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Gitenstein Library awarded grant to preserve and organize historic archive

TCNJ’s Gitenstein Library was recently awarded $311,594 from The National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures grant program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The funds will help the college create a digital preservation infrastructure for its Archives and provide for the physical preservation and organization of more than 200 linear feet of historical records. The funds also will help establish a hub of research resources from New Jersey’s six normal schools (TCNJ, Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Rowan University, and William Paterson University), which represent the earliest days of the state’s teacher training landscape.

“Thanks to the Save America’s Treasures grant, TCNJ will be able to greatly increase the public discovery and archival preservation of many of the materials in its archives,” said Deb Schiff, archivist and special collections librarian at the Gitenstein Library. “Notably, our collections that show how education has evolved in the United States will be much more accessible.” 

A page in a 1904 New Jersey State Normal School and Model School calendar, showing a painting of the original school buildings in Trenton.

Items in TCNJ’s archives and special collections date from the college’s founding as the New Jersey State Normal School in 1855 up to present day, although some rare book holdings date back as far as the 1740s. The collection documents the American public elementary school experience over 166 years as well as trends in teacher training during the same period.

“TCNJ’s New Jersey State Normal Schools Hub will create a single online research destination for researchers seeking information on early American teaching school practices,” Schiff said. “Unifying Normal Schools records from across the state in a virtual space will allow researchers to gain a broader view of how the state helped to influence later Normal Schools and educators across the country. We hope this novel project will provide a model for other states.”

Additionally, the Trenton Free Public Library will contribute materials to the New Jersey Normal Schools Hub. It is expected that other New Jersey entities holding Normal Schools records will participate, as well.

“Through private and public investments, the Save America’s Treasures program supports community-based preservation and conservation work on some of our nation’s most important collections, artifacts, structures, and sites for the benefit of future generations,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant project number ST-252518-OMS-22. 

— Luke Sacks

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