July 26, 2012

The Danger of Scotch Tape

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 5:31 pm

It was 1971.  Sanford Solender, then Executive Vice-President of FJP, received a letter from Bernard Warach of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) about a gift from Simon H. Scheuer to finance a new apartment building for the Jewish elderly in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

The particular letter pictured below comes towards the end of a 2-year correspondence and includes a probable date for the completion of the building construction within the following 12-18 months.  The letter is for the most part business as usual, discussing details of the gift, of ownership, and of the dedication ceremonies.

The letter serves, however, as a strong reminder as to why standard archival practice dictates that tape of any kind should never be used once a document is transferred to the archives.  As archivists of course, we have no control over how documents are handled (or filed) while they are still in active use.  The letter ripped at some point during this period, and either Mr. Solender or someone on his staff taped it together.

Front of the letter

On the back, even more damage is apparent.

Back of the letter

The tape that turned yellow is some kind of cellophane tape that has either acidic glue, acidic cellophane, or both.  Less visible is a small piece of  “invisible” tape (to the upper right of the cellophane tape) that did not discolor the front of the letter, and may be made from acid-free materials.

In the archives, when we encounter a torn or ripped document, we may “preservation photocopy” it onto acid-free paper to retain the content.  Or we may clip the document between sheets of acid-free paper.  Or we may scan the document.  What we do is determined by the artifactual value of a document, the danger of loss of content, and how much time we have, among other factors.  For more information on preservation photocopying of newsprint, please see our earlier posts on carbon copies.

July 23, 2012

How to pack a box for storage

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 2:42 pm

I’m working this spring and summer with the files of some of the Executive Vice-Presidents (EVP), the top staff member at FJP and today as well at UJA-Federation.

We just brought in 320+ boxes from storage for processing, including 54 labeled as having come from the office of Sanford Solender (EVP 1970-1981), sandwiched between Maurice Hexter (EVP 1942-1967), David Salten (1967-1969) and William Kahn (1981-1986).

I found today a folder that is a pretty good example of why boxes headed for long-term storage should be packed full enough so that the folders stand upright but not so full that they don’t pull out easily.  Boxes not packed full enough suffer from the results of the law of gravity – folders sink down in the box, fall over, or as in this case, roll over to fill up the space.

Chronological File, January 1975
This is the first folder in the box, and the one most likely to roll

The documents no longer lay flat.

Edge of the folder with rolled documents

Top document in the folder

Refoldering into a new, flat folder, pressure and time should eventually straighten out these documents.

July 9, 2012

Driving Fund

Filed under: early history — susanwoodland @ 6:16 pm

One of the agencies that came into the Federation family in the first year of Federation’s existence had the name, “Crippled Children’s Driving Fund”.  When I first saw that name, after registering shock at how much has changed in terms of political correctness, I was confused at why, or how, children with physical disabilities would be learning to drive.

1917 report of receipts and expenditures

The file is in the Finance and Budget subseries, and contains correspondence and budgetary information on this agency.  Above is the financial report for the year ended December 31, 1917.  From a dry financial report, however, it is possible to learn a bit about how they used the funds they received from Federation.  In fact, the children were not learning to drive, they were being taken out to drives on days when they had medical appointments.  Drives in Central Park, with a caretaker to accompany them, and loveliest of all, milk and crackers as a snack.

From another financial document in the file, shown below, more details are revealed.  There is a Supporting Schedule that explains the $268.59 (listed above) that was spent on the milk and crackers.

Supporting Schedule, elaboration on the milk and crackers

Handwritten is this note: “The above item is based on the expenses for several years past for milk and crackers supplied by the Sheffield Farms Co. and the National Biscuit Co., respectively.  Milk and crackers are being supplied regularly to the children on the drives in the park.”  At the bottom, in a different hand, is this: “We pay for milk at the regular price.  The Nat’l Biscuit Co. furnishes us crackers at practically half price.”

The drives and the refreshments were undoubtedly a welcome break in what was probably a bleak life for these children.  We have processed financial files for this fund for 1917-1920.  This week we expect to bring in more financial files, including the 1920s, and I’ll make a point of checking to see how long the fund remained in existence, or at least how long it was funded by Federation.

Perhaps the National Biscuit Company was approached for a break in the cost of the crackers because their factory was local.  Located between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues, the factory building now houses Chelsea Market.  Between the 1930s and the 1960s, an elevated train track ran alongside the building at the height of the 3rd floor; today this train track is part of the High Line Park.  This park now provides fresh air and exercise for all of us.  And it’s a short walk from the park into Chelsea Market to pick up a fresh bottle of milk from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: