December 23, 2014

First "Hidden Collections" from the National Death Penalty Archives Made Available

The first two collections processed as part of the Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project are now open and available to researchers. Guides to the Leigh B. Bienen Papers and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Records can now be found on the M.E. Grenander Special Collections and Archives webpage. Visitors may now request to see any part of these collections in the Marcia Brown Reading Room on the third floor of the Science Library.

The ongoing project to process and make available 10 collections from the National Death Penalty Archives is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources as part of its Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program.

The Leigh B. Bienen Papers contain the records of legal scholar Leigh B. Bienen and her efforts to show how the application of capital punishment in New Jersey and Illinois was inconsistent and discriminatory. Bienen was a member of the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate in the 1980s where she directed the Public Defender Homicide Study cited in the New Jersey Supreme Court Decision State v. Marshall. In this case, Robert O. Marshall became the state's first death row inmate to have his death sentence confirmed by New Jersey's highest court since capital punishment was reinstated there in 1982. The study led the court to call for the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project where Bienen, along with other legal scholars, argued that the state's administration of the death penalty had significant bias based on the race of the defendant. The death penalty in New Jersey was abolished in 2007.
Bienen later lectured at Princeton University and Northwestern University and published extensively on the monetary costs of capital punishment and the outsized role of local prosecutors in sentencing defendants to death. In 2006, she was named to the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee which influenced the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois in 2011.

For over 35 years the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been working to educate the public about the arbitrary, discriminatory, and inconsistent use of capital punishment in the United States. The group was founded after the Supreme Court again permitted use of the death penalty in the Gregg v. Georgia decision of 1976. Since then, the NCADP has emerged as the largest national organization exclusively devoted to abolishing the death penalty. The group lobbies against capital punishment through a variety of methods that include organizing protests and increasing public awareness. The NCADP uses a number of non-violent methods to draw attention to, and advance, their campaign at local, state and national levels.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Records contains the group's internal case files, administrative material, and publications. Here researchers can examine efforts like the international Stop Killing Kids Campaign as well as photographs, audio, and video of the NCADP's annual conference and on-the-ground advocacy campaigns.
The Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project is well under way. In addition to these two collections, the Victor L. Streib Papers and the records of the death penalty abolition group Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation are also nearing completion and will be made available during the Spring 2015 semester. Work has also started on the arrangement and description of the Bill Pelke Papers and the David C. Baldus Papers which document abolition advocacy campaigns and the statistical analysis of capital charging, sentencing, and jury-decision making in six states and in the US military. Overall the project will result in the processing and opening of over 700 cubic feet of unique manuscript materials.

December 1, 2014

Winter Intersession Hours for 2014-2015

The M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will be closed Friday, December 19, 2014 through Friday, January 2, 2015. The Department will reopen on Monday, January 5, 2015, and resume regular reference hours from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Department's complete reference hours can be found here.

September 4, 2014

University Archivist, Geoffrey Williams Retires

Geoffrey Williams retired after 27 years at the University at Albany on September 2, 2014. To recognize his outstanding accomplishments and his commitment to the University community, a reception was hosted on Thursday, August 21, in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives.

(Below Geoff is pictured with Philip Eppard, Chair of the Department of Information Studies).


Geoffrey Williams' accomplishments reflect a long career of outreach to the University at Albany students, faculty, and alumni, as well as helping community organizations in the Capital District preserve their history. Since coming to the University in 1987, Geoff consistently dazzles students and alumni with his factual knowledge of 170 years of University history and traditions.

As the institutional memory, he serves as a major source of historical information for administrative and academic offices throughout campus, including the President's Office and Office of Communications & Marketing, as well as students and faculty. He shares his knowledge by writing a regular column, "Ask Geoff," for the UAlbany Magazine, and conducts bus tours, walking tours, and programs for alumni, student, and community groups.

Geoff has worked with community members to collect and preserve the historical records of African Americans in the six-county greater Capital District of New York. As co-chair of the Capital District Black History Project, he was responsible for the preservation of records of area African-American organizations at the archives of UAlbany. Among his hundreds of talks and presentations to the community are lectures to the Washington Park Neighborhood Association and many others. Geoff works to improve his profession by serving on the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board, New York State Local Government Records Advisory Board, and Documentary Heritage Program Advisory Committee.

We are sorry to lose such a great historian and friend, but thank him for his years of service and wish him well in his future endeavors.