September 25, 2015

Paper Clips and Other Glimpses of an Earlier Time

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 4:37 pm

Our blog has been quiet for the past few weeks as we focused simply on completing the project, which ends officially on October 2nd. The container list is nearly complete.  It is a huge spreadsheet that lists ever folder in the collection, arranged hierarchically by subgroup, series, subseries, and so on.  The collection is huge.  It has ended up being contained in 2021 bankers boxes (each bankers box is 1.2 cubic feet for those of you who can visualize in three dimensions), 24 oversize boxes and 4 oversize folders too large for our shelves and  housed in a flat file with very, very wide drawers.

Also nearly complete is the finding aid to the collection, that will link out at every level to the container list.  The finding aid explains the arrangement of the collection at every level, and gives historical information as well as content information on each section.  This 184 page WORD document is being encoded over the next few days in order to be able to place it online where it will be accessible to researchers everywhere. The easiest way to take a look at it, after October 2nd, will be from the collection webpage.  The first link on this page will be to the finding aid. (Currently linked as the finding aid are three sections of a partial finding aid we’ve had up for the past year. The finding aid to the complete collection will replace these links.)

While finishing up the documentation for this project and cleaning up our work spaces, I found a box full of metal fasteners that were pulled from various levels of the excavation that was a big part of the work we’ve done over the past four years.  We knew these metal bits were destined for the trash; we removed them so they wouldn’t further damage the paper with rust or simply because of their thickness in a folder. We didn’t keep track of what years they were in use or which subseries they came from.  But for some of us, they summon a sense of the people who wrote the memos and the reports, who slipped on a paper clip or added files to a binder before closing up a folder for the last time.

paper clips

Metal fasteners found in the collection

I think that the nail fell into the box by mistake, but everything else was used in one or more of the decades that we’ve lived through in the past four years.

Many things can summon up a moment from the past, even one you didn’t live through yourself.  Of course many things about this collection, or any collection that spans the better part of a century, make you vividly aware that the people who created the documents lived very different lives than we do today.

We’ll write at least one final post next week before we depart for our next projects.

August 12, 2015

Federation films digitized and available online

Filed under: audio-visual material, found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 3:29 pm

After our success with MediaPreserve digitizing a number of sound recordings earlier in the year, we returned back to the vendor to digitize five short films. These films have been reviewed, described, ingested into a digital repository, and are now available through the Center’s Digital Collections.

Five films were selected for digitization:


Screen capture, Dial-a-thon

Screen capture, Dial-a-thon, 1973

Williamsburg Y and Long Island Jewish Hospital

Screen capture, Williamsburg Y and Long Island Jewish Hospital, undated

Screen capture, Williamsburg Y and Long Island Jewish Hospital, undated

UJA-Federation News Release

Screen capture, UJA-Federation News Release, 1974

Screen capture, UJA-Federation News Release, 1974

A Journey into Life

Screen capture, Journey into Life, 1960

Screen capture, Journey into Life, 1960

At Any Given Moment

Screen capture, At Any Given Moment, 1972

Screen capture, At Any Given Moment, 1972

Two of the films, “A Journey into Life” and “At Any Given Moment,” have celebrity narrators, Sid Caesar and Alan King, respectively, to guide and appeal to viewers as part of the Federation’s educational, fundraising, and outreach efforts within the metropolitan New York area.

However, perhaps the greatest find is, among these newly digitized and available resources, the Dial-a-thon footage that captures the exuberance and excitement of a themed fundraising event with hand drawn tigers, ringing telephones, and circus music.

Screen capture, Dial-a-thon, 1973

Screen capture, Dial-a-thon, 1973

We have been able to positively identify Federation President Lawrence B. Buttenweiser, Martha K. Selig, comptroller and soon-to-be Mayor Abraham Beame, and Bess Myerson in Dial-a-thon. If you are able to identify any persons in the five films, please contact us and we can add this valuable information to the description of the footage.

July 17, 2015

“IDEAS & SUGGESTIONS” – Favorite Folder Titles

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 10:59 am
Folders - Ideas and Suggestions

Favorite Folders – Ideas and Suggestions

Processing is for the most part complete on the UJA-Federation of New York collection and we have moved on to everything else that has to be finished before the finding aid is completed, with just Marvin left to complete the last reboxing, refoldering, and folder listing.

In cleaning up my processing area I am finding things I stashed away during processing, not to integrate into the collection but because they represent a very ephemeral part of what archivists do, and I had a hard time throwing them out.  Perhaps a later blog post will illustrate some of the beautiful and weird paper clips that Federation used at different times between 1917 and whenever paperclips became more standardized.

But first I scanned a few of the empty folders and tabs I couldn’t bear to throw out without noting them in some way.  The contents of these folders were transferred a couple of years ago to new acid-free folders and probably relabeled. Or possibly the titles were retained. Once all the folder lists are combined into a  single final container list, I’ll be able to search for “CRANKS” and see if that folder title merited permanent retention. In fact at that point, with the finding aid and container list online, anyone will be able to search for any folder title or strange word they like and see if it exists among the tens of thousands of folder titles in this collection.

Favorite folders - CRANKS

Favorite Folders – CRANKS

I know that we came across a number of folders over the past four years that made reference to mail that had been received that was either troubling, or from a troubled soul not seeking help from Federation but on an opposite side of some philosophical or political issue, real or otherwise.  These other folders would have been called “White Mail” or “Unsolicited Correspondence” or hidden within a series of correspondence folders, making a title like “CRANKS” really stand out. Being handwritten, probably the only handwritten folder title in a box of folders with neatly typed titles also made it stand out. I assume it was handwritten because it was not a formal folder title; the executive who was dealing with its contents just scribbled a title himself and left it on his desk to work on, rather than handing it to his secretary to integrate into the departmental files.

Favorite folders - Eliminated Societies

Favorite folders – Eliminated Societies

This next image is a folder tab from a very brittle and dusty folder from about 1920. “VI Eliminated Societies” is also handwritten, but one of an entire years’ worth of handwritten folder titles, definitely a formal folder title and labeled very formally and neatly.  It is also numbered as if it were an official category, which at that time in the ‘teens or 1920s it must have been, until Federation settled into a more stable and comfortable relationship with their affiliated agencies.

As the project slowly winds down, we have been discussing the things we’ve learned from and noticed about this collection.  One of the most ephemeral things is simply how folders are labeled, what that says about the institution, and what it says about the time and place a particular person wrote a particular title on a folder in a particular way. One thing I’ve been very aware of is how the documents and other materials in this collection reflect that time and that person and that institution, and how all of that affects the content itself.  Our hope is that we are presenting the collection so it is easily accessible, but also as an intriguing series of snapshots of an ordinary office over time, vanished except for the records a lot of people so carefully kept.

July 1, 2015

“The Federation City”

Filed under: found in the archives — Tags: — susanwoodland @ 2:57 pm

Mrs. Louis Morberg with a 1961 Federation City Map

Through its history, Federation issued maps showing the range of their affiliated agencies across the New York metropolitan area. Some iterations were closely based on earlier maps and were simple updates. In 1961 a stylized version of the New York City map became the basis of a design overhaul; this version was updated a few times in the 1970s, with further updates probably through the 1980s.  The different versions of these maps that have turned up in the collection during processing have been digitized and made available online.

Federation City map, circa 1970s

Federation City map, circa 1970s

The map above, undated but clearly from the 1970s, was selected as the starting point for an interactive map of Federation agencies. We chose to maintain the stylized look of this map, which is not to scale, and have therefore not used strict global positioning of the pins on the map. Instead, the pins, each representing one location of a specific agency, are located generally in the correct part of a borough or in the general vicinity of its location in an outlying county around New York City.  Federation’s reach eventually extended to Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey, particularly for summer camps and other facilities responding to a community need, and this is reflected in the map.

We extracted a large amount of data from the collection itself, primarily addresses of the agencies and the dates of their affiliation with Federation – this information was readily available in the voluminous annual agency budget files processed early in the project and which you may remember from earlier posts.  We have also included histories of many of the agencies, with information pulled from various publications and files in the collection, which appear in pop-ups when you click on a specific agency.  Where photographs of the agency buildings exist, they have been added to the histories. Before the end of the project we plan to add more histories and photos as they are available. Until an agency has a linked history, just the name of the agency will appear when you click on the pin or when you click on the name on the sidebar.

Working with our website developers, A+R Media Studio, LLC, has been an exciting experience, not least because of the enhancements they suggested that have made the map even more interactive than originally planned.

When you play around with the map, make sure to adjust the timeline across the bottom.  If you set it on the shortest date range and start it all the way to the left, press the arrow to start an animated picture of Federation’s growth and reach during the 20th century. If you set the timeline for the longest date range, and filter the categories on the sidebar on the left to “select all”, you will see all of the agencies through all of Federation’s history. Click on an agency name on the sidebar to see where it is on the map.  Or click on a pin on the map to see the name of the agency.

We hope you will agree that this map works as a visual reminder of how large an impact Federation has had in the field of social services throughout New York City, and how that impact grew over time.

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May 26, 2015

Straw Hats – a summer story

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 4:30 pm

After a sunny and warm Memorial Day, our thoughts are turning to summer hats.

In 1940, one or more of Federation’s affiliated homes for the aged purchased 75 straw hats, presumably for their male residents, through Federation’s Joint Purchasing Agency.  The letter below was sent to a Mr. Bernstein, probably in the Joint Purchasing department, encouraging swift payment to the hat company.  Hopefully the check was in the mail and crossed with this letter.

1940 Lowenstein correspondence

1940 Lowenstein correspondence

The letter survived because it ended up in the files of the Executive Vice-President (EVP) Solomon Lowenstein.  Lowenstein’s surviving files are fragmentary, taking up fewer than 4 boxes – just a small portion of his correspondence and subject files considering he was EVP at Federation from 1920 until his death in 1942. (His title was Executive Director from 1920-1935, but under both titles he was the professional leader of Federation for 22 years.)

The company that supplied the hats was Adam Hats, a manufacturer and retailer of what seems to have been many styles of men’s hats.  In 1940 Adam Hat Stores’ administrative offices were at 651-659 Broadway, a block and a half north of Houston Street and less than 2 1/2 miles from 47th street.  Not far for a check to travel.

Attached to the letter was a copy of the invoice:


invoice, $59.38 for 75 straw hats

In 1940 Federation supported a few “old age homes” in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged on west 105th and 106th streets in Manhattan, now called Jewish Home Lifecare.  The correspondence refers to a generic “Home for the Aged”, leading us to believe that the hats were sent to several different senior residences.

We saw no mention of women’s hats in the files, but presumably they were ordered from a women’s hat maker, and presumably the check for those hats found its way more promptly to its destination.

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April 30, 2015

Joint Purchasing Corporation Newsletter, 1974

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 3:43 pm

The Joint Purchasing Corporation (JPC) of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies was established in 1922, just 5 years after the formation of Federation (until 1944 called the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City).  According to a UJA-Federation pamphlet from 1989-1992 when UJA-Fed was considering an alternative structure for shared services, JPC was established as “a not-for-profit corporation to serve primarily the procurement needs of the institutions supported by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York”.

JPC started a newsletter in the 1970s.  In Volume II No. 2 dated May 1974, among other articles “The J.P.C. Exchange” lists as items available from Federation member agencies to other Federation agencies a diverse group of items which includes:

3 Security Guard Shacks … rarely used …

Motorola Paging System … first reasonable offer gets it

Blickman coffee urn

6 racks to hold 9″ plastic covers

Joint Purchasing Corporation Exchange, May 1974

Joint Purchasing Corporation (JPC) Exchange, May 1974

Sent along with the May 1974 newsletter was an Index of Purchase Arrangements, listed by type of object.  On the “Laundry & Linen Supplies & Equipment” page it is interesting to see that Altro Work Shops, then an agency of Federation, is listed as the supplier for uniforms.

Laundry & Linen Supplies & Equipment, May 1974

Laundry & Linen Supplies & Equipment, May 1974

And on the Nutrition Supplies & Equipment – Food” page the list of Jewish-style and kosher foods is evocative of the era and geographic location in New York.

Nutrition Supplies & Equipment - Food, May 1974

Nutrition Supplies & Equipment – Food, May 1974

A recent blog post on the Urban Mass Transit Act (UMTA) of the 1960s discusses another aspect of JPC’s reach, in assisting Federation agencies in buying cars and vans at lower prices through grants from UMTA.  An earlier post, on Federation’s Research Committee in the 1960s, mentions joint purchasing as a subject for future study.

JPC “opened its doors to all not-for-profit institutions and agencies in the New York Metropolitan area” in 1976, and soon after began opening offices in other cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.  “The value of a shared service organization is based on effective, cooperative procurement techniques and the economies of volume contracting”, according to the 1989-1992 pamphlet.

Listed as services in the pamphlet were programs for the purchase of fuel oil, furniture and equipment, travel services, asbestos abatement, medical/surgical purchasing, computer maintenance, and many other services that were of value to the varied agencies in the Federation network.  By about 1990, UJA-Federation was considering a new model for shared services, under the leadership of Bonnie Shevins, Executive Director of Shared Services and Administration.  The files on the meetings and decisions made in connection with shared services after the merger have recently been processed and are available for research.

It appears that JPC exists today as Healthcare Supplyside Solutions, based in New York City but no longer at the UJA-Federation headquarters, according to the JPC website.

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April 9, 2015

Happy Passover (Part 2)!

Filed under: audio-visual material, found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — Heather Halliday @ 11:06 am

As we arrive at the last few days of the festival of Passover, we wanted to take the opportunity to share with you this novel Passover-themed fundraising appeal envelope that looks just like matzo! This and other samples of direct mail fundraising appeals can be found within the UJF Marketing and Communications subseries.

Passover fundraising mailer, 1998.

Passover fundraising mailer, 1998.

The UJA-Federation Archivists wish you a chag sameach and a joyous Passover!

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March 12, 2015

Asset studies, inactive records, and archives

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:34 pm

While processing administrative and subject files of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Legal Department, I encountered several subject files labeled “Asset Study.” A few years after the merger between United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York and Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, the Legal Department cooperated with other departments to create a comprehensive list and accompanying data related to the assets, including real estate, held by UJA-Federation and all of its predecessor organizations.

To that end, in April 1990, James L. Rothkopf contacted Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze, the UJA-Federation’s record manager and archives consultant, to assist in finding documentation within the organization’s inactive records stored in their building and off-site storage. And, much like a reference request or inquiry sent to an archival repository, Pomrenze identified resources within the philanthropic organization’s inactive records to find information on real estate and tangible assets.

Correspondence for James L. Rothkopf from Seymour Pomrenze, April 26, 1990

Correspondence for James L. Rothkopf from Seymour Pomrenze, April 26, 1990

As inactive records went into storage, either on or off-site, a List of File Folder Titles (LFFT), which listed the contents of each box, was placed in the box and also photocopied and retained by UJA-Federation. With the assistance of these LFFTs, Pomrenze and others could identify a list of knowledgeable persons, pinpoint the location of relevant records, create copies of lists of files and boxes with records “retired” (sent to storage) by knowledgeable persons, and help determine where information might be kept by the county or state governments related to property and land registries.

Redacted version of List of Knowledgeable Persons, prepared by Seymour Pomrenze, April 1990

Redacted version of List of Knowledgeable Persons, prepared by Seymour Pomrenze, April 1990

With the names and LFFTs of knowledgeable persons, such as heads of departments, comptrollers, counsels, employees and consultants, the Legal Department could locate information by box and strategically recall boxes out of off-site storage to review and collate data on real estate and other assets held by UJA-Federation or its predecessor organizations and affiliated agencies.

In addition to any of the assets identified within the early 1990s study, it is important to remember what an asset (or benefit) it is to have organizational records under intellectual control stored in a safe, ideally climate-controlled, environment for later inquiries from both the organization that created the records and researchers alike.

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February 25, 2015

“Uncle Henry” and the Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Filed under: audio-visual material, early history, found in the archives, the process of archival processing — Tags: , , , — Heather Halliday @ 3:56 pm

In processsing any collection as massive as that of the UJA-Federation of New York, an archivist is bound to encounter files that fall slightly beyond the expected scope of the project once in a while. Case in point: a folder found in the Federation Photographs sub-series titled “Irene Kaufmann Settlement.” Here is one our favorite images from this folder:

Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Milk give away event at Irene Kaufamann Settlement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 1927

This file contains 16 other photographs, as well as historical background on the Irene Kaufmann Settlement (IKS), and biographical information on Henry Kaufmann.

When I first encountered the folder, I presumed IKS was one of over a hundred organizations in the New York City area that Federation had funded during the 20th Century. I had seen appearances of the Kaufmann surname in various other parts of the collection and I knew that FJP of New York funded the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, a group of day camps with locations in Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Staten Island, which are still in operation today.

hkc 061453 100

Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds dedication invitation, 1953

After that first cursory glance, however, I realized that IKS was actually not located in New York City – or even anywhere nearby – but rather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! Henry Kaufmann, known affectionately to many as “Uncle Henry,” became wealthy through his family’s successful downtown Pittsburgh department store, Kaufmann’s. Henry put up the initial capital to build the Irene Kaufmann Settlement in 1909, naming it after a daughter of his who had met an untimely death. He continued to contribute funding to IKS over the years, as did the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Pittsburgh. A short history of IKS can be seen here on the Rauh Jewish Archives of the Heinz History Center’s website. This is the same person after whom the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in the New York City area are named. Kaufmann retired relatively early from the retail business in 1913 and devoted the remaining four decades of his life to philanthropic giving in Pittsburgh and New York, so it is easy to see how a file on a Pittsburgh community center found its way into the UJA-Federation of New York archives.

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

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February 22, 2015

When did we learn to trust e-mail?

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 10:52 pm

Sherri Greenbach was an executive in the Development Division at UJA-Federation in 1994 and 1995.  She may have worked at UJA-Federation longer than these 2 years but just one box of her files has become part of the the archives project.  These files document Sherri’s work planning fundraising events for the Women’s Division campaign.  It appears that Sherri was primarily involved in fundraising with the Lawyer’s Division, but none of those files have surfaced to date.

In her work on the Women’s Division campaign during this time, Sherri corresponded regularly with Jodi Schwartz, a lay leader involved with a particular event in March of 1995.  In addition to details of these fundraising events in Sherri’s files, it is also possible to identify the moment a new technology was taking hold in the UJA-Federation offices.

This document is a fax cover sheet from March 7th ….

Sherri's cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail

Sherri’s cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail


Sherri wrote in her note on the cover sheet, “I am not yet overly confident in my ‘cyberspace’ skills.  Hopefully it worked but in case it didn’t, here is a copy.”

And here’s the e-mail she printed out and faxed, which (probably later) was edited by hand:

E-mail that was faxed

E-mail that was faxed

Just one week later, Sherri seemed much more comfortable with e-mail, as seen in her March 13th “I love this e-mail stuff” e-mail:

"I love this e-mail stuff!"

“I love this e-mail stuff!”


The adoption of e-mail in place of faxing brings to mind Heather’s December post on Federation’s early work on their own website, in 1998.

Technology began to change rapidly in the late 1990s as more of our documentation was created in electronic form only.  Questions of what have we may have lost come to mind.  In moving to e-mail and electronic communication, does it matter that we will no longer see someone’s handwriting on a fax?  Or doodles on pages of notes or meeting agendas?  Have we lost anything of value, as long as we are able to preserve and maintain and continue to access the content itself?  Are we sure, yet, that we will be able to preserve, maintain and continue to access the electronic files we depend on? Digital archivists are hard at work figuring out best practices to make sure that people interested in researching post-2000 files will in fact be able to do so.

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