The Archivist’s Lament

Protecting and preserving slices of history — or even identifying what you’ve come across — isn’t always easy.  Take the long, and curled up, photo that project archivist Alex Gelfand found recently in three pieces. Trying to flatten it was one big challenge. Another has been to identify the people and setting. It’s most likely the staff of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research around the time it morphed into the Institute of Public Administration in 1921. From the fashions and other clues, it’s probably the 1920s, or conceivably the 1910s.

Luther Gulick, the Institute’s guiding light until his death in 1993 at nearly 101, is easy to spot. He’s the handsome, square-jawed one standing in the left rear between the two windows.


That may be his mentor, eminent historian Charles Beard, the director of the Bureau’s Training School, standing at the extreme right in the photo below.


As for the others, who knows?


Even photographing the photograph proved daunting. That’s Barry Spector of the Museum of Public Relations — another prize collection at the Baruch College Archives — behind the camera in the photos below. And Alex’s hand gesturing at bottom left. (Of course, before he would actually touch the photo, he would don archivist’s white cotton gloves.)





We’ll post any answers we come across.

4 thoughts on “The Archivist’s Lament

  1. These photographs are a real treasure, Ralph, and future researches will one day thank you for preserving these. Thank God that we now have the ability today to digitize them, even if it does take a photograph of the photograph to do that, and a photograph of a photographer shooting the photograph to capture the moment.

  2. Pingback: The Archivist’s Lament, Part 2 | "An Adventure in Democracy"

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