Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring 2012 Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference

Perhaps it was the setting (Cape May, gorgeous weather). Maybe it was the wonderful Local Arrangements folks who were very proud and knowledgeable of their local history. Or, it could have been the program and the workshops. The winning combination of all of the above likely made the Spring MARAC (April 12-14) a success as an entertaining and educational conference.

Dating 19th Century Portrait Photographs Workshop
One of my favorite parts of the conference was Gary Saretsky’s Dating 19th Century Portrait Photographs workshop on Thursday April 12. During his presentation, I felt as if I were absorbing a semester’s worth of knowledge in an afternoon. In addition to giving workshops, Gary is the Monmouth County Archivist, and Coordinator of the Public History Internship Program for the Rutgers University-New Brunswick History Department. He also is a fine photographer himself, with a recent exhibit of blues performers at the Plainfield Public Library.

Gary’s workshop took its participants through the history of early photographic portraiture from the earliest Daguerreotypes in 1839 through cabinet cards in the late 1800s-early 1900s. We learned the distinctive elements that help date Daguerreortypes, ambrotypes, tintypes (also known as melainotypes and ferrotypes), cartes-de-visites, and cabinet cards. Gary also provided us with resources for determining the dates of costumes in photographs.

He brought many examples of cabinet cards and earlier photographs, and invited us to try to identify them, using what we had learned. I just wanted to buy a micrometer and attempt to identify the cabinet cards (by thickness and other means) within the Plainfield Public Library’s Local History collections. Overall, it was an inspiring, informative workshop that was well worth the price of admission. If I were an archives professor, I’d book Gary as a guest lecturer every semester.

Conference Sessions
In the sessions I attended, I noticed a pattern with some of the speakers – they were the users of archives and special collections, rather than “us.” I was glad to hear how these professionals tied the importance of archival collections to their work because they are our patrons and researchers. They teach us how to best help them. Most also expressed their intense gratitude for the work archivists and librarians do to make materials accessible in person and especially online.

For example, the plenary speaker was historic preservation consultant Joan Berkley, who spoke about the archival resources, especially primary sources, she used to uncover the structural details of an historic house museum. Importantly, she named all the repositories she used, and explained how she used the archival materials in her work. Another session I attended, on preserving and promoting New Jersey’s historic structures, also featured three speakers who use archives and libraries to preserve historic properties, the Doo Wop resort architecture of the Wildwoods, and lighthouses in the state.

Additionally, the final session of the conference featured the author of Boardwalk Empire, Nelson Johnson, and a writer from the HBO series of the same name, Edward McGinty. These two gentlemen talked about the value of archives and libraries from two very different directions, but each made clear cases for the use of primary sources whether digitized or not. The other two speakers of that session, Heather Pérez and Shannon O’Neill of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, talked at length about how the show has changed the way they do their work and deliver their services to patrons.

In the sessions featuring archivists as speakers, there were many standouts, including one focused on the Brooklyn Historical Society's efforts to attract and educate students. It was inspiring to see how dedicated the BHS is to its young student and undergraduate patrons. The society has created a host of programs reaching from K-12 through undergraduates. One example is the Young Curators program, which allows 4th and 5th graders to construct their own meaning of history in a new and visual way. They do this by completing a 12-week residency program wherein they create exhibit panels using the BHS’ archives to encourage further research, and spotlight historical events and people. BHS' programs might be a bit ambitious (and expensive) for the libraries where I work, but the depth and breadth of their offerings are certainly well worth the funding the staff has been able to secure for them.

Public Displays: Using Your Collection and Archives to Tell Your Story was a session featuring three diverse views on displays. First, a young researcher (Rachael Rohrbaugh of Chatham University) talked about the results from her study on the lack of exhibits education in MLIS/MLS programs. Next, a couple from the Cape May County Historical Society (Bruce and Pary Lion Tell) showed us very economical and practical ways to set up and display facsimiles of historic documents in exhibit cases. Finally, an archivist I had seen at a previous MARAC, when she worked at the Andy Warhol Museum (Amy Lucadamo, now of Wilson College), provided a variety of methods to showcase collections. In particular, she focused on an innovative timeline she created for alumni visitors – it connected images and icons of shared history with individual histories of alumni. She also showed ways to spotlight objects and records in nifty ways, such as magnifying text (a museum display technique).

Finally, one of the most riveting speakers was neither an archivist, nor historian. He was our host, Curtis Bradshaw, owner of Congress Hall. Curtis is the grandson of Carl McIntire, a fiery fundamentalist Presbyterian minister whose mammoth collection of papers and audio records was recently processed by the Princeton Theological Seminary (primarily by MARAC Program Commitee Co-chair Bob Golon). In the session Rescuing and Making Available a Controversial Collection: The Carl McIntire Papers at Princeton Theological Seminary, Kenneth Woodrow Henke, of PTS, provided a lively history of McIntire. He also told us how the collection came to PTS, then introduced Curtis, who shared his personal impressions of his grandfather. Curtis told many stories of how his grandfather worked. For example, he would watch his grandfather at the microphone, delivering his radio sermons. He also directed groups of female volunteers to keep newspaper clippings files (now at PTS) in order to save a record of his 20th century reformation of the Presbyterian church. A charismatic speaker, Curtis kept his audience amused, and gave us a peek into the famed minister’s life.

As always, MARAC exceeded my expectations and left me with more knowledge and skills to take back to the libraries where I work. To see the complete program, visit MARAC (downloads a PDF).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Curator's Tour of Karen Guancione's "A Portable Constant Obsession" Exhibit at Rutgers

From the first time I experienced Karen Guancione's work at the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, I was hooked on her work. Karen has a background in fiber art as well as printmaking. Her work calls out unsung people, especially women, who do much of the hard work that goes into everyday objects, such as clothing. She also uses traditionally feminine objects (such as red leather high heel shoes and brassieres) to put a point on her feminist works.

Karen is especially interested in found objects, making hundreds of artist's books from other people's castoffs. Because I'm a big fan of artists' books and the artists who make them, I was excited to learn that Karen would be exhibiting some of her recent and early works at Rutgers' Alexander Library in New Brunswick (until August 31, you have a little time, but don't miss this exhibit).

Not only is Karen a working artist, traveling worldwide to exhibit and make her remarkable art, she also shares her knowledge as a lecturer and teacher of art and design at SUNY Purchase, as well as other schools.

The Tour
My host for the tour of Karen's exhibit, A Portable Constant Obsession, was none other than its curator (and my friend) Michael Joseph, the Rare Books Librarian at Rutgers. I first met Michael when he gave a presentation on artists' books during an MLIS course called Art Librarianship (taught by the wonderful Paul Glassman). He introduced me to an entirely new art form, and I later asked him to be my advisor for my independent study. It was great fun working with Suellen Glashausser's artists' books, and ensuring their preservation. That experience solidified my affection for artists' books and admiration for Michael's knowledge of book arts.

Note: My apologies for some of the noise in the videos below. The air conditioning in the downstairs gallery is quite loud, and the upstairs gallery is located directly across from the main entry of the Alexander Library. Suffice to say, it can be a noisy spot. I also apologize for the reflected lights in the museum glass of the exhibit cases. I hope to be there when Karen uninstalls the exhibits to take some footage without the reflective glass.

In the short video below, Michael introduces us to Karen's current installation in the upstairs gallery of Alexander Library.

In the next video, Micheal shows us more of Karen's recent artists' books, and talks about the influence of her feminism on her work.

In an exhibition such as this one, it is especially interesting to see an artist's earliest works. We are fortunate to be able to experience (in the video below) some of Karen's earliest artists' books displayed in rather a unique way. Michael speaks to the nature of Karen's display technique, as well as how these works helped her to make sense of her early life, below.

In the downstairs, Special Collections gallery, Michael shows us some of Karen's more recent artists' books, especially some in her Summer series.

In this case, Michael explains, Karen's Aquiloni are now part of books, not only suspended from the ceiling of the exhibit case. He also talks more about her books made in Nice, France.

In this next video, Michael tells us some of the history behind this large accordion-style artists' book.

We are very fortunate to experience one of Karen's best known works, Guide de la Correspondance Amoureuse. It's a fantastic piece bound in a scarlet bra. Below, Michael talks about the meaning behind this unique binding


Below, we see a multimedia installation that includes a video of women dancing and a selection of Karen's Garbage Books. You can see Karen smiling and dancing in the video.

Finally, Michael shows us Karen's Pátzcuaro and Foufoune works.

I encourage you to visit Alexander Library at Rutgers to see this extraordinary exhibit before it closes at the end of August.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Brief Tour of the Morristown & Morris Township Library

Last week, the New Jersey Library Association's History and Preservation Section met at the fully renovated Morristown & Morris Township Library. Because my parents are locals, I was familiar with the library prior to the May 3, 2010 explosion that damaged the historic 1917 and 1930 wings of the building. The Newsletter of the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center of the Morristown & Morris Township Library does an excellent job of documenting the experience of the librarians/archivists that day, as well as the steps taken along the way to protect and preserve the archival materials in that part of the library. If you start at the March 2010 issue and read through the seven subsequent issues, you will see how these professionals persevered and continued their good work even though they were displaced and the vast majority of their materials were stored off site.

I was very excited to see the kinds of changes that had taken place throughout the library. It was updated in many ways, but yet, remained true to the style of the building, right down to the door knobs specially made to mimic the windows (see the photo below, my apologies for the strange angle).

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

Our host for the tour, Chad Leinaweaver, is the Assistant Library Director. He is pretty new to the library, and wasn't there when the explosion happened. In the photo below, Chad is taking our group through the Preservation Lab, in the basement (not far from the meeting room, where we began our journey). The conservator is an outside contractor who uses this lovely space to work on a variety of projects. 

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

As we walked through the building, Chad said that the biggest blessing after no one being hurt was that the library had taken out extensive insurance on the building, its holdings, and, most importantly, for code upgrades. The code upgrades made up a huge chunk of the overall cost, he said. Because the 1917 wing had been built in a "fireproof" way, it had to undergo extensive asbestos abatement. Materials had to be thrown out, unfortunately.

The photo below shows the new ceiling that had to be built in the "Friends" of the Library room, which took most of the damage. Chad told us that this room, in the 1930s wing, had its doors blown nearly off their hinges by the explosion -- the steel doors curled back on their hinges like tops of sardine cans. We all were enormously grateful that the fire alarm had gone off in advance, and everyone had emptied the building beforehand.

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

All of the water pipes are new, as are some of the gas pipes. All the the shelving had to be replaced. The Friends lost all of their book sale materials. The explosion caused massive flooding to the basement, including special collections. The archives room itself, miraculously, was safe, but emptied of all collections because although the materials were stored high enough up on the shelves not to be directly affected, there was water that would likely be standing while the major clean-up occurred.

Behind the far wall, the library added a Sprinkler Room. One of the major code upgrades was the installation of an updated sprinkler system. The library also added a gas detection system.

Upstairs, in the Reference area, there were many changes. Below is a photo of the stacks area of Reference.

From Morristown and Morris Township Library
If you search Google Images for Morristown & Morris Township Library explosion, you will find "before" photos of the room above, as well as those taken during the clean-up efforts. It had been tightly arranged with many stacks. During the renovation, the staff decided to open up the room more, so that patrons could enjoy its natural beauty, while still finding the materials they needed. Additionally, the renovation gave the librarians the opportunity to weed out some of the previously unused materials they had intended to do, but hadn't yet had the time.

From the perspective of the above photo, looking to one's right shows the other end of Reference, as well as a footbridge above the first floor. In the photo below, Chad shows a few H&P section members some of the changes to the room. He mentioned that some of the weeded items from the area were replaced with digital materials.

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

I'm sorry that I was unable to take good photographs of the beautiful stained glass in the building. However, I hope that you will visit the Morristown and Morris Township Library to see it for yourself. During the restoration process upstairs, the librarians researched the original colors of the stained glass in the Reference rooms and were able to bring them to life in a vibrant and attractive way.

About midway through Reference is the entry to the 1930s wing of the building. It is home to the South Street or main entrance to the building, beautiful wood carvings and stained glass, and the original firescreen for the fireplace (see the photos below). For more information on the architecture of the building, visit the library's site here.

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

At what seemed like the end of the tour, I asked Chad if we could see Special Collections, since that's our area of expertise. He said, "Sure!" and shared the remainder of the tour with Mary McMahon, outgoing President of the H&P section.

In the photo below, behold the beauty that is the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center and Special Collections reading room of the library. The far walls, which you cannot see in this photo, are lined with encapsulated, antique wall maps.

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

Now for my favorite part -- behind the scenes, inside special collections and the archives. Directly inside the offices, right before the processing area, was a vertical file cabinet I had not seen before in an archive (photo below). 

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

You sometimes see these in doctors' offices or in hospitals, but not often in special collections. Because these are only working files, and not archival files, it's not controversial. However, this system is not recommended for irreplaceable items due to the possibility of materials being caught in the machine as it cycles through shelves of folders.

On our way to the collections, we walked through the processing area, where a few in-process collections were stored (see photo below).

From Morristown and Morris Township Library

I didn't take many photos within the archives room because the library just got their collections back from storage, and were sorting out spacing and labeling. However, we did get into the vault and art bins, which held some treasures. Someday, I will go back, and Mary will show me some of the treasures in the collections. But for now, a final photo of their John De Pol collections (see photo below).

From Morristown and Morris Township Library
The take-home message for me during our April 4 tour of the Morristown and Morris Township Library was that sometimes, great destruction can lead to great improvements. That, and make sure to have very good insurance, especially for code upgrades.

For more information, visit the library here.

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.