Rutgers University Special Collections and Archives

Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives house the manuscript, rare book, and photograph and print collections of Rutgers University.

Internship Spring 2013

Virginia Pastor:  My internship at Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives gave me the opportunity to completely process a fascinating manuscript collection from beginning to end with the guidance of Dr. Fernanda Perrone, Archivist and Head, Exhibitions Program, Curator of the William Elliot Griffis Collection.

The records of the Mohegan Colony Association document the community’s origin as the Mohegan Colony, an anarchist community founded in 1923 by progressive leader and anarchist Harry Kelly. Founded in the area of Mohegan Lake in Westchester County, New York, the community emerged from the Ferrer colony in Stelton, New Jersey, the records of which are also held at Rutgers. The center of the colony was the Mohegan Modern School, run by Jim and Nellie Dick from 1924 to 1928, which advocated freedom of expression and originally had no set grade levels or lesson plans, allowing the students to participate in classes based on their own desires. The school came to be a driving wedge between the political factions within the colony, as the diminishing anarchist group remained committed to Ferrerist principles, while an increasing number of communist, socialist, and liberal residents argued in favor of a state-funded school. By 1941 the school closed, and an anti-communist faction grew within community until a new constitution was adopted in 1952.

The colony was renamed the Mohegan Colony Association in 1952 when a new incorporation was filed along with the new constitution; and the community now operates as a homeowners’ association, sharing responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of community property. Community events, including reunions and anniversaries, as well as cultural concerts, theater productions, and dance recitals have been central to Mohegan’s existence throughout the second half of the twentieth century.Though the community has shed the radical principles of its founding, it remains committed to preserving a sense of community through shared property and cultural events.

This collection includes the official records of the Mohegan Colony from 1923 to 1949, as well as the official records and collected material of the Mohegan Colony Association. The Colony records consist of minutes, general membership correspondence, the correspondence of the board of trustees, and several publications produced by the Mohegan Modern School. The Mohegan Colony Association records are more extensive and consist of constitutional material, minutes, budgets and financial records, as well as correspondence, maps, and association newsletters. Particularly rich are correspondence and subject files that document the Association’s members and various projects.

Internship Spring 2012

Janice Liao: Exhibitions are integral to the mission of Special Collections and University Archives in enriching the intellectual life of the university and local community through showcasing distinguished library collections, acquisitions and historically significant artifacts. Although located on the New Brunswick campus, the exhibition is a form of educational outreach and advocacy for a range of constituents, from local community members, to state wide and global audiences. Exhibitions aim to encourage intellectual inquiry and exploration and expose visitors to the breadth of information resources and services available. Digital exhibits are a new component of exhibitions programming that help make information and learning accessible to remote audiences.

My internship was largely devoted in building and developing the New Jersey and Civil War exhibit to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Building the exhibit from the ground up involved mining materials from the archives to fulfill the institution’s mission in highlighting materials from the repository. Over a four-month period, I assisted in culling over 115 archival documents and artifacts, such as political broadsides, lithographs, maps, songsheets, photographs, rare books and manuscripts (primarily correspondences). This process also included evaluating which artifacts and documents have the balance of being visually striking while being historically significant. Amongst the most interesting pieces I found include photographs of New Jersey Civil War Veterans, colored lithographs of Abraham Lincoln, and broadsides that offer a glimpse into life on the homefront.

Original colored lithograph, Abraham Lincoln and family, circa 1860 (Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)

Early stages of the exhibition building process required engaging in a dialogical process between scholarly research and historical contextualizing of the archival documents and artifacts. Further research also involved visiting other institutions that held commemorative exhibits of 150th anniversary of New Jersey in the Civil War. I also conducted research on narrative form and flow and explore methods in how to effectively pair visuals with exhibit text. Working closely with the Exhibitions Coordinator, Fernanda Perrone, we merged our research and archival sources to devise major historical themes and sub-themes. We also identified topics that are marginalized, such as African Americans from New Jersey, life on the home front and women’s roles during the Civil War. As it is important for SCUA to play a role in providing a well rounded exhibit, I learned how to shape and script exhibit text that does not exclude or privilege any information, but instead provides a comprehensive and objective history.

At the end of my internship, I worked on developing the text and physical arrangement for 2 exhibit cases that will be devoted to the theme of “Prominent African Americans of New Jersey,” which includes original correspondences and publications from William Still, Peter Still and Esther “Hetty” Saunders. William Still, a native of New Jersey, later relocated to Philadelphia, where he aided fugitives in the Underground Railroad. Extensive information from interviews and correspondences of fugitives are detailed in Still’s documentary volume, the Underground Railroad. Peter Still, is William’s estranged brother who reunited with William after 20 years of separation. Also featured in the exhibit is Esther “Hetty” Saunders, who is one of the first African American female poets. As an indentured servant to a Quaker family, Saunders used poetry as a means to express thoughts that could not be vocalized. The exhibit is currently still in development and will open in September 2012.

Lithograph from Underground Railroad, by William Still, 1st edition published in 1872. Featured in the image is Henry Box Brown, a slave who escaped by shipping himself in a crate to Philadelphia. Holding the lid was Still, who was present to greet Brown upon arrival.

 

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