In 1999, photographer Vincent Giordano made an unplanned visit to the small Kehila Kedosha Janina (KKJ) synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side. He knew little about Judaism or synagogues, and even less about the Romaniote Jewish tradition of which KKJ, built in 1927, is the lone North American representative. In this he was not alone. Romaniotes are among the least known of Jewish communities. Beginning in 2001 and guided by members of the KKJ community, Giordano documented the synagogue and its religious art of the congregation using film, video, and audio. This included trips to Greece to document KKJ’s mother city of Ioannina, and its small Jewish community.
In 2019 the Giordano family donated the archive of Vincent’s work to Queens College, where it is a major part of the Hellenic American Project and is preserved as part of the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Special Collections and Archives has not yet processed the physical materials in the Vincent Giordano collection. Fortunately, we were able to use scans of Giordano’s prints and negatives to create a new online exhibit “Romaniote Memories, a Jewish Journey from Ioannina, Greece to Manhattan: Photographs by Vincent Giordano.” Many of these images have never been presented in public before.
The exhibition is curated by Samuel Gruber, President of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments and designed by Annie Tummino, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library. The opening reception, featuring a conversation with curators, distinguished guests, and friends, will take place via Zoom on Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5 pm (register here).
The exhibition is sponsored by the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, Hellenic American Project, and Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, as well as the International Center for Jewish Monuments, an independent non-profit organization. The Library and Center for Jewish Studies will be teaming up to offer a paid internship for a student to help process and catalog the Giordano collection during the next academic year.
Did you know that the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library is home to a collection of over 2000 rare books and manuscripts, the scope of which reflects the history of print culture over the past 600 years? Due to an unfortunate flood in the storage room where this collection was held, the materials became hazardous and were inaccessible for over a decade. Now, due to the generosity of Shirley Klein, a life-long bibliophile and loyal friend of Queens College, the entire collection has been remediated and will once again become an asset for the campus community.
Highlights of the collection include a 13th century manuscript copy of the medieval Persian poet Sa’di’s The Gulistan, 11 editions of Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha including the first edition printed in English in 1620, and three part-publications of Dickens novels including Dombey and Son (1848). There are over 600 titles of juvenile fiction from the late 19th to the first half of the 20th century, and many books autographed by the author, including some major ones, such as Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, and José María Arguedas.
In December the books were taken offsite, where trained technicians used advanced HEPA vacuums, chemical treatments, and other specialized cleaning techniques to remove mold from each of the 2,500 books, rendering them safe for access. The collection was originally slated for return in April, but the library was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, on September 18th, the rare books made their triumphant return to Rosenthal, delivered to our brand-new, climate controlled storage space on nine pallets.
Much work remains to be done to ensure that the collection is properly housed, shelved, and cataloged. For now, we celebrate the books’ return and express our gratitude to Shirley Klein for providing the library with resources needed to save the collection. Those who want a sneak peak can peruse digitized selections of more recent donations (unaffected by water damage) at https://www.jstor.org/site/queenscollegearchives/rarebooks/.
Queens College Library is proud to launch a new digital platform for its Special Collections and Archives in partnership with the JSTOR Open Community Collections initiative. The site launches with close to 700 digital objects from our civil right collections, institutional archives, and rare books and manuscripts. The content is openly accessible on the web through JSTOR, a scholarly database used by more than 81 million scholars and students across 170 countries and territories every year.
Working remotely this fall, Special Collections and Archives staff will catalog and upload hundreds of additional items to the site. Intern Kuba Pieczarski (funded by the Félix V. Matos Rodríguez Internship Fund) is expanding the new COVID-19 Collection documenting the experience of the Queens College community during the pandemic; Graduate Fellow Victoria Fernandez (funded by the Freda S. and J. Chester Johnson Endowment) is working with civil rights movement materials; and Archives Assistant and recent GSLIS graduate Caitlin Waldron is posting images of the campus through the decades.
The collections benefit from JSTOR’s features and interface, including full-text search; citation management tools; filtering and faceting; content download; and sharing. Make sure to check out the site at https://www.jstor.org/site/queenscollegearchives/, including the Silhouette yearbook form 1941-2011; original photographs documenting the involvement of Queens College students in the Civil Rights Movement of the early to mid 1960s; rare manuscripts from our “Pages from the Past” collection; and the scrapbooks of Dr. Andrew Greller, Professor Emeritus of Biology.
Queens College Library is proud to announce that Jeanie Pai, who served as a Graduate Fellow in Special Collections and Archives over the 2019-2020 academic year, is the 2020 recipient of the Donald Peterson Student Travel Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). As announced by SAA:
Established in 2005, the Donald Peterson Student Travel Award supports students and recent graduates from graduate archival programs within North America to attend SAA’s Annual Meeting. The goal of the scholarship is to stimulate greater participation in the activities of SAA, such as presenting research or actively participating in an SAA-sponsored committee or section.
Pai is a recent graduate of the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. Her SAA poster presentation is entitled, Paper Sons of the Chinese Exclusion Era. It describes her research into the history and experiences of paper sons, and how they contributed to the shaping of Chinese American communities. Her interests lie in emerging issues of inclusion and access, particularly toward resources for disadvantaged groups that are historically misrepresented. She is committed to recognizing the gaps in collections, and exploring honest ways to preserve the history of marginalized groups, including what archival materials to collect, how it is described, and who has access to the records. Pai’s belief is that active inclusion allows archivists to create democratic spaces where people of all backgrounds have agency and representation.
A supporter of Pai states, “She is genuinely motivated by the core values of social justice, ethics, inclusion, and access and will continue to be guided by them in her career.”
Pai is pictured (right) with Archives Fellow Tom Gubernat at the Memory Lab Bootcamp in Washington DC in January 2020. Pai and Gubernat’s Archives Fellowships in the Queens College LIbrary were funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
In Case You Missed It: Model Minority vs. COVID-19
On June 17, the Queens College Library partnered with the Queens Public Library to host a Queens Memory COVID-19 Project event, “Model Minority vs. COVID-19: Education Through Crisis, for Asians In America.” This virtual roundtable was moderated by incoming Queens College president Frank Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, and co-sponsored by the Asian/American Center at Queens College, and the Asian American/Asian Research Institute – CUNY. Panelists included Professor Joyce Moy, Executive Director of the Asian American and Asian Research Institute; Dr. Madhulika Khandelwal, Director of Asian/American Center; Dr. Vivian Louie, Director of the Asian American Studies Program and Center at Hunter College; and Dr. John Chin, Professor of Urban Policy and Planning and Director of the Graduate Urban Planning Program at Hunter College. Panelists had a fruitful discussion of the “model minority” myth, the current higher educational experience for Asians in America, racism during the pandemic, and how Asians in America can provide ally-ship and solidarity to other groups experiencing racial oppression.