Tuesday, March 31, 2015

News from the New Jersey Caucus: North Jersey History and Genealogy Center Winter 2015 Announcements

Daily Record Microfilm Preservation Project
The North Jersey History and Genealogy Center has completed a six-month project to preserve its frequently used microfilm collection of the Morristown Daily Record, which was beginning to exhibit signs of vinegar syndrome. Thanks to the generous support of the New Jersey Historical Commission, the Library transferred the susceptible reels onto archival-grade polyester film, with backup copies made for offsite storage. History Center staff performed quality control checks on each of the 374 reels of the newspaper that documents Morris County life from 1900 to 1974, and the Daily Record is again available to researchers.

Kathryn B. Jackson Acquisition

The papers of beloved children’s author, Kathryn B. Jackson were recently acquired by the Library. Kathryn and her husband Byron wrote scores of books for Simon and Schuster’s Golden Book series, including the Saggy Baggy Elephant and the Tawny Scrawny Lion – both of which appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Following Byron’s death in 1949, Kathryn continued writing children’s books until 1955 when she rose to the position of Senior Editor for Silver Burdett Textbook Company and eventually moved to Scholastic Magazine in 1960. The papers reflect both her professional and personal life from the 1930s through 1984, and include family photographs and documents dating back to 1901. The Kathryn B. Jackson Papers were processed by Archivist, Jeffrey V. Moy, and are currently available to researchers.

Silas Ogden Journal Acquisition

Silas Ogden’s journal starts on December 11, 1812 with an entry noting the end of his nine-year apprenticeship to Silas Mills as a tanner; during his training Silas would only see his parents once and Mr. Mills eventually regarded him as a member of his extended family. Nevertheless, Ogden managed to remain close with his parents and eleven siblings who he immediately set out to visit and assist with a number of business propositions. The journal recounts Ogden’s military training  (during the War of 1812 he was a Fife Major in the First Regiment of the Morris Brigade), social engagements with several Morristown families, travels across the state on horseback and by foot, and other aspects of day to day life in early 1800s America. The Silas Ogden Journal was recently cataloged and is available to researchers in the reading room.

Morris Township Exhibit

In celebration of Morris Township’s 275th anniversary, the Morristown and Morris Township Library will host a special exhibition opening this March. Utilizing rare photographs and documents from the Library’s collections, the exhibit will spotlight the Township’s pre-colonial roots and Revolutionary War heritage, growth from an agrarian to high tech economy, as well as its many Gilded Age estates, its natural resources, local government, and a section devoted to little-known facts. Organized by the staff of the History and Genealogy Center, the exhibit is scheduled to open in mid-March and will run through August. 

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News from the New Jersey Caucus: Memories of Chester Video Oral Histories

Chester Library (New Jersey Caucus)
By Deb Schiff, Local History Librarian

One of my favorite projects of 2014 was/is (it’s ongoing) the recording of the Memories of Chester video oral histories. The first subject in the series is Herman Rademacher, an 83-year-old lifelong Chester resident who was, according to a Local History volunteer, “everybody’s plumber.” After his son Jack lent us his postcard collection to make digital facsimiles for an online exhibit (http://chesterlib.com/local-history-room/online-exhibits/chester-postcards-introduction/), Herman wanted to show us his much-larger and older collection. These gentlemen and their families still enjoy the postcards, and they are not 
yet ready to donate them to the library. However, the binder of high-quality printed versions of the digitized cards became a popular stopping point at the library’s front desk after some local press coverage. 

When Herman came in to lend the library his postcards, Herman began telling me the most interesting stories about the scenes on the cards and the town itself. When I asked him if he’d be interested in being recorded on video talking about these subjects, he enthusiastically agreed and signed the requisite forms. He also was very interested in the prospect of talking about the cards for an exhibit featuring the cards. 

Herman sat for me each week in October and November 2014, usually for 1 to 2 hours. I brought in my home video equipment and recorded him in my office. He talked about the cards for the first few weeks, then we had more traditional oral history discussions about his family and experiences in Chester. He later brought in older photographs and his 50th wedding anniversary photo album to talk about and for me to make digital versions for our collection and exhibits.

When I began editing the videos, I thought about the audience – our online patrons. Because postcards are short letters, it made sense to keep the videos short as well. Herman is a natural at these videos and kept most of his discussions to a few minutes. Some of the videos are a bit longer because he would remember a related topic and talk about it. I kept most of these in the online versions because they were so interesting. Since January, I have had a Friend of the Library volunteer, Ellen Speicher, transcribing the online videos to increase the accessibility of the content. He was her plumber, too, and she has told me each week how much she has enjoyed this work. 

Because Herman enjoyed his experience so much, he donated his The Mendham-Chester Tribune newspaper collection to the library. This collection fills a much-needed hole in the library’s offerings. Prior to Herman’s donation, the library had Observer-Tribune and its predecessor, The Mendham-Chester Tribune newspapers dating back to 1955. Herman’s collection ranges from 1936 to 1939 and includes the very first issue.

When he signed the Deed of Gift, his specific condition was that the library make digital versions of them so that members of the community and visiting researchers could use the historical information in the papers. I applied for a Morris County Heritage Commission grant to pay for the digitization and 
rehousing of the papers, and was very pleased when the library received the grant from the Commission. The newspapers were digitized in February, and are now available on the library’s computers.

News from the New Jersey Caucus: CAPES 25th Anniversary

Benjamin Franklin once described New Jersey as "a barrel tapped at both ends" because of our location between the two imposing metropolises of Philadelphia and New York City. We're the Crossroads of the American Revolution for that very same reason. Forget the six degrees of separation, chances are good that every important event or person in U.S. history can be linked back to Jersey in about 3 or 4. We've been divided into East and West, and over whether we call it pork roll or Taylor ham. We've been the punchline to countless jokes, our politicians are loud-mouths and our taxes are high, but we've birthed many of the greatest musicians, actors, inventors, and humanitarians. Our roads might be congested, but we can boast some of the best beaches, mountains, and even water falls, and we don't have to pump our own gas. Oh, and we even have our very own Jersey Devil. 

March 2015 had been designated as the month of the New Jersey Caucus, but we stepped aside for announcements related to the Boston meeting. Now that it's quiet, we'll take the next few days to tell you about us and some of the things our members are doing. 

New Jersey has a strong and active caucus of 108 members. We present our Innovative Archives Award to an organization that has furthered the cause of archives and history in the state, and we co-sponsor the Paul Stellhorn Award which recognizes exceptional undergraduate papers in New Jersey history. The caucus chair sits on the boards of the History & Preservation Section of the New Jersey Library Association, the Advocates for New Jersey History, and the newly created New Jersey Cultural Alliance for Response. The members that comprise the caucus are seen as vital participants in the state's library, history, and archival communities. 

Our biggest contribution is the Caucus Archival Projects Evaluation Service (CAPES) Program that just celebrated its 25th year. Funded by grants from the New Jersey Historical Commission, CAPES has provided free professional care and guidance to small to mid-size repositories of archives, historical records, and manuscript collections. Consultants assess and recommend improvements that will guide institutions’ strategic vision in setting goals, program priorities, and budgeting. CAPES consultations collectively have helped to raise the standard of archives preservation and access in smaller institutions in New Jersey through the more than 450 surveys that have been completed.

Recently, the CAPES Advisory Committee has been working with the New Jersey Association of Museums to establish the Artifact Assessment Program (AAP) which will do the same thing for artifacts that CAPES does for archival items. 

At the New Jersey Forum at Kean University in November 2014, CAPES was presented with a Special 25th Anniversary Award. In the photo are three of the founding members of the CAPES program, Karl Niederer, Maxine Lurie, and Richard Waldron, with NJHC executive director Sara Cureton (in red), and current CAPES coordinator Frederic Pachman (on right).

We are a busy caucus and we look forward to welcoming MARAC back to New Jersey in Spring 2017. Meanwhile, keep up with all the things our members do via our MARAC web page (which we are currently updating): http://www.marac.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=84