do. The campus also is home to the Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum, one of the few museums of its kind in the nation. There are daily “found in the collections” moments, each revealing information and often prompting questions. I share with our students that each artifact and every document has a story. Here are two stories.

A Piece of “Hair-itage”

It is Friday, April 17, 2009. There is no modern archive – or an archivist – at Illinois College. Searching through stacks of papers, oversized leather-bond texts, and collapsing boxes, an unopened envelope postmarked 1983 is spotted on a shelf in the library. Dr. Jenny Barker-Devine, associate professor of history, and the campus reference librarian at the time, Mike Westbrook, opened the 26-year old envelope. Inside the sealed package was a picture of Mount Vernon, embroidered in 1815 with human hair.

Hair Piece (pre conservation)
1815 embroidery of Mt. Vernon by Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, using human hair, pre-conservation. Photo of Jenny Barker Devine, Associate Professor of History, Illinois College.

After a little detective work, the ad hoc archivists discovered the piece was embroidered by a young Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, aged fourteen or fifteen, living in Virginia. Born in 1801, Fanny would be married a couple years after completing this piece in 1818, before dying almost two years later at the age of 19, shortly after the death of her son, Ira Wilkinson. Young Ira and his father then left Virginia, first to the frontier of Kentucky and then further out west to Jacksonville, Illinois in 1830, when the town was just five years old. Ira went on to become a prominent citizen of Jacksonville and a law partner with the future Civil War governor of Illinois, Richard Yates (a 1835 graduate of Illinois College).

The skills and artwork shown in this picture grant some insight to the life of a young middle-class woman at the start of the nineteenth century. The embroidered image of Mount Vernon is significant, showing that just fifteen years after George Washington’s death, his home was already considered a landmark. Today, the piece has seen been conserved and enjoys a nice climate controlled storage space in the new archive. To learn more about this piece and its history, explore Dr. Barker-Devine’s reflection of its discovery on her blog in a post from 2012.

post conservation
1815 embroidery of Mt. Vernon by Frances “Fanny” Macklin Ellis Wilkinson, using human hair, post-conservation. Photo courtesy of the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College.

 

The Lobster’s Tale

Congressman Paul Findley is a 1943 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Illinois College. Established in 2011, the museum serves to collect, preserve, and make available manuscripts and artifacts related to his life and career.   The museum’s collection contains material related to Findley’s career in the U.S. House of Representatives, his lifelong interest in Abraham Lincoln, and his involvement in the quest for universal human rights and justice in the Middle East. Congressman Findley represented the 20th Illinois Congressional District from 1961 to 1983. The museum is in historic Whipple Hall, on the Illinois College campus in Jacksonville, Illinois. Nestled on a shelf between his congressional office desk and Abraham Lincoln’s law office sofa is a preserved lobster.

The lobster, a gift to Representative Findley in 1974 from Mohammed Motie, foreign minister of South Yemen, is a unique crustacean. (As far as I know, it is the only such lobster in our collections and the area.) The crustacean is also an artifact of Representative Findley’s inaugural visit to the Middle East – the “Mission to Aden.”

lobster1
Lobster gifted to Congressman Paul Findley from Mohammed Motie, foreign minister of South Yemen, during Findley’s “Mission to Aiden,” in May 1974. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Papp, Public History Graduate Intern, Illinois College.

In May 1974 Paul Findley visited the Middle East for the first time. In Findley’s words – his goal was to “end the abuse of the human rights inflicted on one of my constituents by an Arab Government.” The constituent was a young man, Ed Franklin, serving a five year solitary imprisonment in Aden, the capital of the then People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, best known as South Yemen. Franklin had been traveling from Ethiopia to Kuwait, with the airplane landing briefly in Aden for repairs. While waiting, Franklin snapped photos of the harbor and airport, before the police mistook him for a spy. A year later, Franklin was still in prison. The U.S. Government did not have a presence in the country. Representative Findley’s mission was considered an act of desperation and would prove to be Findley’s most “substantial effort in constituent service.”

To free Franklin, Findley traveled to South Yemen and met with President Salim Rubyai Ali and Foreign Minister Mohammed Motie. Meetings involved an exchange of gifts, including a piece of pottery made by Findley’s young daughter and an Arabic edition of an Abraham Lincoln biography. After further discussion, the Congressman’s well-rehearsed plea was interrupted by President Ali, who quickly agreed to release Franklin. Findley would later describe the trip as the most “productive of many foreign trips [during] Congress and since.”

Findley received unique gifts from the leaders – an antique ceremonial dagger, an oil painting of rural Yemen, and the mounted lobster. Each of these gifts are currently on display in the Congressional Office Museum, helping document the Representative’s first of many trips to the Middle East. Of all the objects on display in the museum gallery, the lobster gets the most questions.

 

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.

2_006_1B_106
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