Research

Associated Projects at New York University

The Margaret Sanger Papers :The authoritative scholarly edition of the works of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger.

The Jacob Leisler Papers Project was established in 1988 under the auspices of the Department of History of New York University to collect, transcribe and translate, and prepare for publication the public and private papers of Jacob Leisler. The project received the endorsement of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the federal government in 1989. In 1998 Project director Dr. David William Voorhees signed an agreement with Fales Library for the Leisler Papers to become a permanent collection at New York University. A selection of documents is to be published.

Student Capstone Projects

Recent Student Capstone Projects 

Nathasha Alvarez, Fall 2013

From the late 1950s through the present, literary property and copyright have been a topic of discussion in the archival community through scholarly journal articles, working groups, task forces, workshops, lobbying activities, and educational programs. My capstone project focuses on the evolution of copyright law as it affects archives and special collections in the United States and the professional archival community’s reaction to copyright legislation from 1976 through the present. Additionally, I explore how copyright policies are developed in archival repositories today at colleges and universities across California and what resources are available to assist archivists interpret U.S. copyright law in the archives.

Nicole Greenhouse, Fall 2013

For my capstone project, I worked with the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) to build a website to showcase their archival collections. CMS is an international migration think tank that works to promote the policies that safeguard migrants and other newcomers. CMS was established in 1964 in conjunction with the Congregation of Missionaries of St. Charles to further serve the needs of migrants outside of the Catholic Church internationally, and part of their mandate was to establish an archives and library. They have over 100 collections that document the immigrant experience to the United States, mostly dating from the turn of the 20th century. The collection contains the records of welfare agencies, parish records, priests’ papers, and other materials. The collection is extremely rich and valuable for academics and genealogists, but had little online presence to highlight the wealth of material that they held. My work consisted of getting collection information online and creating a manual to make the process of creating DACS compliant finding aids sustainable and consistent for archivists that would come after me.

The website for their archives is available here.  On the website, you can browse through a complete listing of their holdings and read collection descriptions for about half of their holdings. Many collections have complete finding aids available online for research use. It is searchable, and provides a boon of information that was not available online a year ago. My hope is that it will increase the use of their collections and demonstrate that this is a doable project for many small repositories with little online access.

Maggie Langlinais, Fall 2013

For my capstone project, I wrote a report on developing records management and archival practices within the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY). This report created a framework from which Dr. Robin Nagle, the DSNY’s Anthropologist-in-Residence, could build. Through her work and research with the department, Dr. Nagle identified a need for better record keeping practices and sought advice about how to move this idea forward. This project led me to think critically about the key concerns of archivists, the relationship between archiving and records management, and the relationship between the DSNY and the NYC Department of Records.

My report detailed the first steps to take, such as developing mission statements and collecting policies, performing initial records surveys, and applying for state grant funding to conduct a department-wide records inventory. To handle reference, I recommended that the role of a DSNY archivist would be that of a processing archivist, who could then turn over materials to the Municipal Archives with description already in place, so material could be made available to researchers without delay. The report also detailed important considerations that archivists face, including maintaining a proper preservation environment, handling born-digital materials, and processing collections. Overall, it was a really enjoyable learning experience, which took me through the offices of the DEP Archives, the Municipal Archives, and the DSNY.

Jonathan Lawler, Spring 2013

My capstone dealt with patrons’ usage of religious archives.  Archival literature has largely overlooked the unique place religious archives hold both as collecting repositories and institutional entities.  The literature has not examined how users utilize the resources at these repositories and to what ends.  By limiting the focus to Protestant archives of the United States, this capstone helps one gain valuable insight into use and reference services of religious archives.

To delve into this topic, I developed an online survey which I sent to eleven Protestant repositories.  I then interviewed either the reference archivist or head archivist at five of these repositories.  Based on this information and an in-depth study of the existing literature, I investigated the use in Protestant archives of the United States.

Jackie Rider, Spring 2013

The Organic Nature of Authenticity As Understood in the Works of Justin Winsor, Waldo Leland, Hilary Jenkinson, and T.R. Schellenberg

Authenticity has become a critical archival issue of the digital age, much as it informed early modern archival theory.  Far from being fossilized relics of the past, archivists and librarians like Justin Winsor, Waldo Leland, Hilary Jenkinson, and T.R. Schellenberg contributed perspectives as relevant today as when first written.  They understood the scholarly and human quest for authenticity and truth in one document.  Their works articulated the creative tension between permanence and evolution of records.  They embraced a fluid understanding of authenticity that can inform documentary debates for a new era. In particular, their thoughts on the organic nature of archives, when read with a 21st century understanding of “organic” as dynamic and evolving can address current concerns about the authenticity of digital records. 

Waldo Leland, Courtesy of the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress

 

All were white, fortunate, educated men who lived in social systems that rewarded and empowered those traits. Their concepts of “organic” were framed by their times. Yet, archivists now can re-engage their works with fresh perspectives and further evolved understandings of the organic nature of archives.  Digital humanists champion the non-linear dimensions of their new approach to scholarship.  If they’re game and open-minded, they can find the seeds of their formulas in the works of some founding fathers of archival theory and methods.

Oral Histories of New York City Taxi Drivers — Margaret Fraser and Samantha Gibson

Taxi cabs undoubtedly constitute one of the most enduring symbols of New York City and we would argue that, like the image of the yellow cab, the city’s cab drivers also represent a unique and valuable facet of the New York City experience.  Over the next nine months, we will research, plan, and create a project in which we will record and preserve oral histories of New York City taxi drivers.  In the course of this process, we will create a research-based funding and institutional partnership proposal and, ultimately, a website through which we will foster dynamic and accessible public engagement with our oral history collection.  As such, our project will constitute a bridge between oral history, digital history, and grassroots documentation of New York City.

Through full length oral history interviews with a diverse body of taxi drivers, we hope to capture some of the ways in which race, nationality, gender, class, and religion shape the cab driver’s experience.  We anticipate that our oral histories may also reflect such pressing concerns as immigration processes, labor issues, and the intricacies of the taxi industry.  Thus, we are at once interested in the individual life histories of our subjects as well as in the unique perspectives that cab drivers may shed on the landscape, character and people of New York City.

As we are fully aware that an institutional affiliation would bolster the credibility and sustainability of our project, we have decided to propose our project to three different institutional partners: Brooklyn Historical Society, City Lore, and NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.  We are confident that we can design our project to align with the missions and institutional values of each of these institutions without losing our focus on the lives and personal narratives of our interviewees.  As we craft alternate interpretive angles for our final project, we will reach out to a range of advisers, including oral historians, labor organizers, public historians, and archivists in order to create a project that is as valuable to our audience as possible.

Protocols for Native American Archival Materials     —   Keara Duggan

This website presents case studies and resources for archivists, museum staff and tribal communities engaging with the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. The site can also serve as a starting point for dialogue among students, archival and museum professionals, scholars and tribal leaders interested in exploring the Protocols.  This project was inspired by conversations that took place at the Forum on Native American Protocols during SAA’s Annual Conference in 2009. Many of the forum’s attendants requested that a collection of case studies be provided by the Protocols’ organizing committee. This project is a first step toward that goal.

First Hundred Days     —   Elizabeth Banks and Lindsay Dumas

First Hundred Days is a website that served as the capstone project for Elizabeth Banks and Lindsay Dumas’ MA in Public History and Archives at New York University in 2009. The goal was to create an educational tool about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Hundred Days. It is a “historical blog”, that takes “characters” comprised of primary and secondary research, who “blog” the first three months of FDR’s presidency. Adhering to national high school Social Studies and History standards, this site is an ideal way to supplement the study of the early New Deal period.                                               Image: Dorothea Lange

Milblogs     —     Kait Medley

Over the course of the last decade, blogging has evolved from an
obscure and specialized activity confined to a small group of
technological enthusiasts to a popular phenomenon that has been
embraced by politicians, corporate concerns, and the media. In recent
years, one particular niche of the blog world has been generating a
great deal of media attention. Military bloggers, or milbloggers, are
bloggers who are either serving in the military, have served in the
military, or are related to someone in the military (typically spouses
and children). Online journals are not only an easy, cheap, and
immediate way for families to keep in contact long distance, many
milbloggers also use their sites as a public venue to relate their
experiences, frustrations, and opinions. Never before have soldiers
been able to speak so candidly to a national, even international,
public. Nor have American citizens had the opportunity to gain
firsthand knowledge of war and its soldiers as the conflict is playing
out.
Milblogs are a relatively unknown sector of the blogosphere but are
valuable informational sources for anyone interested in reading an
alternative and highly-personalized perspective of the war. Milblogs’
unique portrayal of the Iraq and Afghan Wars indicates their future
value as historical resources. Modern scholars sift through letters
and diaries from past American conflicts, but someday soon they will
be turning to the digital-born resources of the 21st century for their
research, if they have not already.

John D Bence   — The Soul of Reason

My capstone involves an audio collection of approx. 260+ reel-to-reel tapes from the 1970s and 1980s housed in the NYU University Archives. They are part of a half-hour, interview-based radio series titled the Soul of Reason produced by Dr. Roscoe Brown Jr., the first Director of NYU’s Institute of African-American Affairs, and broadcast on WNYU and WNBC. The weelky show featured inerviews with leaders and influential members of NYC’s African-American community. I have been looking into the tapes’ content to discern their potential research value.

Breanne Scanlon   —   Remembering to Forget: Grant’s Tomb Through the 1930s

In my capstone project, entitled “Remembering to Forget: Grant’s Tomb Through the 1930s,” I use the General Grant National Memorial as a case study to explore issues of public memory and commemoration, with regards to both Grant himself and the post-Civil War Restoration era more generally.  On April 27, 1897, nearly one million people lined the streets of New York City to watch what the dedication of the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero and former president. For the next forty years, thousands of people gathered at Grant’s Tomb to commemorate both Grant and the Civil War. Beginning in the late 1930s, however, the tomb underwent a shift: from its previous role as a sacred gathering site for social elites, veterans, and New Yorkers to remember Grant and the Civil War, the tomb became an unused artifact, a symbol that no longer had any practical use.  In mycapstone project, I chronicle the construction and public use of Grant’s Tomb and attempt to explain why the monument fell into disuse.  I do this by exploring shifting public perceptions of both the Civil War and Grant’s presidency, the democratization of public memorials, and changes in the use of public spaces.

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