2014-12-08

The Leon Levy Foundation Awards the New-York Historical Society a Grant to Process Institutional Records for Public Access

NEW YORK, NY, December 8, 2014 -- The New-York Historical Society has received a grant of $304,470 from the Leon Levy Foundation to preserve and process institutional archives, which document the institution’s 210-year evolution from a private member-based organization of the 19th century to an outward-looking museum and library for the 21st century.  The two-year initiative will improve scholarly access to the archives and open a trove of material for a broad range of research possibilities.

“The New-York Historical Society’s institutional archives represent a vital historical record in the areas of American intellectual, museum, art, and cultural histories,” says New-York Historical President and CEO Dr. Louise Mirrer. “With this generous award, the Leon Levy Foundation helps us advance our educational mission and open our vast archives to new generations of scholars, researchers, students, and the general public.”

“The institutional archives of the New-York Historical Society are critical to the history of New York, and opening them to scholars and the public will undoubtedly lead to new insights about the people, the institutions and the plans that helped make it the greatest city in the world,” said Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “This project aligns with our program to help leading cultural institutions care for and provide access to their important archival holdings. We are delighted to add the New-York Historical Society to that initiative.”

The records themselves document various aspects of the New-York Historical Society, encompassing collecting, exhibitions, research, scholarly and social activities, and even day-to-day operations. As part of this two-year project, New-York Historical will arrange and describe over 1,600 linear feet of records, converting them from a modestly used, in-house resource to an in-demand, publicly accessible research collection.
Highlights of materials to be processed include a list recording Francis B. Winthrop's 1809 donation that includes the contemporary manuscript of his ancestor John Winthrop's 1630 sermon "A Modell of Christian Charity"; letters to Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams acknowledging their honorary membership to the New-York Historical Society; records from the late 19th century relating to the New-York Historical Society's first woman member, historian Martha Lamb; and correspondence regarding the purchase of Audubon's watercolors and many other treasures in the Society's holdings.
The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804 as one of the nation’s first historical societies and is New York’s oldest continuously operating museum. Its records detail landmark attempts to create a broad documentary basis for the history of New York and the nation starting from the early, formative years of the new republic. The institution’s ambitious and expansive program embraced collections in fields as diverse as the fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, mineralogy, archaeology and ethnology. As the organization narrowed its collecting focus over time, several major collections were transferred to younger institutions, such as the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum. Thus, New-York Historical’s history also touches on the history of other prominent cultural institutions in New York.
The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library
The New-York Historical Society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library is one of the oldest and most distinguished in the United States, containing more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, atlases, newspapers, broadsides, music sheets, manuscripts, prints, photographs and architectural drawings. The Klingenstein Library is one of only sixteen libraries in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association. Among its collections are far-ranging materials relating to the founding and early history of the nation; one of the best collections of eighteenth-century newspapers in the United States; an outstanding collection of materials documenting slavery and Reconstruction; an exceptional collection of Civil War material, including Ulysses S. Grant’s terms of surrender for Robert E. Lee; collections relating to trials in the United States prior to 1860; American fiction, poetry and belles-lettres prior to 1850; a broad range of materials relating to the history of the circus; and American travel accounts from the colonial era to the present day. The Library continues to receive important research materials relating to education, philanthropy, social service, and the history of New York and the nation, among them the records of the Children's Aid Society, the archives of the New York Sun, and significant additions to the architectural and photographic collections. In 2013, the New-York Historical Society Library was a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

About the Leon Levy Foundation
The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy, an investor with a longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to support scholarship at the highest level, ultimately advancing knowledge and improving the lives of individuals and society at large. www.leonlevyfoundation.org

Date: 
Monday, December 8, 2014
Creative: Tronvig Group