Archivist’s News (Winter 2005)

by Joseph Ciccone

As we continue to make progress overall with our archival program, two projects in particular—our grant-funded conservation assessment and oral history project—have achieved notable results.

Conservation Assessment Conducted

Readers may recall that in my previous column I reported that the ANS had received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to have a consultant assess our collections and make recommendations for their conservation. This assessment is a prerequisite for the more substantial conservation grants available from the IMLS.

I am happy to report that the IMLS-recommended conservator, Barbara Appelbaum, visited the ANS in September. Ms. Appelbaum has been advising museums and historical societies since the early 1970s. Her clients have included the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum, and both the New-York and New Jersey Historical Societies.

During her visit, Ms. Appelbaum met with staff to familiarize herself with their respective collections and discuss relevant conservation issues. Based on this visit, Ms. Appelbaum will provide us with a written report containing both short- and long-term recommendations for the care of our collections. With this report in hand, we plan to seek additional funding to treat the archival collections and ensure their proper preservation.

Oral History Project Continues

We have continued to make further progress in our oral history project. As readers may recall, we have been interviewing former staff members, Councillors, and others about their contact with the Society. So far I interviewed fourteen people and recorded more than thirty-five hours of recollections. I anticipate conducting another six to eight interviews by the end of the first quarter of 2006.

As always, if you have any suggestions for people we should interview, please contact me either by e-mail at or by telephone at 212-571-4470, x1312. Candidates interviewed have been chosen both on the length of their tenure with the ANS, as well as the position they held while with the ANS. For instance, would they have participated in key decision making? Would they have interacted with significant figures? We are especially interested in speaking with individuals who have vivid recollections of some of the Society’s older luminaries, such as Edward Newell, Sydney Noe, or Louis West.

Portrait Needs Identification

When we were working to clear archival records out of the sub-basement in Audubon Terrace, we discovered a number of unexpected items, such as the Soviet era posters described by Peter van Alfen in the last issue of the ANS Magazine (“Long Live Our Glorious Motherland! Posters and Medals from the Birth of the Cold War, 1945-49.”) In addition to the posters, we also found several paintings. We easily recognized ones of individuals like Newell and West. Others were more difficult, but were identified eventually. One portrait, however, continues to evade us. It features a distinguished older gentleman with pince-nez spectacles and goatee, reclining in a chair. A photograph of the portrait is included in this column. If you think you know who this figure is, please contact me at the e-mail address or telephone number above.

Portrait of an Unknown Individual