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Making an Impact: Bringing the Spring 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference Meeting to Newark

MARAC newarkUnder the leadership of Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Rutgers University—Newark (RUN) is implementing a number of initiatives to advance the role of RUN as an anchor institution in the city. In the spirit of these efforts, in June 2014 I organized an informal group, the Brick City Archivists and Friends (BCAF), to bring together local archivists, librarians, and community members who care for and support historic collections.

With help from Natalie Borisovets and Gayle Malmgreen of the Newark Archives Project, I obtained contact information for potential Brick City members and convened an initial happy hour to coincide with the Institute of Jazz Studies’ (IJS) Jazz Archives Fellowship residency. The event was well-attended, so I continued to organize regular gatherings. Having the support of RUL’s Angela Lawrence, Bob Vietrogoski, and Adriana Cuervo has been particularly invaluable in the growth and sustenance of the BCAF, and I am grateful for their support. In all, fifteen archivists and other interested folks have come to events, and we’ve toured four area institutions along the way.

I began to announce upcoming BCAF meetings via the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference’s (MARAC) New Jersey caucus listserv, and evidently, MARAC noticed. In late 2014 MARAC leadership decided that New Jersey deserved a turn as a meeting host, and given that Newark had not hosted a MARAC meeting since the 1970s, it was selected as the location for the spring 2017 conference. I like to think that the BCAF also played a role in this decision.

We announced the exciting news to a joint meeting at the IJS of MARAC’s New Jersey caucus and the BCAF in January 2015. Shortly before this meeting, I was asked to serve as a Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) tri-chair, a position that I gladly accepted. Becoming a tri-chair appealed to me because it offers me the opportunity to serve MARAC’s membership and the archives profession, represent RUL in a leadership role, and support RUN’s efforts to make an impact in Newark. Seven of the twenty-two LAC members have been active in the BCAF, and RUL is also well-represented on the LAC through the service of Natalie Borisovets, Tim Corlis, Angela Lawrence, Tara Maharjan, and Bob Vietrogoski.

Bringing MARAC to Newark provides opportunities to give back to the Newark community and to showcase Rutgers University Libraries:

  • To support local historical collections, the LAC is planning a “Day of Service” through which MARAC members will help a Newark institution with a hands-on archives project.
  • RUN and the IJS are sponsoring the all-attendee reception on April 21st, which will be held in the Great Hall at 15 Washington Street in Newark, adjacent to the IJS-sponsored and soon-to-open “Clem’s Place,” a lounge and performance venue dedicated to the late Dr. Clement Price currently being developed for RUN faculty and special guests.
  • The IJS will showcase its most ambitious exhibition to date, Records at Play: A Century of Jazz from New Orleans to Newark, which is scheduled to open in January 2017 and run through the end of the semester. Records at Play will be the inaugural exhibit in RUN’s Express Newark, a university-community collaboratory under development in the former Hahne and Company Department Store. Stay tuned for more information about the exhibit in a future edition of The Agenda!

The meeting will be April 20th through 22nd at the Robert Treat Hotel, and we expect between 350-400 conference-goers. Even though the conference is a year away, the LAC is currently recruiting volunteers to work during the meeting, so please contact me at elizabeth.surles@rutgers.edu if you have an interest in getting involved.

Elizabeth Surles

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