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Friday, December 7, 2012

Wrapping up the NHPRC grant

At the end of September, we completed basic processing of our entire archives thanks to a grant from the NHPRC.  We were able to process, and create finding aids for, more than 40 collections.  These 40 collections represented about 90% of the materials in our archives, many of which were completely inaccessible to researchers.

Thankfully, these collections are now available for researcher use.  Additionally, the finding aids have been posted to our website:,  and have also been submitted to OCLC/ArchiveGrid, an online public access catalog (OPAC).

It's been a long two years, but now the final paperwork is being completed, and will be submitted at the end of the month.  Happy holidays!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

MacBook of the 1930's

Remington Portable Model 5

A fantastic donation was recently given to the archives by Anne Oppermann, former secretary to Norman Rockwell.  Anne was also the daughter of Ejner Handberg, the designer and builder of Rockwell's Stockbridge studio.

She worked as Rockwell's typist during the years 1957 to 1961, responding to his significant amount of fan mail.  Here in the archives, we have many thousands of fan letters that Rockwell received during the course of his career. Anne estimated that Rockwell was sent approximately 20 fan letters per week, with a large spike in numbers during those weeks when one of his Post covers was published.

This typewriter was actually given to Anne by Rockwell in order for her to complete this task.  Although she didn't begin working for him until the late 1950's, this typwriter - a Reminington Portable Model 5 - was already an "antique," having been made between the years 1932 and 1939.  At that time, it carried a hefty price tag of $65.  In today's dollars, that would be about $1090. I think it was probably worth it because nearly 80 years later, it still works!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Find of the Week!

       Every once in a while you come across one of those rare items which really makes your day.  For me, yesterday was one of those days. 

       In my efforts to get the final few boxes of  random “stuff” processed, I came across several letters in a folder marked “Miscellaneous Correspondence.”  Wanting to have a label more specific than that, I began to read one of the handwritten letters in hopes of finding out who “Joe,” the signer of the letter, actually was.  By the end of the second page it was clear; “Joe” was none other than J.C. Leyendecker.

      For those not familiar with J.C. Leyendecker, he was truly one of the pre-eminent illustrators of the early 20th century.  He is probably best known for his advertisements for the Arrow Collar Man, as well as his 322 covers for the Saturday Evening Post.  He was greatly admired by Norman Rockwell, and was a significant influence on him, especially during his early artistic career.

      Rockwell once said that while living in New Rochelle, New York, he used to wait for Leyendecker’s train to arrive so that he could follow him up the long stairway, out onto the street, and down to his car, hoping that if he could copy Leyendecker’s curious gait, that some of his greatness would rub off on him.  Little could Rockwell have imagined that one day, not only would he become friends with Leyendecker, but that he would be compared to him, and held up as his artistic equal.

April 22, 1945

Dear Norman,

Many thanks for forwarding that letter.  It was good to hear from you again, and wish I could have been with you when visiting Josephine and Harry.

New Rochelle is not the same since all our old friends have gone and I hope the ban on travel may soon be lifted and we may look forward in seeing you and Mary again.

It goes without saying that I follow your work in the magazines. It is always tops.  It is a pleasure to turn to one of your pictures, that even in the reproduction shows all the quality and depth of the original painting.

We are still moving some trees this spring, but will soon be forced to quit as most of them have grown to enormous proportions.

Hereafter I suppose I’ll have to content myself with just puttering around with flowers.

My kindest regards and best wishes to you all.

Sincerely, Joe

Beach sends his best

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spring is here!

Cleaning the studio!
We've been doing some Spring cleaning both here in the archives, as well as in the Norman Rockwell studio, which officially opens for the season this weekend.  A team of us spent the day scrubbing and vacuuming the studio yesterday to ensure that visitors will have a dust free visit.

Here in the archives, the purchase of two new shelving units means that, at last, there are no more boxes on the floor!  I can assure you that few things make an archivist happier than new shelving units. The aisles have been vacuumed and straightened up and look so much better.   

Aisle before
After rearranging boxes and putting things in their proper places, I actually came across a missing box that I had been searching for over the past several months.  I was certain this box was never to be seen again, but apparently it was just obscured from view by the 10 or so boxes that were piled up in front of the bottom shelf on which it was residing.  I'm happy to report that it has now re-joined the rest of its collection. 

This year, the arrival of Spring also means that  our latest progress report is due to the NHPRC as we enter the last six months of our two year basic processing project.  Things have gone extremely well so far and we've completed 35 finding aids out of our target goal of 40.  Once completed, the finding aids will be available to researchers online through ArchiveGrid.  More details to come soon!

Aisle after

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Help for the library

Hopefully, in the not-to-distant future, scenes like this one will no longer exist in the Reference Center.  We are extremely fortunate that a new volunteer, Joan, recently signed up to work with us and she is....  A LIBRARIAN!  Our collection of library books is finally getting properly catalogued and will be searchable online.  Since our collection is relatively small, we've decided to use LibraryThing, which is a site where libraries and book lovers alike can create their catalogues and exchange information about books in their collections.

Joan is making great progess and I'd expect that within a couple of months we'll have the entire library completed.  I think that this will be a great help to researchers and other art historians who make use of our valuable Reference Center resources.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


We had a mini crisis here a couple of weeks ago when our trusty "scientific" freezer decided that it wasn't going to work anymore.  By the time this was discovered, all of our frozen film negatives were no longer frozen.  So, all 100 or so boxes had to be removed and temporarily housed in the archives so that repairs to the freezer could take place.

The humidity detectors started showing high readings and we became EXTREMELY worried about condensation building up in the bags, then having to open every package, dry out the mat boards inside (via baking in the oven), then re-pack everything.  While this isn't an overly complicated process, it's very time consuming and would have taken a few people (mostly me) several days to complete.  Thankfully, after a visit from Mark McCormick-Goodhart, who literally "wrote the book" on the film freezing process, we were informed that the packages had not been compromised and could be placed back in the freezer without all of the aforementioned intervention. 

I'm happy to say that we've now put an alarm on the freezer to hopefully avoid another meltdown situation in the future. Yay!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making progess with the Magnetic Tape Collection

We've just passed the six month mark of our magnetic tape digitization project and things are going great! All of the materials have now been digitized, and the digital files have been delivered to us.  The dvds have found a home on the top shelf and will have their "official" labels attached in the very near future. 

Still to be done is the completion of the finding aid, and usability testing of the web accessible .mov files.  I've played  several of them and all looks well.  I hate to jinx it, but I'm thinking we might even finish ahead of schedule...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Latest addition to the archives

The archives was recently given a collection of tearsheets that contain the works of numerous notable illustrators who were contemporaries of Rockwell including: Austen Briggs, Al Dorne, Stevan Dohanos, Ben Shan, and Robert Fawcett.  These will provide a valuable source of information for researchers interested in illustration art from the early and mid twentieth century.

As you can see, they're not in great shape at the moment.  After I complete the accessioning paperwork, I'm going to assign the task of organizing and sleeving all of these to one of my illustrious interns.  They'll look great (I'll show you an "after" image to prove it) and then the really hard work begins.  That is, finding the space on the shelves for two more boxes...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Show and tell with author James Gurney

The archives was recently visited by Dinotopia author and creator James Gurney.  A good time was had by all, and James  wrote about the visit on his blog which you can find here: