The University Archives houses the historical records of New York University.
Internship Spring 2013
Kerry Heimer: As an intern at the New York University Archives this past semester, I was given the opportunity to work with a few different collections and interact with many different types of archival materials. Having very little archival experience prior to this internship, my first few projects catered to my need to learn proper processing techniques, as well as an understanding of Archivist’s Toolkit.
The two collections that I worked on and developed finding aids for were the Dan Dodson Papers and the Records of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. The Dan Dodson Papers is a small collection of personal papers and published works by former NYU professor Dan Dodson. The Records of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans is a larger collection of materials related to the first ever hall of fame in the United States, which was established by NYU in 1900. This collection of records is comprised of a wide range of materials and ephemera regarding the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, and working with it I was able to learn a great deal about the institution itself, as well as the history and development of NYU throughout the twentieth century.
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is located on the former University Heights campus in the Bronx, and serves as a memorial to men and women who have helped to shape and contribute to the success of our country. It held a prestigious place in the culture of the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, and elections for nominees to be inducted generated a great deal of interest across the nation. When NYU decided to sell the University Heights campus to the City University of New York, however, funding and interest in the Hall of Fame began to wane, and has not yet been regained.
As the semester progressed and I began to feel more confident working with collections, writing finding aids, and using AT, I was given my third and final project – digitizing a collection of 170 glass plate negatives from roughly 1890-1910. The images on these glass plate negatives are bits and pieces of NYU’s community life from the turn of the twentieth century, capturing everything from the architecture of the campus to athletic events and classroom lectures.
Working on this project gave me the opportunity not only to learn digitization practices and standards, but also to see a glimpse into the history of NYU and its faculty and students. This collection of historic photographs is truly special and certainly worth perusing for anyone with interest in the history of the university.
Internship Spring 2012
Alex Gelfand: Alex spent the spring semester processing the exhibition records of NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, which have been deposited in the University Archives, and reflects here on the history of the Grey:
Peter Rabbit had disobeyed his mother once more and leaving his sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, sneaked into Mr. McGregor’s garden. Suddenly he was transported into a deep dark forest where Peter saw a Frank Lloyd Wright house and decided to enter. Finding a key under the welcome mat, he easily managed to open the elaborate but antique Persian lock hanging awkwardly on the door. Inside, images of Audubon’s wildlife, Picasso’s cubes and Frida Kahlo’s expressive portraits, along with hundreds of lesser known faces, starred down upon him, while a myriad of statues on the floor invited a closer inspection. Going out the back, Peter found himself in Washington Square Park. Running around the square, the rabbit finally entered Bobst Library where he proceeded up to the 10th floor, to the University Archives, where he jumped inside one of the open boxes, joining the subjects of the other exhibitions he had briefly glanced along the way.
For over thirty years since its foundation, the Grey Art Gallery and Student Center has been regaling its visitors with exhibitions of local, national and international interest. Inaugurated on April 9, 1975 at 100 Washington Square East/33 Washington Place, the gallery has inherited a rich cultural legacy. Located on the site of the original NYU building, it was here that the University professor and erstwhile inventor of the telegraph Samuel Morse headed the nation’s first art department. In 1927, Albert E. Gallatin, son of an NYU chemistry professor, established what is considered to be the first museum of modern art in the United States. Called The Gallery of Living Art, the collection consisted of contemporary paintings and drawings by creative and progressive artists.
The museum was a great success until its closure in 1943 by the University for economic reasons. However, the university was not left devoid of art for long. In 1958 NYU acquired its first permanent art works beginning what was to become known as the New York University Art Collection. Over the next decade the number of artworks was continuously augmented with the help of alumni and well-wishers. By the middle of the 1970s, the collection consisted of nearly 2000 individual pieces of art which included paintings by Picasso, Klee and Hofmann. Due to the fact that there was no permanent space available, most of the art work was kept in storage when not part of a special exhibition.
In 1974 Abby Weed Grey, the head of Ben and Abby Grey Foundation in St. Paul Minnesota, decided to contribute one million dollars to NYU for the construction of the Grey Gallery and Study Center. Mrs. Grey had been looking for a dynamic place to display her large collection of Asian and Middle Eastern art and New York City fit the bill perfectly. Mrs. Grey’s art donation, combined with the NYU Art Collection in the newly renovated building on 100 Washington Square East became the permanent collection for the new gallery.
Today, the Grey Art Gallery and Student Center continues to advance the legacy left from its predecessors to inform and educate the wider public. In 2011, trying to open up its records for wider research, over thirty years of exhibition records of the University Art Collection and Grey Art Gallery were given NYU University Archives. Once fully processed, this rich resource will be made available for all future researchers and enthusiasts of art in all its forms.