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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Out of the Archives: Programming the Local History Collection

For most of the Bryant Library Local History Collection’s 70-year existence, access was limited to those who could visit the Library and dedicate time to exploring our vast archives. While it is often still necessary to perform research onsite, technology has significantly widened our reach and increased our ability to share historical treasures in dynamic formats.


The foundation of our outreach is the creation of quality digital surrogates. Digitizing collection items gives us the ability to share content in a variety of ways. Examples can be found on our website and social accounts as well as in visual displays, printed materials, and both in-person and online programming. By utilizing an assortment of methods to promote the Collection, we have diversified our audience and provided more opportunities for the public to learn about lesser-known and underrepresented parts of Roslyn’s history.


Roslyn War Memorial Building, 1950s

As 2023 draws to a close, the annual celebration of American Archives Month brings to mind the various active, passive, and interactive programs and promotional campaigns that were created over the past year. We started strong in January with a screening of a short documentary we produced on The Roslyn War Memorial Building, the location where the Bryant Library currently resides. Presented in conjunction with the Roslyn Landmark Society, and narrated by reference librarian Wendy Roque, it was well-attended by patrons both in person and online through Zoom.


Black History Display

For February's Black History Month, we created a large display on the Library’s main floor from oversized reproductions of photos from the Pearsall, Peters, and Helms-Robinson Families’ collections. We revamped the display for Women’s History Month in March, focusing on the ladies of these families, including one of our most frequent researchers Carolyn Townsend Brown, who posed for a photo with the display and highlighted photos of relatives for patrons.


Carolyn Townsend Brown and Patron

We also published a seasonally transitional blog post on one of our reference titles, Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral. This collection of poems by the famed Chilean poet and Roslyn Harbor resident was selected and translated by Harlem Renaissance figurehead Langston Hughes.


Marion Willets Brower

Women’s History Month was further honored with a blog post on the life of Marion Willets Brower and her work toward civic improvements in the early 20th century.


Our celebration of National Poetry Month in April was marked by a detailed analysis of Roslyn writer Christopher Morley’s poem “Two O’ Clock”, which appeared on the Bryant Room Blog in addition to the Library’s printed newsletter.


In early May, we screened another short documentary, The Two Mrs. Mackays, about the first and second wives of Clarence Mackay of the Harbor Hill Estate.

Promotional poster for the film's screening

While the beginning of the film focuses on the aristocratic Katherine Alexander Duer, the main portion is dedicated to the life and career of world-famous Metropolitan Opera soprano Anna Case before and during her marriage to Mr. Mackay. It was presented in the same hybrid format as our earlier film and enjoyed a robust audience.


Detail from invitation to LHC opening

Later in the month, we published an article on the the Local History Collection's 70th anniversary and created a pamphlet of information that was handed out to visitors.


In June, we commemorated Flag Day with a post on the rare 42-star “flag that never was” gifted to us by Bryan Pearsall, son of E. Arrell Pearsall whose autobiography was written expressly for the Local History Collection. The flag now hangs in the Bryant Room and garners a great deal of attention from visitors. We also covered the Library’s Juneteenth event, led by our aforementioned researcher, Carolyn Townsend Brown.


Acknowledging Pride Month, we highlighted the work of artist and Roslyn High School graduate Frank Moore whose surreal paintings addressed important political issues including the AIDs crisis and environmental concerns. A shortened version of our blog post on his life was made into an illustrated pamphlet which included a two-page spread of his painting “Library” (1989):

Library (1989)

Visiting the Bryant Room on the Library Tour

Throughout the summer, patrons from all over Long Island visited as part of the Nassau County Library Tour. Visitors to the Bryant Room were offered the chance to participate in a scavenger hunt and receive prizes for finding items such as the tall case clock, the card catalog, and the William Cullen Bryant bust. Each visitor left with one of our handmade bookmarks. Created from the colorful works of local artists, the bookmarks include QR codes to direct patrons to our website. We also created a summer-themed photo display adjacent to the Library Tour’s selfie station.


Back to School 2023

Our current display has a back-to-school theme and features class photos and digitized artifacts, including a student lunch ticket. One of Roslyn High School’s most famous alumni, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, is highlighted in the display with photos scanned from his senior yearbook. Other sections link to our September blog post on a 100-year old photo of the RHS girls basketball team, a clip from an oral history interview with teacher Hazel Monestel, and an online gallery that identifies the various images in the display and includes links to related content.


Photo Credit: Michele Lipson, Bryant Library Director

In September, we published a blog post on the Library’s open mic Poetry in the Park event that we hosted with Wendy Roque in the Gerry Park gazebo. We will be hosting a second open mic event on November 3rd to celebrate William Cullen Bryant’s birthday, which we hope will be as well-attended as the first. Register here to attend and email Ariel Morabito (amorabito@bryantlibrary.org) if you wish to participate in the reading.


Look for the sign on the stairwell doors!

Last week, our Archives Month observance was complemented by an exciting exhibition of antique glass bottles. In addition to installing over 100 bottles and medicine tins into the Helen Glannon Room's wall-length exhibit cabinet, we added accompanying visuals including vintage ads from the Local History Collection. The exhibit is currently on view upstairs in the meeting room and will be further described in an upcoming post.


Reflecting on our contributions to this year's programming schedule, it is amazing to regard the Local History Collection's capability to both educate and entertain. While providing valuable resources for historical research is the central aim of our mission, we have found that our methodology is most successful when diversified. We hope to continue offering more vibrant programming and entice new audiences with the many wonders of our rare holdings!


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