Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tour of Rider University's Special Collections and University Archives

From Rider Special Collections

About the Archivist
Meet Bob Congleton, a fellow Rutgers library school alum and the Rider University Archivist. (He's also a graduate of Rider, class of 1978.) After earning an MA in History, he enrolled in a doctorate program in philosophy, when he was hired as periodicals coordinator at Rutgers' Kilmer Library. A year later, he transferred to the library school and earned his MLS. His next move was to Temple University, where he headed the serials unit and eventually led the binding/preservation unit. When he moved to Rider 13 years later, he joined the faculty as professor/librarian in charge of serials.

"When the archivist retired, I assumed responsibility for all the Special Collections. I have attended archival workshops, conferences, and other training to enhance my knowledge. My history background is the foundation for my enthusiasm. Preserving primary sources is an important way to maintain a connection to our past and help us understand our development as a society and as individuals," says Bob.

In addition to curating the Historic Business Machines Collection (think of it as a small museum), he's leading an effort to digitize several of Rider's collections and increase access to its items with a more enhanced public database. Because the school changed hands and names so many times during its early existence (1865-1920), and because, at that time, Rider supplied over half the business teachers for New Jersey, that time period is of specific importance to Bob. "I think our material preserves this heritage. I am constantly looking for more material on this era to add to our collection," he says.

Bob's favorite items in Rider's collections are from the 19th century. "I am researching the first 20 years of Rider’s history from 1865-1886 as the Trenton Business College. So many websites have incorrect information on Rider’s founding and early development, and overlook important people involved with the school’s evolution. Even the University’s own website has errors in the biographies of its presidents. I think it is very important to correct these errors, though it may be an impossible task," says Bob.

"I also enjoy the Historic Business Machine Collection. On vacations, my wife often has to pull me away from typewriters and other office equipment displayed in historic homes/homesteads we visit. She tells me that the owners or trustees of the places are not about to donate the material to my museum. Though, on occasion we have been able to enhance the information these sites have about their own collections," says Bob.

In the three very short videos below, you can see his enthusiasm for these machines that have paved the way for today's keyboards and computers.

First, here's Bob in the Historic Business Machine museum showing me the 1874 Sholes and Glidden typewriter, which is among the highlights of their collection of antique business machines.

Below he demonstrates the antique understrike Remington 6 typewriter.

In the final video, Bob shows me a wall of newer business machines and talks to me about backward compatibility and what he has in the collection.

An important note -- if you or people you know have old typewriters or computers that you wish to donate, please contact Bob. He would be very happy to talk with you about what the museum has and what it needs. Mind you, Rider will not appraise your typewriter or other business machine.

Additionally, close-up photos of the collection's business machines and typewriters are available to view at my Picasa site as well as within the Rider University Moore Library online catalog.

About the Special Collections and Archives
In the top photo of this post, Bob stands in the University Archives or Riderana, which includes (among other very interesting items) diplomas from every incarnation of the school during its lifetime. The diploma below is from 1888, and the close-up shows Andrew Jackson Rider's signature.

From Rider Special Collections

From Rider Special Collections

Although the early schools were in Trenton (see the diploma above), Rider moved to its current location in Lawrenceville in the early 1960s. The Archives were started in the 1950s, but received increasingly less attention, until in the 1980s, "so much of the collection had been moved to a closet. My predecessor, Lyn Livingston, worked with Walt Brower, a retired administrator, to gain a room for the archives so the material could be moved from the closet. Lyn spent years organizing the items, a project I continued," says Bob.

From Rider Special Collections

One of the largest collections at Rider, and arguably one of the largest of its kind in the country, is the Louis A. Leslie shorthand collection (a portion of it is shown above). Because Rider was a business school, it initially taught students the Pitman method. Later, when Rider was known as the Rider-Moore and Stewart School, Franklin B. Moore changed the teaching to the Gregg shorthand method. Leslie had served as chief editor of Gregg Publishing, "a leading shorthand material publisher, as well as a leading authority on shorthand systems," according to Rider.

In 1983, Leslie donated his more than 5,000-item collection to Rider, where they have begun to digitizing its contents. The collection contains samples of every type of shorthand dating back to the 17th century. Although the school stopped teaching shorthand 20 years ago, the collection is still important to researchers of shorthand education and of successful and unsuccessful methods of stenography.

Within the approximately 33,000 items in Rider's Special Collections and Riderana are its most popular collections: historic business machines, yearbooks, student newspapers, and images of college buildings. Bob's three student workers are in the process of digitizing the Rider News from 1926 to the present, as well as digitizing the student yearbooks from 1923 to the present. Look for them online soon.

While I visited Rider's Moore Library, I noticed two very interesting exhibits in the lobby.

From Rider Special Collections

The first (shown above and immediately below) is the very nifty independent study project of Melissa Kowalczyk, a History Department student who graduated in 2010. She used some of the typewriters in the collection to show the models used by various authors to write their books. Examples include Margaret Mitchell, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell, among others. Above, Rachel Carlson and Ernest Hemingway typed on the Royal Quiet Deluxe. Below, George Orwell and Margaret Mitchell used the Remington Portable no. 3.

From Rider Special Collections

The other exhibit was created by Bob (see below). He explains, "it shows the evolution of how typewriter keys strike the paper and includes typewriters showing the different methods such as understriking, overstriking, the letter ball and more. The display also shows examples of different key layouts such as QUERTY and Dvorkic." The photo shows (left to right) the following typewriters: a Hammond Multiplex, a photo of the 1874 Sholes and Glidden, a Blickensderfer no. 5, a photo of an Oliver no. 9, and an Underwood Universal.

From Rider Special Collections

Whether you have a penchant for antique business machines, wish to know everything known about shorthand, or are looking into Rider's past for genealogical reasons, the Special Collections and Archives at the school are well worth the visit.

Contact Information

Interested visitors and donors should contact

Robert Congleton, Archivist, or 609-896-5248
or Julia Telonitis, Archives Specialist, 609-896-7094
Moore Library Special Collections
Rider University
2083 Lawrenceville Road
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

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