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Warehoused Materials Safely Relocated

In January 2001, AJHS staff members successfully completed two weeks of hard work reboxing and relocating over 6,000 cubic feet of collections from storage space in Lawrence, MA to the Society’s New York, NY and Waltham, MA facilities. This huge undertaking was made possible by generous and timely contributions made by members and friends of the American Jewish Historical Society in response to an emergency appeal mailed at the close of the year.

Materials removed from the warehouse include American Jewish newspapers published during the 20th century and the records of several major American Jewish communal organizations, including the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Council of Jewish Federations, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, Action for Soviet Jewry, and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. The records of these organizations are integral to documenting the role of communal organizations in 20th-century American Jewish history.


Center for Jewish History, New York. Photo by Henri Silberman.

For several years, AJHS was able to store these collections at Everett Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts through the generosity of owner Bertram Paley, who made two warehouse floors available for the Society's use. This past year, it became clear that the collections would have to be moved. The warehouse is scheduled for demolition and the environmental conditions, which were designed for manufacturing rather than archival storage, were taking a toll on the records.

Staff at AJHS in New York and Waltham began planning the move in November 2000. A work plan was in place by the New Year, a testament to the staff’s ability to work well together even across state lines. On January 8th, archivists Dominic Grandinetti of Waltham and Rachel Keegan of New York arrived at the warehouse and began two weeks of reboxing, cleaning, and assessing the more than 4,000 boxes of records. In Waltham, Assistant Director of Administration Stanley Remsberg ensured that every last box unloaded from the trucks would have a home and Lyn Slome, Director of Library and Archives, did the same in New York.

With propane heaters for warmth and an exemplary crew from National Library Relocation Services, Inc. the work was completed a day ahead of schedule, despite two snowstorms and a freight elevator that broke down at least three times a day during the last week of the project. On the final afternoon, with five pallets remaining to be loaded onto a New York-bound truck, the elevator stalled one last time.

A repair technician saved the day by fixing it and staying the last hour to make sure every box came down. Fortunately, the need to move the collections came after AJHS had relocated most of its holdings to new headquarters in New York. This earlier move left space available in the Waltham facility. The majority of the records were relocated to the Waltham offices and it is there that the National Jewish Welfare Board, Memorial Foundation, National Foundation, Action for Soviet Jewry and National Conference for Soviet Jewry collections will receive preservation treatment and be cataloged. The records of the Council of Jewish Federations will be processed in New York.

Although the tight schedule prevented staff members from delving deeply into the boxes of documents, glimpses of panoramic group photographs of World War I military chaplains, case Úles of Soviet Jewry refuseniks from the 1980s and correspondence between community leaders regarding the Holocaust Claims Conferences of the 1960s indicate that future researchers of these collections will Únd a wealth of information documenting endeavors of some American Jewish communal organizations that have heroically sustained international social, religious, cultural, and relief efforts.

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This section was last updated on July 7, 2014
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