The Philadelphia Record news clippings morgue

About 90% of materials that will be included in the Greenfield digital project on the Bankers Trust Company of Philadelphia come from the Albert M. Greenfield Papers (collection 1959). The other 10% include items from other collections here at HSP that also provide information about the bank.

One such collection that Dana and I have decided to use is the Philadelphia Record news clippings morgue (3344). Like Temple’s Urban Archives, which owns the Evening Bulletin clippings morgue, HSP holds the clippings morgue of the Record, a Philadelphia daily newspaper that ran from 1877 to 1947.

This large collection, dating from 1918 until the newspaper ceased publication, could potentially provide a wealth of information for researchers. However, its current condition makes access an issue. The clippings, folded and contained in envelopes, are housed in about 30 filing cabinets and 30 cardboard/wooden drawers.

Filing cabinets, wooden drawers where clippings are housed

Although the clippings are organized by person and subject, no subject guide or inventory currently exists. And the clippings themselves are extremely brittle.

Dana and I thus had some issues to deal with in using the collection. The approximately 25 envelopes of clippings relating to Bankers Trust Company that we pulled were given to Conservation. The staff humidified and flattened the clippings so that we could make preservation photocopies of them onto archival quality paper. These copies of the articles are those that we will digitize for the project.

post conservation treatment

These newspaper articles not only enhance the information found in the Greenfield Papers by offering a human side to the story, but also help to fill in gaps concerning the story of Bankers Trust. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, one of these gaps deals with the failed efforts to reorganize the bank and its subsequent liquidation. Articles from the clippings morgue have given us a much better understanding of this period in the bank’s history.

This article was published the day Bankers Trust closed

Some clippings in the collection are from other local papers, including this article from the Public Ledger dated August 27, 1931 about the bank's reorganization efforts

Although articles from the Record clippings morgue will provide key information, one factor that Dana and I, and researchers, need to keep in mind is the paper’s potential bias on topics relating to Greenfield and Bankers Trust. Albert M. Greenfield played an integral role in the newspaper’s history, including serving as one of its primary supporters and financial contributors.

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HSP Civic Engagement Collections: A new NHPRC-funded project

This month HSP begins a new 26-month project to process and conserve fourteen collections related to civic engagement in Philadelphia and beyond. Willhem Echevarría has already started work as project archivist, and in December he will be joined by Leah Mackin as project preservation technician. Previously, both Willhem and Leah worked on our Chew papers project and Digital Center for Americana pilot project, and we’re fortunate that they’ll be continuing on with this new initiative.

In this blog post I’d like to talk about some of the reasons I’m excited about the Civic Engagement Collections project and efforts surrounding it.

Citizens' Permanent Relief Committee flyers

Flyers from Citizens' Permanent Relief Committee records, ca. 1890s


Working with great collections
The project deals with collections documenting a wonderful variety of people and organizations. These range from Albert Greenfield (real estate broker turned banker, politician, and philanthropist) to Morris Milgram (socialist activist turned integrated housing pioneer and developer of planned communities). From Anthony Biddle, Jr. (elite-born diplomat and military officer) to Max Weiner (who helped launch a grassroots consumer protection movement in the 1960s). The project includes the papers of reformers across three generations: Herbert Welsh, who from the 1870s to the 1930s tackled everything from imperialism to forestry to civil service rules; Richardson Dilworth and Natalie Saxe Randall, who helped lead Philadelphia’s political reform movement after World War II; and John Fryer, psychiatrist and gay rights activist, who in 1972 helped persuade the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Organizational collections in the project include the records of the Citizens’ Permanent Relief Committee, a late 19th century philanthropic group that aided people harmed by natural disasters, famine, war, or political repression; and the Indian Rights Association, which played a key lobbying role from the 1880s to the 1930s around its paternalistic aim to “bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship.” There are also six decades of records of the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia, which promoted women’s political participation and took stands on issues ranging from child care and public education to the United Nations and the Marshall Plan.

I’m especially pleased that this project will enable us to digitize 160 hours of phonograph recordings from the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission, a pioneering civil rights coalition formed in 1941. To help promote its multi-cultural ideals, in the 1940s and 50s the commission sponsored a series of radio plays, stories, and interviews with people of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The Civic Engagement project will make these recordings publicly accessible for the first time since they were broadcast.

Highlighting our 20th-century holdings
While HSP is rightly famous for our pre-20th century collections, the fact that we also have rich collections up through the late 20th century receives much less attention. For example, most of the applications to our research fellowship program (a collaboration with the Library Company of Philadelphia) focus on our pre-20th century collections. The Civic Engagement project – which primarily deals with 20th century collections — is part of our plan to change all that.

A related effort is our recently launched Greenfield Project, funded by the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. This will endow a research fellowship in 20th-century history and create a web portal focusing on 20th-century collections and featuring related interpretive material. The Greenfield Project funding also covers archival processing work on the Greenfield Papers, which is part of the Civic Engagement project.

Max Weiner collection flyers

Flyers from Max Weiner collection on Consumer Education and Protective Association, ca. 1970s-1980s


Implementing “More Product, Less Process” (MPLP)
The Civic Engagement project is funded primarily by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grant-giving arm of the National Archives and Records Administration. The NHPRC has gone farther than any other major archives funder in embracing MPLP principles. To get NHPRC funding for a “detailed” processing project, including any descriptive work below the collection level, a repository has to ensure that virtually all of its collections are or will soon be open for research and locatable online. This embodies one of MPLP’s key tenets, that repositories should provide a basic, minimum level of access to all their collections before giving intensive attention to a select few. HSP’s Archives Department wholeheartedly endorses this approach. For the first time ever, we will soon provide online collection-level descriptions for all our archival holdings, through a new online guide that will launch later this year.

Processing work on the Civic Engagement collections will be based on MPLP principles as well. This means that some practices will be streamlined to speed up processing and make more collections accessible more quickly. For example, collections may receive only rough arrangement below the sub-series level. Non-archival folders will be replaced only if they are damaged or do not fit in an archival box. And, yes, metal fasteners will be removed only if they are rusty or pose a hazard to users. Staff time for this project has been allocated based on an average of 2.6 hours per linear foot for processing work and 1.25 hours per linear foot for conservation work. HSP has five different processing levels that we use depending on the specific collection, and guidelines for this project are based on our Level 3 protocol, in the middle of the range.

Contributing to a regional effort
The Civic Engagement project is interconnected with a consortial processing project that HSP is participating in. The PACSCL Hidden Collections project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, is processing collections at 24 institutions, including HSP. (PACSCL stands for Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries.) The two projects share the same processing methodology and were developed in close coordination with each other. HSP staff helped design the PACSCL project, establish its standards, and write its manual. PACSCL project staff, in turn, has helped to train HSP staff in the use of MPLP principles and Archivists’ Toolkit. Two collections in the Civic Engagement project (League of Women Voters of Philadelphia and the World War II collection) will be processed by PACSCL project staff at HSP, working alongside HSP staff. This type of interchange enriches our work and helps us see our tasks as part of a regional effort.

Leather Conservation Workshop with Don Rash

Last month, the Conservation Department welcomed Don Rash for a leather conservation workshop.  Rash is an esteemed fine binder and book artist who works out of Wyoming, PA.

Many of the library’s collections contain leather-bound volumes in various states of disrepair.  Some common examples are loose or detached covers and spines and red rot. Over the course of two days, Don shared with us a variety of treatment options for leather-bound books, conservation techniques, information about materials, and the history of many leather bindings.  Here are a handful of photos from the workshop – only a portion of topics covered in the workshop!

Detatched covers and partial spine - a great candidate for rebacking!

Don lifts the leather on the detached board. A new paper spine will be slipped under the leather on the covers.

Don watches as Preservation Technician Watsuki Harrington practices paring leather.

The detached cover of a book has been treated with a solution called Klucel-G that is applied to consolidate red rot leather.

A wheat paste poulitce is applied to remove the leather of a tightback spine.

The wheat paste softens the leather and the spine can be scraped clean.

New cords are pasted to the spine and sewn in place.

The new cords are fanned and pasted onto the boards (under lifted leather).

A paper spine is adhered and is being tied down until dry.

A matching japanese paper is wrapped around the spine.

Before & After: 1807 Land Agreement from the Louis H. Carpenter Collection

When the Conservation Department received this 1807 land agreement from the Louis H. Carpenter Collection, it looked like this:

The pages were practically impossible to handle without furthering tears and crumbling the fragile edges.

After removing the silk ribbon and unbinding the sewing, I dry-cleaned each page carefully.  Then, I placed the covers and pages in humidification chambers and flattened them under weights. Silk mending tapes were removed and the pages were dry-cleaned again to remove dirt left from the silk.   I mended tears and reinforced troublesome edges on the pages with toned tengucho, a very light Japanese paper. The covers received similar mends with a heavier Japanese paper, sekishu, which was also toned to match.

And now onto the next project!

Getting lost in the details…

For the past month, I have been working with maps from the General George Meade collection. Four large, flat Hollinger boxes contained hundreds of maps and large documents that range in date from the early 1830s through the Civil War.  The maps require individual treatment and I have enjoyed being able to soak in the aesthetic quality of the maps. While most of the maps are printed, there are a number of manuscript maps and surveys. These are the maps I appreciate the most – I love looking at the intricate patterning, line work and application of colors.  Enjoy the following photographs of hand-drawn details from various maps from the collection.

Click on the images to view larger.

General Meade’s Correspondence Books

One of the larger collections in the DCA Project is the Meade collection.  The collection contains a number of volumes, nearly twenty of  which are the General’s  correspondence books dated from the early 1860s through the late 1860s.  The books are all of the same make and appear to be all the same state of disrepair.

Letter books in their old housing

Broken spine

Loose folios

The volumes had been housed together in Hollinger boxes. The spines of each are broken, folios are loose, and the books have collected their fair share of dust and dirt over the years.  After vacuuming and dry cleaning the pages fully, the text block is removed from the case. Each outer folio of a signature is guarded and the text block is sewn together again.

Sewing

Lining the spine with Japanese papers

Since the cases are in fairly good condition, the newly sewn text block is set back into its case.  Each volume receives its own custom-made multi-use box.

Rebound!

Rehoused volume