Monday, April 02, 2012

Tour of Seton Hall University’s Archives and Special Collections


When I was in high school (in a small, northern New Jersey town), I knew Seton Hall University as a local college with a winning basketball team and solid Catholic education. These days, the school still boasts a Catholic mission, but it also focuses attention on a wide array of other academic specialties, including diplomacy and international relations, education, law, and, business. According to the school’s web site, it also educates more than one-third of New Jersey’s nurses through its undergraduate, masters, Ph.D. in nursing programs.

Perhaps one of the unsung jewels of Seton Hall is the Msgr.William Noé Field Archives and Special Collections Center. It is home to an incredible variety of materials from textiles (think vestments and items bearing Seton Hall emblems) to manuscripts of previous N.J. governors, to portraits, and much more. Notably, Seton Hall holds the archives of the Archdiocese of Newark (much more on that later).

Although the school dates back to 1856, its first archivist, a professor of archeology, Dr. Herbert Kraft was hired in 1960. Later, Monsignor William Noé Field developed a formal archives program in 1970. According to my tour host and friend Alan Delozier, Director of Special Collections/University Archivist, “the establishment of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission and the archives of the Archdiocese of Newark transferred to Seton Hall University in 1976 firmed the archival program at the school.”

The current home of the Archives and Special Collections, on the ground floor of the Walsh Library, was built in 1994. As you might expect of an archives that receives records on a regular basis (including a new arrangement with the United Nations Association, thanks to the school of diplomacy and international relations), they have quite run out of space and also use another storage facility for materials in addition to the main area I visited. However, this small, but prestigious school squeezed into a neat corner of South Orange, makes great use of the space it does have to care for and provide access to the marvelous collections in its archives and special collections.

About the Director of Special Collections/University Archivist

I first met Alan Delozier at the fall 2011 MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference) in Bethlehem, Pa. In his very engaging way, he was promoting next week’s spring meeting in Cape May. A long-time contributor to the Conference in a variety of ways, Alan explains his work with MARAC in the short video below.

At Seton Hall since 1999, Alan also served as a Historical Interpreter at Washington Crossing State Park (NJ), College Archivist at Richard Stockton College, College Archivist at St. Peter’s College, and the Archival Technician for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Prior to his professional career in the field, Alan interned in the archives at St. Bonaventure University as an undergraduate, then later, at Villanova, he had a practicum in Archival Studies as part of his graduate degree in History. Topping off his formal education with a Master of Library Science at Rutgers, he has always put a high priority on continuing his practical education.

Here is Alan speaking to the topic of continuing education on both practical and theoretical levels.

After an earlier career in radio, Alan joined the archives field because he always liked the study of history and working with unique materials. He says, “I am living the dream, so to speak, professionally!” In particular, his favorite collections at Seton Hall include “those that represent the early- to mid-twentieth century religious collections because this echoes my own research interests. However, each has its own merit and value,” he explains.

As Director and University Archivist, he mainly functions as an administrator, but he also is a faculty librarian and occasionally teaches a course or two. “The primary job is research assistance along with acquisitions, coordination, committee work, publicity and outreach among other duties,” says Alan. His favorite part of the job? He says, “helping others to find answers. Seeing that look of success is worth everything!” On the other side of the coin, “the biggest frustration is when a full answer cannot be found, or at least a lead in another direction is not evident. Providing quality aid is the priority and always a challenge in a good and bad way alike,” he says.

Alan also mentors quite a few people in his work, whether the mentee is a History student intern, an archives student, or a volunteer from the Archdiocese. In the short video below, he talks about how he helps people along their professional journey.

Alan has some good advice for new archivists in the profession, “definitely know the basics of Archival Science, but most importantly have a solid and even advanced knowledge of technology in the field. Experience and education in abundance also is key, especially with the lack of positions available in today’s job market.” In the short video below, he shares with me his employee wish list.

About the Collections

Seton Hall’s approximately 1,000 to 1,500 linear feet of collections are supported by four full-time workers (Director/University Archivist, Archdiocesan Archivist, Archives Assistant, and Records Management Clerk). There are two part-time workers who focus on the Archdiocese of Newark and the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission. Additionally, there is the Director of the Library Gallery. Alan says, “We also currently have four volunteers. Three come in once per week for roughly two-to-five hours at a time. A gentleman, Mr. Jessie Reich from Jespy House comes in three days per week for three hours per day.”

Between 5 to 10 people per week visit the collections during the academic term. One family history researcher has a monthly standing appointment. “In addition, we have a professor who has been working on the institutional history of Seton Hall University for approximately 12 years,” says Alan. Seton Hall’s Archives and Special Collections also have phone, email, and postal mail requests.

Along with the Sacramental registers, the most utilized collections include the Irish Book Collection, course catalogs, school yearbooks, and newspapers. In the following series of short videos, Alan shows me some examples of each.

A quick overview of the rare book collections at Seton Hall:

In introduction to the Irish Collections and how they are used at the school:

A brief look into how the community uses the Irish Collections:

An explanation of the value of course catalogs:

A peep inside Seton Hall’s first yearbook:

Early newspapers at Seton Hall:

Along with each of the aforementioned formats, Seton Hall also collects photographs, three-dimensional objects, ephemera, and others. Alan says, “we are the de-facto Seton Hall and Archdiocese of Newark museum collection.” In the short video below, he and Msgr. Robert Wister show me some of the textiles in the collection.

Whenever I tour archives, special collections, and other cultural heritage institutions, I always ask my host about the undiscovered and/or underutilized gems of their collections. In the case of Seton Hall’s special collections, Alan mentioned a few that could probably see more usage. He elaborates, “I think that within our Archdiocese of Newark holdings, the clergy and auxiliary bishop papers are not used to their full potential. Also, our general manuscript collections including the Shanley, Hughes, and Dreyfuss Papers for example,” are underutilized.

To help folks discover the value of the manuscript collections at the school, Alan uses the example of the papers of former N.J. Governor Richard Hughes in the short video below.

Because a good portion of the manuscripts in the collection originate with the Archdiocese of Newark, sometimes church researchers such as the Monsignor (shown in the textiles video above) will be the first to find amazing treasures such as the hologram shown below (from the Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley Papers – Bayley was the founder of Seton Hall).

The Bishop Bayley Papers also include a number of scrapbooks that document a variety of events. Alan shows us one example in the short video below.

During my tour of Seton Hall’s Archives and Special Collections, I also met Kate Dodds, Archival Assistant. Her title really doesn’t do justice to the amount and variety of work she does with the collections. I asked her to tell me what a day in the life of Kate Dodds was like, and the types of materials she helps researchers to find. She does that and more in the video below.

Some of the Seton Hall collections have finding aids to better help researchers locate materials. Their EAD finding aids are found here: Additionally, some of the collections have been digitized. Those materials can be found online here: Archives and Special Collections regularly displays select materials from the collections to invite people to interact with artifacts in a different way. Examples of exhibits currently on display and previously displayed may be viewed here:


It was a pleasure to visit the Seton Hall University Archives and Special Collections and learn more about the types of materials available for research. Alan and his team focus heavily on service, and are dedicated to helping patrons find and use the items they need to answer their questions. As you can see, I took a lot of video at Seton Hall (partly because my still camera is on the fritz), and there are other short bits I did not include here, but you can see them at my YouTube page here: Finally, I hope that this peek into Seton Hall’s treasures will inspire you to visit the school, as well as its online resources.

Contact Information

Alan Delozier
Director of Special Collections
University Library
400 South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079-2671
(973) 275-2378

My contact information includes e-mail:,  or via phone at:  (973) 275-2378.  The main phone is:  (973) 467-8558.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting article with lots of information about the hidden gems at Seton Hall.

NJTPExit12 said...

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