Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: QC Faculty and Staff Oral History Project 

By Lori Wallach, Adjunct Archivist and Queens Memory Outreach Coordinator 

One of the primary functions of a college archive is to preserve and make accessible a record of the school’s past – its institutional history. At Special Collections and Archives (SCA), we do this through a variety of collections, such as those containing yearbooks; student publications; administrative records of numerous departments, schools, and programs; and items donated by individual faculty members and alumni. Of course, our Photograph Collection, which we are in the process of digitizing, provides an especially rich documentation of the college from its very earliest days.

Over the past several years, we’ve made a concerted effort to expand another type of institutional history – our oral history collection. Through our ongoing Queens Memory partnership with the Queens Public Library, we’re able to preserve both audio and video recordings and make them easily accessible to the public. These oral history interviews provide a fascinating firsthand look into the college’s history in the words and voices of those who lived and shaped it.

In 2019, we embarked on the Retired Faculty & Staff Oral History Project, an ambitious plan with two goals: 1) to actively pursue interviews with retired QC faculty, staff and administrators, and 2) to comb through our collections and solicit donations of earlier interviews that can be formatted for online access. Dr. Dean Savage, retired professor of sociology, has been instrumental in helping us locate many of his fellow QC retirees.

An important addition to our oral history collection is a set of interviews conducted in one of Dr. Bobby Wintermute’s history classes in 2013, to commemorate Queens College’s 75th anniversary. Dr. Wintermute donated the recordings and supporting documentation to SCA, and to date, we’ve processed and made accessible nine interviews, with several more to go. We were particularly delighted to find recordings with former QC President Saul Cohen and longtime history professor Dr. Martin Pine, both of whom have since passed on.

In this clip, former QC President Saul Cohen explains how he appealed directly to then-Governor Mario Cuomo for funding to construct a new building for the Aaron Copland School of Music.

Bette Weidman
Dr. Bette Weidman Founder of Oral History at QC

Among the important interviews in our collection are those with QC’s oral history pioneer Dr. Bette Weidman; Prof. Alexander Kouguell, who taught in QC’s music program for 68 years and recently celebrated his 102nd birthday; 50-year history professor and civil rights activist Dr. Frank Warren; and former QC President James Muyskens. Our current President Frank Wu and immediate past President William Tramontano also recorded interviews as part of our COVID-19 Project.

William Sales
Dr. William Sales
Former SEEK Director

Another component of our oral history collection comes from SCA’s larger SEEK History Project, which documents the history of QC’s Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Program from its inception in 1966. Over 15 interviews associated with the SEEK program have been conducted, and eight are fully processed, including those of former director Dr. Bill Sales, counselors Alan Townsend and Waldo Jeff, and faculty member Dr. Jessica Harris, all of whom were with the program in its earliest years. SCA recently selected two QC grad students to process additional SEEK interviews this summer. The students will be paid stipends from the department’s foundation funds.

Please do explore our full oral history collection! Catalog records for each interview, with links to the audio/video and transcripts, are located in our online archives database. If you are interested in volunteering to conduct an interview, would like to nominate someone to be interviewed, or have a previously recorded oral history to donate, please email us at qc.archives@qc.cuny.edu.

Dr. Peter Archer Visits Queens College Libraries 

On April 12, the Queens College Libraries hosted Dr. Peter Archer for an on-campus visit. We are happy to announce that Dr. Archer is organizing his personal papers for donation to the archives, including research documents, photographs, and mementos from his lengthy career as a musician, educator, and academic.  

Dr. Archer is widely known as the real NYC music teacher who inspired Disney-Pixar’s ‘Soul’.  As explained by the Daily News

Peter Archer, a band teacher for more than 30 years at Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens, served as a consultant on the movie, which has Jamie Foxx voicing Joe Gardner, a middle-aged teacher and musician. Archer, 58, helped pinpoint everything from the aesthetic of a middle school band classroom to the emotional tug of balancing a passion for music and a love of teaching. 

Here at Queens College, Dr. Archer is known as an alum with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Performance and a Master of Science degree in Music Education. While working on his doctorate for Boston University, Archer also spent many long days at the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library archives conducting research for his dissertation, The History of The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College: 1938-2010, which is available in the Music Library’s reference collection.  

Dr. Archer’s papers will join the collections of other prestigious ACSM faculty and alumni, including K. Robert Schwarz, Karol Rathaus, and Leo Kraft. We are thrilled that Dr. Archer is willing to add his own papers to our growing repository of valuable research materials! 


References:

Archer, P. A. (2014). The history of The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College: 1938-2010.
Michael Elsen-Rooney. (2020, December 31). Queens music teacher added heart and expertise to Pixar’s ‘Soul.’ New York Daily News. https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/ny-queens-middle-school-teacher-pixar-soul-20201231-ncoh6ojaz5gjbgjpkka2f5zvoy-story.html
Sandy Kenyon. (2021, January 13). Meet the real New York City music teacher who inspired Disney-Pixar’s “Soul.” ABC7 New York. https://abc7ny.com/peter-archer-real-life-soul-teacher-from-disney-and-pixar/9589572/

Archivist Annie Tummino featured in JSTOR video

In September 2020, the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library’s Department of Special Collections and Archives launched a partnership with JSTOR to share digitized primary sources on their Open Community Collections platform (more on the launch). Since the launch, the Queens College collection has grown from 700 accessible items to nearly 3,000.

In this video, Annie Tummino, Head of Special Collections and Archives, discusses collections featured on JSTOR, and how they are used by researchers, students, faculty, and the Queens College community.

Head of Special Collections and Archives Annie Tummino discusses sharing digitized materials on JSTOR Open Community Collections.

Digitized collections on JSTOR include The Silhouette, the annual yearbook of Queens College since 1941; activist ephemera; Civil Rights Movement photographs; commencement records, and more. For more information or to schedule an archives visit, see our Special Collections & Archives page on the library website or email us at qc.archives@qc.cuny.edu.

Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook Photo

by Caitlin Colban-Waldron, Adjunct Archivist

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we share one of the most-requested items from QC’s Special Collections and Archives department: the 1942 yearbook photo of graduating senior Marie Daly. In the photo, her hair is set carefully and a string of pearls rests around her neck. She looks determined, gazing out of the frame. Around her on the page are a sea of white faces; at the time, few Black students were enrolled at the college. 

Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook
Marie Maynard Daly Yearbook

In 1942’s yearbook (only the second ever graduating class at QC!), each senior portrait included an accompanying paragraph describing every student. Some were cheeky, some were resolute, some were optimistic. Marie Daly’s paragraph, though, was certain:

“A Queens College Scholar and one of those elite persons on the Dean’s list, MARIE DALY has an enviable record. She is a Chemistry major and a member of the Chemical Society. In her chosen career as a laboratory technician, she bears the mark of one likely to succeed.”

Marie Maynard Daly was a biochemist and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry in the United States. One of three children, she was born in Queens on April 6, 1921. She started her groundbreaking educational career at Queens College as an undergraduate from 1938-1942, then earned a graduate degree in chemistry from New York University in 1944, and, finally, completed her PhD in chemistry in 1947 at Columbia University.

Daly’s professional life took her to many places: she was an instructor at Howard University, an American Cancer Society fellow at the Rockefeller Institute, a researcher and professor at Columbia and then Yeshiva University (where she retired from in 1986), and served at places like the American Heart Association and Health Research Council of New York. Her work primarily focused on the chemistry of a cell’s nucleus and how our health can be impacted at that tiny, cellular level. She did important research on the effects of cigarette smoke on the workings of lungs, sugar on the health of arteries, and discovered how cholesterol contributes to heart attacks and oxygen blockages in the circulatory system.

In 1988, she started a scholarship for minority students at Queens College who want to study science at Queens College and named it after her parents, Ivan and Helen, who instilled a love of learning in her from a young age–her father had once taken chemistry courses at Cornell University and her mother was a passionate reader. You can still apply for that scholarship today!

Marie Maynard Daly Portrait
Marie Maynard Daly Portrait

Marie Maynard Daly’s story continues to inspire researchers, students, and science lovers. SCA has received requests for more information about her from everyone from high school students to the American Chemical Society to both highlight her contributions to biochemistry and celebrates her status as a trailblazer for women and people of color alike. This senior portrait, taken at the very beginning of her exceptional career, speaks to the women who may be finding their way in the science field at Queens College even now. We’re proud to have her as an alumnus.

View Maynard’s 1942 yearbook and other digitized materials from our collections.

References:

Spangenburg, R., Moser, K., & Otfinoski, S. (Eds.). (2012). Daly, Marie Maynard (1921–2003). In African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (pp. 54–55). Facts on File; Gale eBooks. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX2020100050/GVRL?sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=f16885b4
Wayne, T. K. (Ed.). (2011). Daly, Marie Maynard. In American Women of Science since 1900 (Vol. 1, pp. 327–328). ABC-CLIO; Gale eBooks. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX1760500155/GVRL?sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=8ec99f72

Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: Oral History with Soribel Genao

In celebration of Black History Month, this month we share an item from our digital shelves: an oral history with Soribel Genao.

Soribel Genao is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the Department of Educational and Community Programs at Queens College. The interview was conducted by Obden Mondésir on September 15, 2020. It touches on many subjects, including Genao’s upbringing in Manhattan and Brooklyn, her career at Queens College, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In this featured clip, she discusses the development of the Black and Latinx Faculty/Staff Association (BLFSA) at Queens College.

And we were on a Zoom call for two hours, just dissecting and understanding who we were, but the most beautiful part was, here we are on Zoom having the Black and brown faces of Queens College connect for the very first time in a very formal way.

You can watch the full interview on the Queens Memory Aviary portal. You can read the full BLFSA 2020 statement and call to action here.

Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: An Early Edition of Descartes’s Meditations

By Patricia Reguyal, Archives Assistant 

Considered “the founder of modern philosophy,” René Descartes is famous for the declaration, “I think, therefore I am.” (While this formulation is famous in Latin as “Cogito, ergo sum,” it was originally written in French as “Je pense, donc je suis.”) 

The SCA has Descartes’s Meditationes de Prima Philosophia. This book, as the title indicates, was first published in Latin in Paris in 1641, then updated and published again in Amsterdam in 1642. The item that the SCA has, also in Latin, was published in Amsterdam in 1685.  

Descartes made his famous argument in his first book, Discours de la Methode, which he published in 1637 and he reiterated and expounded on it in his Meditationes, his most popular book today, according to Descartes scholar Kurt Smith.  

Descartes died of a respiratory infection in 1650. His books were banned by the church in 1663. The item at the SCA was published in 1685 and, despite his early death, despite the banning, he continues to be read and discussed. Contemporary interpretations of his philosophy continue to be published in various academic journals and The Oxford Handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism, a collection of fifty essays from “an international group of leading scholars of early modern philosophy,” was published in 2019.  

The SCA copy is part of the collection that came from the old Klapper Library. It does not have the original binding but the textblock is in good condition.  

References

Smith, K. (2018). Descartes’ Life and Works. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive (Winter 2018 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/descartes-works/
Watson, R. A. (n.d.). René Descartes. In Britannica Academic. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Ren%C3%A9-Descartes/108563#article-contributors

Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: First Edition Serialization of a Dickens Masterpiece

By Patricia Reguyal, Archives Assistant 

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House was Charles Dickens’s ninth novel, and, according to Dickens scholar Paul Schlicke, “technically his most ambitious novel and widely held to be his masterpiece.”  The novel had four important editions while Dickens was alive—as monthly serials from 1852 to 1853 (in twenty parts that came out in nineteen pamphlets because the nineteenth and twentieth parts were combined), the Cheap Edition of 1858, the Library Edition of 1868, and the Charles Dickens Edition of 1869.  

The first edition of the novel, the monthly serialization in nineteen pamphlets, is one of the most exciting items in the SCA collection of rare books.  

Bleak House had mixed reviews when it first came out. While the structure of the novel was praised, its forceful indictment of oppressive social institutions and its straightforward didacticism were criticized by some. But each serial part sold well and allowed Dickens to accumulate enough wealth for a contemporary to call him a “literary Croesus.” 

While many of us are probably aware that Dickens’s novels were serialized when they first came out, it is still extraordinary to see these original pamphlets—their pale blue covers, thin sheets, and Victorian advertisements are highly evocative of the era.  

Bleak House Advertiser
First-page advertisements

The advertisements, in particular—the specific items, and their descriptions and illustrations—are remarkable. The advertisements  were for Dickens’s books as well as other authors’ and from other publications, but also for a variety of merchandise that included, among others, the following: waterproof garments (“No umbrella required”!); a variety of hair products, including an actual head of hair; skin ointment (“These medicines excel all others in the cure of scrofula or king’s evil, glandular and other unnatural swellings, scurvy, leprosy, and all diseases of the skin.”); frocks, coats, and pelisses; cloaks, hoods, hats, and bonnets; Parr’s Life Pills (“They mildly and speedily remove all Skin Eruptions, Sallowness of Complexion, Nervous Irritability, Sick Head-Ache, Depression of Spirits, Irregularity, or general derangement of the system.”); chrystal spectacles and cough jujube lozenges; life insurance policies and loans; Rimmel’s toilet vinegar; a chest expander; pulmonic wafers that will give “perfect freedom from coughs in ten minutes”; shawls and needles and “papier mache elegancies”; mourning outfits; a self-acting pipe tube which is a “novelty in smoking”; wools and parasols.  

An article published in 1970 argues that reading Bleak House as a novel, “all at once from cover to cover,” is a misreading, that serialization was essential to Dickens’s art, that “the slow, deliberate pace of publication, and the suspense which the monthly interruption of the narrative naturally aroused,” is vital to understanding its artistry and implications.  

A slow and deliberate pace. The suspense of monthly interruptions. Living as we do in a world in which we can binge-watch one whole season of a show on a single afternoon, it is, for most of us, an effort to read Bleak House as a novel “all at once from cover to cover” and it is difficult to imagine reading it as a serial in the course of a year and a half.  

These first edition pamphlets are powerful aids for us to envision a different way of reading and entertainment, a different way of engaging with our imagination, perhaps even a different way of relating to time.

References

Schachterle, L. (1970). “BLEAK HOUSE” AS A SERIAL NOVEL. Dickens Studies Annual, 1, 212–295. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44371824
Schlicke, P. S. (2011). Bleak House. In The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198662532.001.0001/acref-9780198662532-e-0039

Queens College Library Acquires Barbara Rosenthal Archives

Headshot of Barbara Rosenthal
Barbara Rosenthal
Photo by Rhys Votano

The archival collection of influential cross-media artist Barbara Rosenthal ’75, “Old Master of New Media,” has been acquired by Queens College CUNY in a combined sale and donation facilitated by a generous patron. The artist’s materials are being organized and transported in stages to the newly renovated Pine Tree Foundation Special Collections within the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library.

Born in the Bronx, Barbara Rosenthal—no relation to the library’s namesake—studied at numerous local institutions, including the Arts Students League of New York and New York University, before completing a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At Queens College, she earned an MFA in painting. In the decades since she graduated, she built up an international career, holding solo exhibitions and residencies across North America and Europe and winning acclaim for her distinctive photography, installations, and performance art.

“Barbara Rosenthal’s lifetime of record-keeping, notes, drafts, versions, and materials for every project in many media, plus household and moment-to-moment life-recording and professional correspondences, holds enormous value for current and future generations of artists and researchers,” said Annie Tummino, Head of Special Collections and Archives. “Her archives are revelatory of the creative process in ways unique among our archival collections.”

Watch Rosenthal speak about her work, archival collection, and the acquisition here:

 

Treasures from Special Collections and Archives: First Editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 

By Patricia Reguyal, Archives Assistant 

Tom Sawyer Bookcover

Welcome to the inaugural post of the new monthly series, “Treasures from Special Collections and Archives.” This series will initially feature items from the Rare Books and Print History Collections of the Department of Special Collections and Archives (SCA) but will eventually expand to feature items from other important collections held by the department.  

To inaugurate the series, we are proud to announce that the SCA holds two copies of the first American edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. According to Blanck’s Bibliography of American Literature, there have been three printings of the first edition of this American classic. The two copies in the SCA are most likely from different printings because, while they have the same publication date, the two books are paginated differently.  

Tom Sawyer

A nearly fine copy of the first American edition is listed on AbeBooks for $45,000 and very good condition copies are listed for $12,000 to $15,000. The two copies at the SCA have been exposed to moisture and mold but have been professionally cleaned and are now in stable condition, thanks to the generosity of Shirley Klein, a lifelong bibliophile and loyal friend of Queens College. Both have the original blue cloth covers with gold-stamped stars and lovely illustrations. Over the longer term, the department hopes to acquire funding to repair the bindings and small tears in the volumes.  

The first edition of this American classic came out in London first. It was published by Chatto and Windus and came out in June 1876. The American edition, published by the American Publishing Company, came out in December 1876. Between these two official editions, a pirated edition from Canada was published in July 1876. The case of the English edition is covered in red cloth instead of the blue cloth of the American edition and is considered rarer and more valuable. Biblioctopus sold a nearly fine copy for $60,000, and the Bodleian Libraries happily announced in 2012 that their copy, previously uncatalogued because it probably “slipped in the stack shelves,” was found during a move of library collections.   

Tom Sawyer Title Page

Remarkably enough, the original and complete manuscript of the novel, in Twain’s own handwriting and with his various erasures and emendations, has been preserved in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections at Georgetown University. Also called a holographic manuscript, it was the manuscript that Twain submitted for the typesetting of the American first edition and that he seemed to have allowed Elisha P. Bliss, the president of the American Publishing Company at the time, to keep after the publication of his novel. This manuscript was also exhibited at the MOMA in 1937.  

The SCA also has one copy of the first American edition of the other Twain classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a post about that treasure will be forthcoming in this series. All three of Twain’s first editions in the stewardship of the SCA are originally from a Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library Rare Book Collection which had formerly been held on the 6th floor of the library, but had been exposed to moisture and had suffered a mold outbreak. The entire collection was recently cleaned and remediated by a vendor. Head of Special Collections and Archives Annie Tummino wrote about its triumphant return to Rosenthal Library last year.  

The SCA staff is currently busy working to preserve, process, and arrange these marvelous treasures so that they may be used and enjoyed by the Queens College community.  

Stories from the Civil Rights Archives: The Queens College Student Help Project of 1963

Event: Thursday, December 9, 2021, 4 – 5PM EST

Queens College is known for its involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, especially the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. A year earlier, a lesser known, but no less important project took place, when 16 volunteers from the Queens College Student Help Project traveled to Prince Edward County, Virginia to tutor Black children who were shut out of public schools due to massive resistance to desegregation. There, they lent support to a long struggle for equal education dating back to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 and local, student-led activism for better schools.

In this presentation, primary sources from the archives will bring to life this important history, as documented through a year-long oral history initiative made possible by the Freda S. and J. Chester Johnson Civil Rights & Social Justice Archives Fellowship Program at the Queens College Library. Initiators/alumni of the Student Help Project will also join the event for the Q and A.

ANNIE TUMMINO is an assistant professor and head of Special Collections and Archives at the Queens College Library, where she manages over 5,000 linear feet of college records, personal papers, and rare books. She is particularly interested in preserving the social movement history of Queens College and connecting it to today’s activists and students. She received a master’s in library and information studies from Queens College in 2010 and a master’s in maritime studies from SUNY Maritime College in 2020.

VICTORIA FERNANDEZ is the museum coordinator at the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College CUNY, where she helps develop and revise exhibition content, instruct student programming, manage library and archival collections, and facilitate interactions with their Holocaust survivor support group. She graduated from Queens College in 2021 with a dual master’s degree in history and library science (MLS/MA) after receiving a BA in history and political science from the Macaulay Honors College at QC in 2018. She has held several positions within the field of archives, most recently serving as the 2020– 2021 Freda S. and J. Chester Johnson Civil Rights and Social Justice Archives Fellow at the Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives.

Sponsored by the Office of Institutional Advancement