News from New York State Caucus: Best of 2015

Similar to last year’s blog post, I decided to send out an email to the caucus members to give
them a chance to talk about their many accomplishments over the last year.  I asked the caucus
members to send some short descriptions what they were most proud of and consider one of the
best things they have done this year.  I am happy to say we received an even better response than last year.

Here are the responses I received that I would like to share with everyone.

New York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society, the second oldest historical society in the United States, completed
the first year of a two year project to process and make publicly available its institutional
archive, thanks to a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. The first set of finding aids
for the archive was published in December. Spanning the 211 year history of NYHS, the material
now available includes 300 linear feet of minute books, correspondence files, accession ledgers,
architectural plans, photographs, membership records, and more. Links to the finding aids can be
found at http://www.nyhistory.org/library/findingaids/manuscripts.

The Strong: National Museum of Play
This year at The Strong, I was pleased to complete the processing of the comprehensive Brian
Sutton-Smith papers, 1878-2015. Over a seven year span, we received massive donations from
Brian Sutton-Smith, one of the world’s foremost play scholars and namesake of our museum’s
research library and archives. The Brian Sutton-Smith papers document seven decades of play-
related research, teaching, and writing, with the bulk of the materials dated between 1950 and
2008. These papers contain professional manuscripts, publications, original research data,
reference materials, notes, correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, and other research
materials; some personal papers are also part of this collection. The information within the
collection reflects Sutton-Smith’s interdisciplinary research in psychology, education, and
folklore; his teaching at three American universities; and his contribution to play scholarship
(work on 50 books and more than 350 articles). The end result is a collection of 171 boxes and
an 85-page finding aid! Sutton-Smith passed away earlier this year, and I finished this collection
in time for a June memorial service held by his family here at the museum. Sutton-Smith
inspired generations to study play and its effects on human development and cultural history.

Trinity Wall Street Archives
Here at the Trinity Wall Street Archives, we’ve seen an influx of interest in our work due to the
popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, about Alexander Hamilton, who is buried in our
churchyard. In response, we mounted a pop-up exhibit in October highlighting items in our
collection that document Trinity’s relationship to Hamilton, and created a companion online
exhibit: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/alexander-hamilton-churchman

Archives of the American Field Service
The Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs recently helped
coordinate a youth forum in Strasbourg, France with the Access Alsace tourism agency and the
AFS offices in France, Switzerland, and Germany. The youth forum, entitled From Trenches to
Bridges, brought in 300 students from 43 countries to learn about volunteerism and active
citizenship from World War I to the present day, including the volunteer ambulance drivers of
the American Field Service. The forum included exhibition panels on the history of AFS, a
plaque unveiling for World War I ambulance driver Richard Hall at the military cemetery in
Moosch, France, and a series of educational sessions facilitated by 15 volunteer trainers.

American Jewish Historical Society
The American Jewish Historical Society completed 2 milestones in 2015. First, December 2015
marks the completion of a four-year project to process our own institutional records. The
American Jewish Historical Society is the oldest national ethnic historical organization in the
United States. For the first time since the society was founded in 1892, researchers will be able
to access records relating to the society’s conferences and public programs, exhibits,
publications, and library and archival holdings. Users interested in tracing the Jewish presence in
the United States now have a guide to that history, from the Colonial period to the present.

And second, we completed the processing of the UJA-Federation of New York Collection, 1909-
2000.  A project undertaken thanks to another four-year grant, the collection consists of 2021
bankers boxes and 24 oversize boxes. The collection is a very rich history of, predominantly, the
work of the social service agencies the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies supported throughout
the greater metropolitan New York area for most of the 20th century, and the overseas aid of
United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York from 1939 to the present. Please explore the
collection through our digitized materials, interactive map, the project blog and link to the
finding aid on the collection webpage: http://www.ajhs.org/uja

Metropolitan Museum of Art 
In 2015 The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives opened for research fifteen collections of
institutional records, including those documenting directors, curators, programs, and Museum
departments. Work on the approximately 300 linear feet of records by two full-time archivists,
four interns, and a volunteer began in January 2013. The project was funded by a generous grant
from the Leon Levy Foundation.

The collections document the history of the Museum’s physical plant, staff, acquisitions,
collections management, exhibitions, educational efforts, and other public programming from
many varied points of view within the institution. They illuminate the Museum’s role in New
York City and its place in the wider cultural environment from the 1870s to the early twenty-first
century.

The collections have already been of value to both Museum staff members and external
researchers, including graduate students, authors, and educators. In more than 100 reference
requests to date, materials have been sources for provenance information, to support dissertations
and published works, and to provide students with an introduction to the organization and uses of
primary source documents.

For information about access to the physical materials at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Archives, contact archives@metmuseum.org or visit our website at
http://libmma.org/portal/museum-archives/.

Archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester.
Rev. William H. Shannon, who died in 2012, was an internationally known scholar and chaplain
to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester for more than 60 years.  His papers, given to the SSJ
Rochester Archives, are a valuable collection of material on topics including theology,
spirituality, liturgy, Scripture, peace and non-violence.  Father Shannon, founding president of
the International Thomas Merton Society, is recognized widely as one of the foremost scholars
of Merton’s life and works; his files on Merton, which include correspondence with friends and
followers of Merton around the world, are a significant part of the collection.  The Shannon
papers, comprising 16 linear feet, were arranged this year with the help of consulting archivist
Diane Riley.  A detailed finding aid will be posted on the website of the Sisters of St. Joseph
(www.ssjrochester.org).

State University of New York, University at Albany
On November 19 and 20, the University at Albany, in partnership with the New York State
Archives Partnership Trust, welcomed nearly 200 scholars, historians and archivists for the 16th
Annual Researching New York conference. All attendee events included talks by Ginger Strand,
author of the newly published  The Brothers Vonnegut: Bernard Vonnegut and Kurt Vonnegut in
GE’s House of Magic, a cultural history and joint biography that offers “a wild collision of
science and literature set against the backdrop of the cold war and the dawn of the digital
world.”  At the Friday luncheon, keynote speaker Philip Terrie, author of Adirondack Towns:
Cultural Constructions, Political Agendas, and Social Realities, discussed how our understanding
of the history and realities of Adirondack villages has been shaped by competing narratives, one
produced by outsiders and the other by Adirondack residents themselves.

As always many conference sessions offered a broad view of New York State history. While
some presenters offered new understandings of “community” as defined by geographic or
physical location, others looked at communities drawn together by shared cultural, political,
religious, ethnic, racial, or gender identities and shared experiences. From the earliest Native
Americans of New York to the virtual communities of today; how communities have evolved,
worked together, or challenged each other has shaped New York history was key theme for the
2015 conference. For updates about the 2016 conference, go to http://nystatehistory.org/.

Thank you to everyone who responded and here is to many more accomplishments and successes in the coming year.

Michael P. Martin
MARAC New York State Caucus Representative

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