Archive Project Provides Archival Assistance Grants to Ten Groups – Small Grants Awarded to Improve Archival Stewardship and Access
December 1, 2022
By Brad Vogel, Executive Director
In 2013, 2015, and 2017, the Archive Project awarded a number of archival assistance grants to small organizations around New York City. The grants were well-received and made a difference, often serving as a “first rung” source of funding for groups that could not otherwise obtain targeted funding for the care of their respective collections with minimal administrative hassle.
In 2022, the Archive Project, with the help of the Leon Levy Foundation, has reactivated and expanded this tradition of small grant support for improving archival stewardship and access related to historic preservation. A $12,000 grant pool has been set up for 2022, 2023, and 2024.
After receiving a record number of applicants for the 2022 round of the Shelby White & Leon Levy Archival Assistance Initiative Grants, the Archive Project deliberated and announced ten winners in late summer:
SoHo Memory Project
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS)
The Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society
Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York
Dvořák American Heritage Association
Forest Hills Gardens Foundation
The projects funded by the grants addressed a range of archival needs. Several involve digitization of materials to improve access. The Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) preserves the history of the Lower East Side’s
grassroots activism, including urban homesteading, squats, and community gardens. As part of its ongoing archival overhaul, MoRUS will use its grant to double its on-site archival storage capacity, re-house existing collections, and expand its digital storage capabilities for improved access. The Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society, operating in Queens, will use its grant to digitize multiple sets of historic records covering architectural history, covenants, and legal battles before further degradation renders them unusable. SoHo Memory Project will use its grant to digitize its collection’s key documents for inclusion on www.sohomemory.org, a digital nexus of source materials related to SoHo history. The physical documents will eventually move to the New-York Historical Society’s collection. Forest Hills Gardens Foundation in Queens will hire a certified archivist with its funds to develop an archives management policy and scan historic documents relating to neighborhood development and urban planning policy in the early 20th century. The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance in northern Manhattan, which tells the story of a house’s enduring presence from the 1780s to the present, will upgrade its online digital collection and make the entire collection publicly accessible on rotation.
Additional projects involve creating digital finding aids to provide new windows into physical collections. In Jamaica, Queens, King Manor Museum will hire a project archivist to process the museum’s archival collections and create digitized finding aids to make these collections, which include materials on the involvement of women in preservation efforts, more readily accessible to the public. In Manhattan, the Dvořák American Heritage Association will process, organize, and describe papers donated by the late preservationist Jack Taylor in order to improve public online accessibility to materials relating to the effort to save the one-time home of composer Antonín Dvořák on Stuyvesant Square.
Finally, several projects will use small grants to purchase archival storage materials in accordance with recommendations from earlier archival collections assessments. Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York (Fraunces Tavern Museum) will utilize its grant to purchase archival storage materials on an urgent basis as part of a larger effort to assess aspects of its collection relating to five landmarked structures. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Landmark West! will use its grant to follow direct recommendations provided by an earlier archival needs assessment to re-house a collection related to grassroots community preservation activism. La Mama Archives in the East Village and NoHo will use its funds to assess and improve access to documentation, including photographs and blueprints, in its collection related to efforts to renovate historic buildings that were adaptively reused as rehearsal and gallery spaces.
Overall, the Archive Project was pleasantly surprised at the breadth and number of applications this year. Winnowing down to the list of ten winners was difficult work, and there is great interest in working with several of the applicants who were not selected this year to refine applications for future rounds in 2023 and 2024. Clearly, the need for archival assistance at small institutions in the greater historic preservation realm is real.