Volume 15 Number 1
For all of the years of this publication's history it has been a virtual newsletter. Yet, the editors are in a specific place -- Albany, New York. So, when I heard Albany would be featured in C-SPAN's Local Content Series (December 8-9, 2012) I was interested. "Visiting various literary and historic sites as we interview local historians, authors, and civic leaders" ...sounds good. Features on the New York State Writers' Institute (hosted at the University at Albany), theNYS Library, the State Capitol, NYS Museum, NYS Archives, The Book House, interviews with William Kennedy as well as Sally Friedman (member of UAlbany faculty) and more...hmmm...The "and more" includes a feature on the M.E. Grenander Depatrment of Special Collections and Archives of the University at Albany. Ok, there must be a SUNYergy article here somewhere. Department Head, Brian Keough was kind enough to share some comments about the experience:
(JS) Tell me how it was that you and/or UAlbany were contacted by C-SPAN?
(BK) We manage the New York State Modern Political Archive and National Death Penalty Archive, two of the largest collections of primary source material documenting 20th Century politics. Because these two collecting areas deal extensively with the history of politics and government, C-SPAN's Book TV and American History TV programs requested an interview for their 2012 capital cities tour that explores state capitals and visits various literary and historic sites.
(JS) Did you have a say in the focus of the segment?
(BK) We presented six potential segments of about 20 minutes each and they chose one specific collection, in this case the M. Watt Espy Papers.
(JS) For those who haven't yet seen the C-SPAN piece, would you give us the "elevator speech" describing the National Death Penalty Archive/collection?
(BK) The National Death Penalty Archive (NDPA) is a partnership between the University at Albany Libraries and the University's School of Criminal Justice to establish and maintain a collection of archival materials to document the important history of capital punishment in the United States and to provide resources for historical scholarship. This growing collection of archival materials is housed in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, which is located in the University's state of the art Science Library. Open since 1999, the new archival repository includes climate-controlled storage for more than 25,000 cubic feet. More information about the collections acquired for the NDPA is available.
(JS) Sorry if I missed this... how was it that UAlbany acquired the collection?
(BK) Through the vital assistance of UAlbany Professors James Acker and William Bowers, and other scholars such as Michael Radelet, the collection was secured for us in 2007. The collections was donated by Mr. Espy and his heirs to the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, between 2008 and 2011.
(JS) If given the chance, what 2 or 3 other collections would you have highlighted?
(BK) We have so many collections, but some of the more interesting
collections we have acquired recently include roughly 500 cubic
feet of administrative and legal case files of the New York
Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). The NYCLU is the preeminent
statewide organization dedicated to the protection and
enhancement of individual civil liberties and civil rights in
New York State. Founded in 1951, the NYCLU's mission is to
defend and uphold the basic rights and liberties articulated
in the Bill of Rights and to advocate, litigate and educate for
the protection of civil liberties.
(BK) One take, it took nearly 3 hours of filming for all six
(BK) Some prompting, but I was trying to tell stories that reveal the importance of primary sources. I know the collections quite well, but the challenge is trying to explain the importance of a particular individual and organizations without losing the viewer by giving too much information. I tried to describe the collection within a broad historical framework and provide a rich glimpse of history that is not available in a textbook.
(JS) Any other comments about this experience that you would like to share?
(BK) This was an opportunity to showcase the SUNY Albany's Special Collections and Archives, to potentially increase the use of our collections and to provide a glimpse into how history is written and understood. Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation to help students and scholars relate in a personal way to events of the past coming away with a deeper understanding of history as a series of human events. Primary sources require students to be analytical, to examine sources thoughtfully and to determine what else they need to know to make inferences from the materials. My goal was to highlight this fact while at that same time to provide an interesting story about the past.