thiscangobacktothearchives

August 28, 2015

Audiovisual Material

We are happy to report that our entire audiovisual (AV) collection is processed! We have nine boxes of AV materials, including audio reels, cassettes, records, 16mm films, floppy disks, VHS tapes, CDs, wire recordings, and microfilm.

Here’s a breakdown of how we process AV material:

  1. We find AV items mixed in with the regular collection, or acquire larger items (such as the 16mm film reels) in their own containers that are usually not preservation-friendly.
  2. We remove the AV item and place one copy of a transfer form in its original location, and keep the other copy with the item. This way, we can note the intellectual location of the item, even though it will not physically be housed in its correct subgroup and series.
  3. We try to deduce the content of the AV item, and make some decisions regarding the importance of keeping and also digitizing the item. Some items are labeled (though labels aren’t always correct) and some are not. Based on labeling and original location in the collection, if an item seems important — such as Board minutes — we listen to it or view it and, if necessary, create a digital version. Some items may not have content on them at all (blank cassettes, for example), or may have degraded so much that they are unable to be viewed or listened to. These items are weeded from the collection.
  4. In order to be efficient and cost effective when digitizing, we group materials by format and determine the best vendor for the process. We are lucky enough to have much equipment to play and digitize various media here at the Center for Jewish History, including cassette players, record players, disk drives, etc, though we did (and many other repositories do) send out certain formats for digitization. For our films and audio reels, we used MediaPreserve. Once a digital file has been created, we ingest the file into our digital asset management system and gather metadata about the digital version. This digital file has now become its own item in our collection, and is publicly available through the Center for Jewish History’s Digital Collections.
  5. When the digitization process is complete, we carefully rehouse the AV item with its transfer form, usually with materials of the same format, in preservation friendly containers. Some materials (like cassettes and diskettes) can be stored together, while other materials (like 16mm film) are prone to decay and should be housed individually. We also try to keep digitized items in separate boxes for easier retrieval.
  6. We then create a separate AV folder list to keep track of the AV boxes and their contents and location, and connect all digital versions to their physical counterparts through links in our regular folder lists. In addition to our digitized films, below are some links to other digitized AV items of interest in the collection, and in case you forgot what some of these old AV formats look like, at the very bottom are photographs!

FJP Executive Committee Special Meeting on Merger, 1985

UJA Stars for Israel fundraising event at Madison Square Garden (featuring Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits), 1967

UJA Campaign Radio Spots, 1974

UJA Council of Organizations Yiddish Radio Programs, 1976

UJF Taskforce on the Jewish Woman: Conference on Women and Leadership, 1987

UJF Taskforce on Mixed Marriage, Speaker Egon Mayer, 1986

Audio reel

Audio reel

16mm film

16mm film

Wire recording

Wire recording

Video Umatic

Video Umatic

June 12, 2015

Elaine K. Winik, First Woman President of UJA Greater New York

I’m Boni Joi Koelliker, the Photograph and Reference Archivist at the American Jewish Historical Society, and this week I am excited to be the guest blogger. I was available to work with Elaine Winik when her donation was ready for transfer. The following is my account of my meeting with Elaine and the opportunity I had to go through the albums and documents with Elaine herself.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with Elaine K. Winik, the first woman President of the UJA of Greater New York (1982-1984), to survey the materials she donated to the UJA-Federation NY collection. Mrs. Winik documented her time serving as UJA President by creating over a dozen albums that are part photographs, part ephemera and include correspondence, itineraries, notes, mementos, and UJA fundraising materials.

One advantage of an onsite visit with a donor is discovering additional materials relevant to the collection and being able to hear first hand about the context of the materials. This was the case with Elaine; while sorting through her papers we found a plastic bag full of audiocassettes containing speeches and interviews she gave during her tenure. Elaine Winik is known for her speeches so this was an auspicious find. She also donated correspondence, writings describing her experiences working with UJA, and notes she took on her trips to Israel and Russia. I was delighted to hear the stories of Elaine’s time working with UJA in person.

Below are photographs of the items before sorting and after waiting to be packed and shipped to AJHS.
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Raised in New York Elaine Winik retired to Palm Beach, FL a couple of decades ago but at ninety-two years old she continues to campaign for the causes for which she advocates. She is an honorary officer of the UJA-Federation of New York, an honorary board member of the Joint Distribution Committee, and describes herself as a fierce Democrat. To learn more about Elaine K. Winik, listen to her oral history in the UJA-Federation of New York Oral History Collection.

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We received this wonderful plaque, above, of Elaine Winik (aka Mrs. Elaine Siris with Moshe Dayan) serving as the Co-Chairman of the Jewish Agency Assembly Plenary Session in Jerusalem February 7, 1973. 

March 30, 2015

Resolution of materials lost in the warehouse fire

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 11:20 am

In a blog post in February I wrote about the fire at the warehouse where our boxes were stored for many years before this project began.  For the past 3 1/2 years our workflow has been to bring 100-200 boxes into our offices at a time where we do what we do with files (officially called “processing”).  As I mentioned in the February post, we had 305 boxes remaining in storage before the fire.

We requested delivery of the remaining boxes in two shipments; the final count of boxes lost in the fire was 123.  For the most part the lost boxes were scattered among the different departments represented in those 305 boxes, but a high percentage were from Overseas Services, Immigrant Services, Administration and Government Relations.  Except where there were fewer than 5 boxes from a department, at least some of the material in each department survived; we will in the end have a slightly smaller snapshot of the work of these departments.  The largest portion of these records is from the second half of the 1990s.

To look at the loss of these boxes philosophically, records from many non-profit organizations that are ultimately transferred to the archives for permanent retention seem to have survived almost at random.  UJA-Federation of New York was more organized than many non-profits, having engaged the services of a consulting archivist for many years – Colonel Seymour Pomrenze, who we have written about in this blog before.  The colonel determined the fate of many of UJA-Federation’s older files in an organized, professional manner.  Because of his professionalism many of the hundreds of boxes of files that were not of permanent value were destroyed long ago, saving UJA-Federation thousands of dollars in storage fees.

The  material that remained and which became the core of this archives project, is in the process of becoming the permanent record of the legacy of UJA- Federation of New York and its predecessor organizations.  What files ultimately remain is what historians have to sift through to tell the story of an organization – a movement, a certain time in a community when a group of men and women took care of those less fortunate than themselves.  The surviving files, whether through careful determination according to a retention schedule or to random placement in a warehouse, become what we ultimately learn and remember about the past.

Map of organizations funded by UJA-Federation terrorism response grants after 9/11

Map of organizations in lower Manhattan funded by UJA-Federation’s “Terrorism Response” grants after 9/11 – from the Wiener Educational Center files that survived the warehouse fire in January

February 25, 2015

“Uncle Henry” and the Irene Kaufmann Settlement

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.

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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

February 10, 2015

The Value of Valuing Archives

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 12:36 pm

Our previous post ended with a general comment on the value of archives:

Whether for the sake of development, public relations, analysis, or reporting: archives, especially those housed in a climate controlled environment in an archival repository, have limitless value both to researchers and the institution that created those records.

This statement is more meaningful than ever in light of the disastrous fire at a warehouse holding some of the remaining UJA-Federation of New York files for this project.  Starting early in the morning of Saturday January 31st, by the afternoon it had become a seven-alarm fire with 300 firemen rotating in and out of active firefighting in below freezing conditions.  A week later the fire was still smoldering.

As of today, we still don’t know which material survived the fire.  Fortunately, the larger of the two warehouses (and all the files in it) UJA used is unharmed.

We are extremely fortunate that more than 90% of the collection has already been removed from storage, most of which is already processed and available for research. Because UJA-Federation of New York understands the importance of their institutional history, especially as they begin planning their centennial in 2017, their earliest surviving history is safe and secure in a climate-controlled warehouse and is accessible not only to UJA-Federation but to all qualified researchers.

Fewer than 10% of the boxes from this project (305 of over 3200) remained in storage; most of the files are from the 1990s, after the merger.  Our expectations are that the files that have survived will offer at least a snapshot of each of the departments whose files were part of the project.

October 23, 2014

Cultural Arts at Federation

The files of the Cultural Arts Department in the Community Services Division (8 Bankers boxes) at Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP) were recently processed. From 1979 to 1986, the date range of files in the collection, the Cultural Arts Coordinator (CAC) position at Federation was held by three people: Terry E. Sutton (1979-1981), Jeanne B. Siegel (1981-1984), and Rabbi Daniel Landsman (1984-1986). The CAC position was established under the Community Centers and Y’s umbrella and it is unclear whether the position continued after the merger of Federation with UJA in 1986. No additional files have been found.

According to the documentation, prior to 1979 FJP and its agencies had limited involvement or interest in Jewish arts and culture programming. It was not until the 1970s that Federation began to encourage agency programming that emphasized a Jewish component. For example, in the field of Jewish Education, outreach to unaffiliated Jews and informal Jewish education was a low priority goal. In 1979 FJP began to expand its role into the area of Jewish arts and culture when they obtained a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for $5,000. It was this grant that served as the leverage for obtaining an additional $22,500 from three outside foundations. In 1980, the Cultural Arts Committee of Federation created an incentive grant program to see if seed grants could influence new initiatives in agency programming in the Cultural Arts.

From 1980 to 1985, the CAC compiled the “Guide to the Arts and Culture: The New York Jewish Experience”, a listing of Jewish art events in New York. It was published in The Jewish Week, and cosponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC) and the Jewish Art Subsidy Fund (JASF). It started out as a quarterly four page supplement and became a weekly full page feature. Even if one could not attend the concerts, plays, lectures, or special events, it made one feel that there was something exciting going on. In 1983, the first of three Jewish Arts Festivals of Long Island was held, and the William Petschek Music Fund was established, both demonstrating Federation’s new commitment to the Jewish arts.

The Cultural Arts Coordinator was a leader and specialist in the cultural and arts worlds. The CAC acted on behalf of Federation to carry out a variety of functions in providing assistance to agencies and coordinating activities throughout the metropolitan area. The Coordinator provided technical assistance to arts workers at Federation’s community centers and other agencies, through individual consultation, workshops and seminars. Topics included the use of media, grantsmanship and public relations. In addition to coordinating activities and programs among the community centers, the CAC created a clearinghouse for the performing artists who joined Federation’s affiliate artists program, to encourage the development of programs by individual centers throughout the New York City area. In 1984, the clearinghouse turned into a directory of Jewish Artists, a published resource guide for agencies’ use. Finally, the Coordinator participated in fundraising to help agencies submit proposals to government sources.

The Cultural Arts files are interesting for their coverage of different facets of arts and culture and for giving a flavor of the Jewish arts scene in the 1970s and early 1980s. There are many files on the directory, which was called, “In The Jewish Tradition: Directory of Performing Artists.” Included are the files and photographs of artists who were included in the Directory as well as files of artists to be published in its Supplement. The artists were exclusively performing artists, including actors/actresses, singers, mimes, storytellers and poets. Below are several images from the Artists’ directory files.

Aida Weiss

Aida Weiss, international songstress

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Joe Elias (folksinger)

Joe Elias, folksinger

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

October 13, 2014

Tubby Stayman

Filed under: audio-visual material, the process of archival processing, UJF people — Heather Halliday @ 9:47 am

During the course of processing a set of UJF portrait photographs recently, I discovered these two images of Mrs. Samuel M. Stayman, a.k.a Tubby Stayman.

Two portraits of Tubby Stayman from 1970 and 1983, found in UJF / Marketing and Communications/ Photographs / Portraits

Two portraits of Tubby Stayman from 1970 and 1983, found in UJF / Marketing and Communications/ Photographs / Portraits

Regular readers of this blog will recall mention of Mrs. Stayman as the principal organizer of the annual UJA-Federation Bridge Tournament event, which has been a highly successful Women’s Division fundraising tool for UJA and UJF over the years. Coming across pictures of Tubby was one of those gratifying moments of collection connection that happen relatively rarely during the course of routine archival processing. Few things are more satisfying to an archivist than finding additional material on a previously noted person or event in a completely different part of the collection months later.

It is likely that this group of nine boxes of portrait photographs will present many opportunities for future researchers to make such connections in their own work since the UJF – Marketing and Communications – Photographs – Portraits subsubseries holds the images of over 6600 people, who will all be individually identified and searchable within the collection finding aid when our project is complete.

 

September 18, 2014

Updated FJP preliminary finding aid now available

Filed under: early history, the process of archival processing — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 2:28 pm

We are excited to announce that an updated but still-partial finding aid to the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP) subgroup I, covering the years 1909 to 1986, is now available here: http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=1944047.

FJP_blog_post_cropped

This preliminary finding aid describes material of over 500 Bankers boxes (over a football field in length).  The following sections of the collection are now available to researchers:

  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee – including links to the digitized files of all of these minutes
  • Files of the Executive Vice-Presidents
  • Finance Department Annual Agency files
  • Fundraising Department Campaign files – don’t miss the digitization of a wire recording of a 1957 campaign workshop
  • The Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities files – many of these files have been digitized and are linked to the finding aid

We anticipate that these areas will be of immediate interest to researchers.  Please note the following:

  • If you would like to go directly to the folder lists and the digital files, use this link to the downloadable container list.
  • If requesting boxes to see in the Reading Room, researchers are advised to use this form, with the reminder that boxes are off-site and must be requested at least 2 business days in advance of their visit
  • A link to the partial finding aid for the UJA-Federation (UJF) subgroup IV (1986-2000) can be found here: http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=2188444
  • And a link to the completed finding aid for the Oral History collection subgroup V can be found here: http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=365697

The completed finding aid to the entire FJP collection as well as the other subgroups will be available in the middle of 2015. Please stay tuned.

June 12, 2014

Retouching Update

Earlier this month I discussed the evidence of some rather heavy-handed old-fashioned photograph retouching work I have been encountering in the course of processing the UJA, UFJC, and FJP photographs subseries. Almost immediately after publishing this post, I found the most subtle example of retouching I have seen so far. It was particularly noticeable because there are two similar prints: one retouched, the other not. The unretouched photo appears immediately below and a very similar shot with slight retouching in the woman’s hair, blouse and hand can be seen below the first, if you study it for a moment.

FJP Miscellaneous

Here is a little closer view. The photographer or designer must have used a very fine paint brush.

Retouch Detail

So, some of the retouching work in this collection was quite subtle, at least occasionally. There is definitely less of this subtle variety overall, however.

Also since my previous post, I learned from a designer friend who is experienced with both digital and analog techniques that the opaque background paint that features prominently in a few of the photographs included in that post is Pro White Retouching Ink and it is apparently still available for sale. She likened the 20th Century use of Pro White to the contemporary use of the “silo” (short for “silhouette”) or “clipping path” Photoshop tools.

May 28, 2014

BPs (Before Photoshop)

Image

I realize there are adults alive today who do not remember life before Photoshop. Though it seems like just yesterday to some of us, Photoshop version 1.0 was first introduced over 24 years ago! Before its existence, photographers and graphic designers who wished to remove imperfections or make improvements to their photographs were forced to either practice the skill known as “retouching” or “airbrushing” themselves or hire a professional to handle the task. Here is a brief discussion of the art of retouching based on a book titled Shortcuts to Photo Retouching for Commercial Use, published in 1946. And here is a fuller review of this handbook.  The line, “DON’T DO TOO MUCH!” from the book resonates well with my own minimal experience with photo retouching.

As a photography major in art school in the early 1990s, I was taught the basics of retouching. I remember clearly Professor Dennis Buck laying out all the materials we would need: fine brushes, a magnifying loop, water, and Spot Tone, a special type of transparent dye that photographic emulsion can absorb. He also advised us not to attempt to touch up our prints first thing in the morning, suggesting instead, “Be relaxed when you do it. Put on some music. Pour a glass of wine.” Subtlety was the name of the game. The rule for fine art photographers seemed to be: the less noticeable it was, the more successful your retouching work had been.

This rule did not seem to apply at all for graphic artists and for photographs being published in newspapers. Retouching has been on my mind lately as I process my way through many boxes of UJA and UFJC photographs. There are so many examples of highly unsubtle retouching in these files: backgrounds completely obscured by heavy opaque paint; body parts added or removed; individual people taken away from crowded group shots; and (my favorite) eyes uncannily repainted over blinking eyelids. A few examples follow below…

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Image

Image

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eyes glasses 2

eyes004

UFJC - portraits - Albert Da Costa

 

The bolder approach suited images being mechanically reproduced in print. Holding these touched-up original prints, viewing them close up with the naked eye reveals heavy-handed alterations. But these alterations would not be noticeable when the image is greatly reduced in size and printed using the halftone process in ink on newsprint.

background006

background007

 

It seems that the graphic artists at work in the Public Relations department of the Joint Campaign frequently employed a variety of artists’ materials, including non-archival, opaque paints, as seen in the examples above. In the unretouched print above, a silhouette-shaped stain has been left on the back of this print (seen on the left, above). The stain was created when the unmarked print was stored in the file on top of this retouched print for decades. Acids from the paint on the retouched print have transferred into the back of the non-retouched print. Busy backgrounds were not always painted directly away. Sometimes the work was done on a clear plastic mask, as in the example below, laid over top the original print, so that the image could be used with or without the addition. This resembles slightly the Photoshop concept of layers.

mask

The majority of prints in these files were never retouched, but those that were reveal a lot about retouching and printing techniques, and how the staff of the Joint Campaign used and changed the photographs in their files.

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