Bourke-White photos, Dick Clark tapes, other decaying material at Syracuse University, professors say


Syracuse, NY – A valuable collection of Margaret Bourke-White photographs, Dick Clark tapes, rare sports footage and other historical material is degrading due to inadequate storage conditions at Syracuse University, said Wednesday a Senate faculty committee in a report.

The material includes “several tens of thousands” of films, photographs, negatives, recorded sound formats, tape media, books and manuscripts held by the Special Collections Research Center, the report said.

“If the SU cannot properly take care of the treasures it has been entrusted with, we must turn them over, with donor approval, to institutions that can,” the report said.

Bourke-White, a photojournalist who died in 1971, was the first female war correspondent in the United States and the first female photographer for Life Magazine.

His famous images from the collection show the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and his portraits of Sergei Eisenstein and Joseph Stalin. They show signs of silvery sheen, damage from improper storage and humidity, according to the report.

The estimated value of the Bourke-White collection is $ 98 million. In addition to monetary value, the school is jeopardizing its reputation and donor trust by allowing the archives to collapse, according to the report.

The committee suggested that SU prioritize replacing the $ 118 million Carrier dome roof and other renovations over a plan that was already underway to build a facility to safely house the items.

SU spokesperson Sarah Scalese said the claim that the money was transferred from the project to the stadium renovation is false.

“Funds have been allocated by the university and committed by donors for the eventual construction of another facility to house our special collections,” she said. “Our interim solution includes additional climate-controlled environmental chambers to protect these collections.”

The faculty committee report said other risky items in the collection include:

  • Clara Sipprell’s papers. The photographer’s negatives, including portraits of Albert Einstein, WEB Du Bois and Langston Hughes, have a bubbling, crackle emulsion.
  • A film reel of the 1937 SU vs. Maryland football game in which SU player Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was forced out due to Maryland’s policy of segregation.
  • The Dick Clark Papers, received from Dick Clark in 2009, include over 2,000 radio broadcasts on reel-to-reel audio cassettes such as “Rock, Roll and Remember” and “National Music Survey”.
  • The Belfer cylinder collection. The largest collection of cylinders outside the Library of Congress containing popular American songs from the 19th and 20th centuries, Yiddish songs, spoken word dramas, vaudeville, presidential speeches, and stories for young children.
  • Documents from abolitionist Gerrit Smith.
  • Archives of Syracuse University and Chancellors.
  • The Daily Orange, the student newspaper.

A 1937 SU vs. Maryland football film reel in which SU star Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was forced out due to Maryland’s segregation policy deteriorates at Syracuse University, said a faculty committee.Photograph provided

The report was released by the Senate Libraries Committee and presented by President Mark Monmonier, professor of geography at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

The solution, the committee said, has already been devised – a 14,000 square foot addition to the library facility on Jamesville Road. It would provide the controlled temperature and humidity needed to stop decomposition.

This project – estimated at around $ 6 million – has apparently been “set aside” to accommodate the Dome, the refurbishment of the Schine Center and the new Veterans Center, according to the report.

Monmonier said the university had “squirrel” $ 4 million for the project and raising an additional $ 2 million appears small compared to the amount of money spent on the Dome and other projects.

“Respect for athletics is so strong here. The salaries they pay coaches to cry out loud don’t allow me to start on it, ”he said in an interview with | The post-norm. “A lot of teachers feel the same way.”

The report said it was “a dereliction of duty and a betrayal of trust” to stop the project.

The faculty’s Senate only plays an advisory role, but Monmonier said the committee felt it was important to get the attention of donors and academics concerned with preserving the materials.

“If this rhetoric sounds harsh, it’s because the urgency is extreme,” the report said. “Extended screening is not an option. The price of inaction is the embarrassment of our peers as well as a diminished experience for our students and researchers.

Dick clark

Dick Clark poses with SU students before the Homecoming Parade begins in 1992.

Contact Michelle Breidenbach | [email protected] | 315-470-3186.


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