Tag Archives: archives

Can I Deduct That? – A Primer for Archivists

This guest blog article is written by Stuart Lutz, who provides clarification of the rules pertaining to tax deductible record donations. Lutz is a professional appraiser who operates his own company, Stuart Lutz Historic Documents Inc. More resources on appraisal are available through the SAA Acquisitions & Appraisal Section’s microsite Monetary Appraisal of Archival Materials web page and Bibliography listing.


“My husband is a well-known poet and a retired university professor,” the woman told me on the phone.  “We want to donate all his papers to the college where he worked, so we need a donation appraisal from you.”

I asked the woman if her husband was still alive.  “Yes, he’s standing right here next to me if you want to speak to him.”  I then gave her the bad news; while her living husband’s papers can be donated, their fair market value cannot be deducted from the family’s taxes.

“But…but…” she stammered, “the university officials and the archivists gave their approval.  They said I needed to find an appraiser and then we can get a large deduction.”

I explained to her the two major reasons why her husband’s papers cannot be written off; neither self-created archives nor products of paid work can be tax deducted.  I cited to the shocked woman some of the IRS regulations and Tax Court decisions, and she said she was going to discuss the matter with her accountant.

In my years of performing donation appraisals, I have found that many archivists are ignorant of basic tax laws, particularly when it comes to donations.  Archivists may be signing IRS 8283s on behalf of their institutions for materials that are not allowed to be legally deducted.  This brief blog will explain to archivists three of the major categories of items that cannot be tax deducted, and I will cite the laws and Tax Court decisions behind them.

Before discussing the three categories, I will give the IRS’s definition of fair market value (FMV) for donation purposes (the IRS definition for estate taxes is slightly different):

Fair market value is the price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts. If you put a restriction on the use of property you donate, the FMV must reflect that restriction.[1]

The non-deduction scenarios

There are three types of materials that cannot be tax deducted, and here are the individual scenarios:

Self-created archives cannot be tax deducted.  The IRS has ruled that self-created materials cannot be deducted for anything more than the cost of the materials to create the donated item, such as the paper and ink if they are manuscripts, or the canvas and the paint if they are paintings.[2]  If a living author wants to donate his or her book manuscripts, all he or she can deduct is the cost of the paper and the ink (which will probably not amount to much).  This self-created archive rule applies to every citizen, all the way up to the president.  Although we may think that Richard Nixon’s famous “I’m not a crook” line related to Watergate, it was about his illegal tax deductions for his self-created Vice-Presidential archives that he donated to the National Archives.[3]  Nixon eventually paid $465,000 in back taxes to the IRS after the donation of his Vice-Presidential archive was disallowed.[4]

Products of paid work cannot be tax deducted.  The archival residue from a paid job cannot be tax deducted either.  In the mid-1980s, The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper donated to the California Historical Society its clippings library that contained about 7.8 million articles from the Chronicle and other newspapers. The newspaper took a $1.5 million tax deduction in 1983, $458,000 deduction in 1984 and a $891,000 deduction in 1985. The IRS disallowed the deductions since they are the product of paid work, and the Chronicle challenged the ruling.  The case went to the Tax Court, where the judges ruled in the IRS’s favor in the 1991 case Chronicle Publishing Co. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.[5]  The court stated that the business could not deduct a “letter, memorandum, or similar property…for whom such property was prepared or produced.”  The Court’s decision concluded that “Because [the San Francisco Chronicle] Company’s basis in the library is zero, Company’s charitable contribution for its donation to Organization [the California Historical Society] is reduced to zero.”[6]  In other words, the product of paid work – even if they are letters to someone at the company, like the CEO – cannot be deducted.  Likewise, the CEO of a company cannot deduct the papers he or she created while in that role.

Letters written to someone still living cannot be tax deducted.  If a prominent alum of your university owns a lengthy correspondence with a President and now wants to donate the letters to the school, those letters cannot be tax deducted either.  The reason for this is that such a donation needs a cost basis, and letters received through the mail have no cost basis – they are essentially a gift.  In Publication 526 (page 11, middle column), the IRS states about the donation of ordinary income property that they generally limit “the deduction to your basis in the property.”[7]  This rule does not apply just to letters received through the mail.  If Truman Capote gave me a book manuscript, I cannot deduct its value in a donation.  If Jasper Johns gave me a painting, I cannot deduct its value in a donation.  If Annie Leibovitz gave me original photographs…you get the idea.

What Can Be Tax Deducted

There are many items that can be donated and tax deducted, and here are some examples:

If a collector, in the course of his or her life, bought every Robert Louis Stevenson publication and wanted to donate the book collection to an institution, that could be tax deducted because there is a cost basis.  The donor can calculate how much he or she spent in creating the collection.

If a donor’s grandfather received a letter from Theodore Roosevelt and it came down through the family, the FMV of the letter could be tax deducted by the donor.  There is a tax loophole called the “stepped-up basis”.  Once materials go through the estate process, the inheritors get the original cost basis (if any) eliminated; they get to claim the full fair market value of an item on the day of inheritance.[8]

If a donor’s father bought a Thomas Jefferson letter and the donor inherited it, that could be tax deducted because of the stepped-up basis.

If Truman Capote gave me a book manuscript (or Jasper Johns bestowed upon me a painting), I could leave it to my heirs and they could deduct its FMV.

If the poet whom I mentioned in the opening paragraph left his papers to his children, that archive could be tax deducted since it will have gone through the estate tax and the stepped-up basis.

Last Notes…

Two last points for archivists.

First, a qualified appraisal is only required if the donated material has a fair market value exceeding $5,000.[9]

Second, archivists should be aware of the Art Advisory Panel.[10]  The board, which consists of up to twenty-five experts (some of whom are antiques dealers and curators) who serve without pay, reviews all appraisals with a single item with a claimed value of $50,000 or more. In other words, if the taxpayer donated 50, 500 or 5,000 items and just one has a value over $50,000, the Art Advisory Panel will give the appraisal extra scrutiny to make certain the valuation is correct.  Do not let the word “Art” in the panel’s name fool you; if someone donate an inverted Jenny stamp or a 1971 Plymouth HemiCuda, both of which have a FMV in excess of $50,000, the board will give the donation appraisal an in-depth review.  The Panel reviews both donation and estate tax appraisals.

If the IRS believes the monetary value assigned in the appraisal are significantly off (usually over-inflation for donations and under-inflation for estate taxes), the IRS can and will hire outside experts to challenge the original appraiser’s conclusions. In a recent case involving an estate, a Sotheby’s expert appraised artwork by the Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger at $500,000 in 2005. The IRS thought this valuation was too low, and it brought in their own expert, who presented evidence that the work was worth $2.1 million based on other recent sales. The tax court judge finally assigned the painting a fair market value of $1,995,000, meaning the estate had undervalued the painting and would likely owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional taxes, penalties and interests.[11]

Of course, one can sell self-created materials to a private buyer or an institution and avoid many of these tax deduction issues.

About the author

Stuart Lutz is a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), qualified in the field of Books and Manuscripts: Historic Documents.  He is USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) compliant and has taught appraisal classes at the AAA.  He has been in the historic document and manuscript field for over a quarter-century.  He is the author of The Last Leaf: Voices of History’s Last Known Survivors (Prometheus Books, 2010), which contains almost forty interviews with the final survivors or last eyewitnesses of historically important events. His contact information is available via his website at http://www.historydocs.com and a fuller version of this article can be found here.  The author notes that this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional tax advice.

[1] https://www.irs.gov/publications/p561/ar02.html

[2] http://www.appraisers.org/docs/default-source/discipline_pp/irs-requirements-for-appraisals-of-gifts-and-donations.pdf?sfvrsn=0


[4] https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/Decoder/2011/0418/Tax-Day-2011-Why-do-presidents-release-tax-returns-Hint-I-am-not-a

[5] https://www.leagle.com/decision/199154297aetc4451512

[6] https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-wd/0119005.pdf

[7] https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf

[8] https://www.thebalance.com/how-the-stepped-up-basis-loophole-works-357485

[9] https://www.irs.gov/irb/2006-46_IRB

[10] https://www.irs.gov/individuals/art-appraisal-services

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/23/arts/design/dont-blame-the-russians-tax-judge-tells-sothebys-expert.html


Now Accepting Nominations for SAA Acquisitions & Appraisal Section Steering Committee

Update: Deadline for nominations has been extended to May 28!

Dear colleagues,

The Acquisitions and Appraisal Section has openings for three positions on the steering committee:

  • Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect
  • Steering Committee At-Large Member (2 positions available)

In order to be nominated for these positions, candidates must be a member of the Society of American Archivists and a member of the Acquisitions and Appraisal Section at the time of nomination.

The duties of these positions are as follows:

Vice Chair/Chair-Elect (1 position):

  • The Vice Chair serves a one-year term (2018-2019), beginning at the conclusion of the SAA Annual Meeting. The Vice Chair assists with communication and outreach efforts, producing and overseeing communications. The Vice Chair takes minutes at Section meetings; acts as the chair in the absence of the Section Chair; organizes the program in conjunction with the steering committee for the annual Section meeting; and contributes occasionally to subcommittee work.
  • At the conclusion of the 2019 Annual Meeting, the Vice Chair assumes the role of Chair for the following year (2019-2020), and subsequently as Immediate Past Chair (2020-2021).
  • The Chair presides at meetings of the Section and the steering committee; coordinates Section-proposed sessions for the SAA Annual Meeting and section endorsements; and sets the Section’s agenda for the year with assistance from the Section leadership team. The Chair serves as Section representative with respect to SAA, SAA Council, and other groups within SAA; appoints Section subcommittees as needed; and coordinates the preparation of an annual report of Section activities and submits it to the SAA executive office.
  • The Immediate Past Chair is responsible for chairing the Nominating Committee for that year’s section election.
  • In each role, this person is expected to attend the SAA Annual Meeting and recurring section meetings (at least four per year).
  • The time commitment for this role is estimated at 5 hours per month.

Steering Committee Members (2 positions):

  • Members serve two-year terms (2018-2020), eligible for reelection to a second term.
  • Members co-chair at least one of the Section subcommittees, regularly attending meetings and reporting back to the Section.
  • Members serve on the Nominating Committee, assist in planning annual meeting sessions of interest to the Section, and participate in Section subcommittees (such as the Best Practices Subcommittee). They also participate in discussion of Section business.
  • Members are expected to attend the SAA Annual Meeting and recurring section meeting conference calls.
  • The time commitment for this role is estimated at a few hours a month.

Please send candidate suggestions to the Nominating Committee by May 20, 2018.  Final ballot information will be sent to SAA by June 1, 2018. Elections will be held online in July 2018. For questions and to submit nominations, please contact the Nominating Committee:

Consider nominating yourself or a colleague! Please include name, email address, and institution (if available) of the suggested candidate.


April 19 Twitter Chat: Collection Development and Acquisition Policies

Join us April 19 at 7pm EST for a twitter chat on collection development and acquisition policies! We’ll be asking the archives community to weigh in on the following questions:

  1. Do you think collection development or acquisition policies are necessary? 
  2. After reading through the survey at http://bit.ly/2rtGwr2, any initial thoughts or feedback?
  3. Do the survey results represent your institution accurately? 
  4. The data indicates many often have little influence on writing a policy, what would increase your ability to influence it more? 
  5. Do you think these kinds of policies should be easily available, such as on institutional websites?  Why or why not? 
  6. For those whose policies need revision before uploading, could the A&A section offer some assistance? In what form? 
  7. For those whose institution lack policies, what would help you get those written?
  8. Could the A&A section offer assistance to get that process jump-started? 
  9. What do you think are best practices in the creation of collection development policies?

We hope to hear from you @AppraisalSAA – remember to end your tweets with #AppraiseThis so we can include you in the conversation!

If you missed the conversation, a recap is now available at Chat_20180319_AcquisitionsPolicies

Recap: Third Thursday and Collecting Women’s March Materials and Women’s Collections in Archives

Editor’s Note: Storify is no longer active, the chat may be accessed at Chat_201711_CollectingWomensMaterials.

A summary recap of November’s Third Thursday chat on Twitter is now up on the A&A’s Storify page.  Read through to check out what was brought up during our conversation on collecting materials from the Women’s March and women’s collections in archives.

Thanks to SAA’s Women Archivists and Women’s Collections Sections for teaming up!

Write for us!

The A&A Section seeks guest writers to submit short pieces for our blog. Our “Repository Updates” series allows you to share your recent adventures in appraisal and acquisition. Content could include but is not limited to: experiences tackling a new acquisition, reviewing collections for deaccessioning, donor relations, and concerns, challenges or positive appraisal decisions. So tell us your A&A stories!

We have created an online form to guide these blog pieces: https://goo.gl/EstuSx

Have another other idea for a submission? Please get in touch!

New writers welcome!

Acquiring and Appraising Born-Digital Material at the Minnesota Historical Society

Sarah Barsness

Sarah Barsness

Sarah Barsness is a Digital Collections Assistant at the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), where she works to process, store, preserve, and provide access to MNHS’s born-digital collections. Sarah holds a BA in Anthropology and German as well as an MA in Library and Information Studies with an Archival Science focus, both from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. When she’s not at work, odds are pretty good that you can find her at the local comic book store or craft shop.

The following is an interview by the Acquisitions and Appraisal Section with Sarah on her work at the MNHS acquiring and appraising born-digital material.

Tell us about your current position at the Minnesota Historical Society.

SB: My job is focused specifically on digital preservation, but in that role I also advise and work with other staff on digital collections from the point of acquisition to providing public access. I also help with the ongoing work of maintaining digital infrastructure for our collections (including space management on our network or creating backups). My time is balanced between working directly with collections, policy/procedure development, and keeping abreast of developments and best practices in the field.

How are you involved in acquisitions and appraisal work in that position?

SB: At MNHS acquisitions are brought in by curators, who traditionally are responsible for all the appraisal work. When it comes to digital collections, I work with the curators on appraisal, processing, providing access, and planning for preservation; I am able to provide technical expertise to help the curators consider non-content-related appraisal issues, such as file format, media condition, size, and the like.

Can you walk us through a “typical day” in your job appraising digital content?

SB: When a curator has a new collection with a digital component that they think is worth accepting, we generally sit down and take a look at the content and format together. We discuss how the digital content fits with the rest of the collection, any restrictions that might inhibit online access, and any potential preservation issues. If there are preservation concerns, such as an unusual filetype or an unstable storage medium, we take a look at our options and weigh the required resources against the value of the materials. Together, we make an appraisal decision and develop a processing and preservation plan for the materials.

What are some unique considerations when appraising born-digital content vs. other formats?

SB: I’ve found that the fundamentals of analog appraisal hold true for digital appraisal as well, but there are some differences of degree and emphasis. Each digital file you accession will likely require a greater commitment of time and money than a similar physical object, for example, so we’ve found that it’s very important to carefully consider the resource implications of a digital accession at the point of appraisal, probably more so than with analog collections. We’re working on developing and implementing a tiered preservation scheme so that we can commit more resources to our most important materials and fewer resources to less valuable ones.

Describe one of the biggest challenges you encountered appraising born-digital content, and how did you approach it?

SB: One of the biggest challenges we face is that of working with digital materials at a large scale. Appraising large and heterogeneous collections can be very difficult; they can have layers upon layers of organizational structure that are difficult to penetrate, and file navigation systems (like Windows Explorer) aren’t built to allow you to view everything at once. To help us get a handle on these large collections, we often use characterization and de-duplication software to help us get a better understanding of the size, nature, and arrangement of the accession.

Is appraisal of born-digital materials ever collaborative? If so, how do you work with colleagues to determine appraisal criteria and appraise content?

SB: Collaboration is a huge part of born-digital appraisal for us! The curators who bring in digital materials are experts on the content of the materials, and I contribute information about the technical aspects of the digital objects; together, we are able to balance resource requirements and preservation issues with the content of the collection and how it fits in our collecting policy. The curators also have a better understanding of materials related to the digital components of a collection, such as accompanying analog materials or previous accessions from the same donor.

Are there guidelines that can help us develop our own appraisal criteria, or develop best practices?

SB: There are lots of great resources out there, and many institutions are trying to work together to tackle some of these issues; groups like the National Digital Stewardship Alliance and websites like the DigiPres Commons have been doing a lot of great work to pool knowledge and set some best practices for the field. Digital Preservation Coalition has a wonderful section on acquisition and appraisal in it’s newly revised Digital Preservation Handbook, which is a must-read resource for anybody working with born-digital materials. I also regularly refer to the Library of Congress’ Sustainability of Digital Formats webpage, which offers a lot of helpful information about preservation concerns and preferences for various kinds of digital materials.

Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share about appraising born-digital material?

SB: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of yourself when it comes to appraising digital material, regardless of your level of computer proficiency. There are just so many unknowns when it comes to digital material and how (or even if) it can be saved for decades to come. Don’t let that uncertainty keep you from acquiring amazing collections that happen to be digital, because we’ll never be able to preserve the things we don’t try to save.

Managing Acquisitions and Appraisal in a Music Archive

Adriana Cuervo has served as Associate Director of The Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) at Rutgers University – Newark since 2013. Before coming to New Jersey she worked at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Cuervo spoke with Section social media intern Lily Troia this past fall about her background, managing music and cultural heritage collections, and the nuances of appraisal and acquisition activity at the world’s foremost jazz archives and research library. Cuervo highlights strategies around copyright, the value of taking good notes, and the necessity of strong collection inventories. She also discusses acquisitions goals in relation to Rutgers’ on-going diversity initiatives and the Institute’s position within the New Jersey and broader jazz community.

Adriana Cuervo in the stacks the IJS

Adriana Cuervo in the stacks the IJS

Can you share a bit about the path that brought you to IJS?

I started as the Assistant Archivist for Music and Fine Arts at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I worked there for eight years. My role was collections work, arrangement, description, finding aids, and exhibits—a little bit of everything. The Sousa Archive is a small shop in a big university, so we did everything. Everyone did everything. It was not as though you only do preservation, or you only do arrangement and description. We did everything, and there were only two full-time people. We had graduate students and undergrads working with us, but the director and myself did the bulk of the work. It was a really interesting—I learned everything I know by just doing things . . . No one prepares you for things you are going to find when you open boxes: “Oh, what is that?? It’s moving!”

I came to the IJS in 2013. I was not looking for a job, but I saw the opening. It was in a music archives, and I thought, “Oh gosh, this is very rare, very random.” I had assumed whenever I left Illinois it would be to go to an archives with a broader collection scope, more traditional university archives/special collections. Since this was a music archives and a management position, I thought, “If this is not it, I don’t know what is.” It was a really appealing job because of the stature of the IJS within the jazz community, and because there is a lot of work to be done. The archives was built and sustained for over 30 years by very talented, well-known people who brought in amazing collections. That is the reason we are here today. However, once things came in the door, they moved onto the next big thing because big things were happening. We have a lot of collections work to do. We need to straighten out our holdings, and put them at a level with which I am comfortable, in terms of preservation and access.

In terms of my role in the IJS, I have four areas: I oversee the archives, and all archival operation is under my purview. I handle marketing and communications for the institute, which we are managing more strategically, focusing on engagement. Obviously the more time you have to put into things like social media, the more benefits you get, but I think for the amount of time I am able to put in, things are going well and improving. I identify, design, and oversee digital projects with our collections, and frequently partner with other departments, like our digital humanities librarian, Krista White. We are applying for a couple of grants to digitize different collections, and are putting our oral histories online. She does the technical side and we provide the jazz expertise, and the content to go online. We have also identified pockets of materials that are good candidates for digitization, taking into consideration fragility of the medium. We have a lot of tapes that smell like vinegar, and sound recording collections on obsolete media that are good candidates.

The fourth area, I work with Ed Berger, Special Projects Consultant, in the programs we offer—the jazz fellowships, the archival fellowships, and the research fellowships. I am getting to learn the administrative ropes of those programs with the understanding that I will take them over upon Ed’s retirement.

What role do you play in terms of acquisitions and appraisal at the IJS?

We do our appraisal in more of a group effort. We get offers of things on a daily basis. Everyone has the greatest jazz record collection, or all the books of so-and-so they want to donate. For potential archival materials we discuss as a group, and we weigh the pros and cons, asking essential questions like, where are the materials? We try not to acquire things unseen, which is a double-edged sword (or Russian roulette). We talk out all the scenarios, discussing questions of copyright.

How much do copyright concerns impact acquisitions decisions?

Ideally we would like to have the rights come to the institute with the materials, but we realize these are often performing musicians, and there are other people who have an economic interest in their work. It might not be feasible for them to transfer rights to this institute at this point, but we do make sure that the donors are aware that even though the copyright still resides with them, they need to make succession plans for that property. We are being super militant about clearing the rights question, especially since my and Elizabeth Surles’s (IJS archivist) arrival. We need to know who owns the rights to the materials, because people are going to want to make copies, want photographs for publication. There is nothing worse than having someone come in and find exactly what they need, and have to tell them, “Sorry, you can’t take it. You need to find the rights holder; I don’t know who it is. You’re on your own.” That is not how I would like to see us operate. We need to at least keep good files on the collections that we have. Eventually we will reach out to the donors’ heirs to see if they are willing to transfer rights.

For example, there’s a collection of photographs that the donor decided not to transfer copyright to the IJS, but we have a non-exclusive license to use his materials in research. The deed of gift specifies the resolution we can give to researchers, and allows us to use materials to promote the Institute. Anything in large format or high resolution would go through his licensing agency. That is a great model for us.

Since I came on I have been working to organize our collection files. Previously documentation was scattered—different people had different pieces of the acquisitions files. We have been putting them in one central place. We are old-fashioned. Every time we finish an acquisition we print out our emails and notes from phone conversations and put them in the file. You never know. It happened to me actually on the first acquisition I ever worked on!

Tell us about it. 

It was the Eddie Bert papers. He played trombone and died in 2012. He was a very well-known trombonist. He played with everyone and their sisters: Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus. He was in high demand. He played live, and also recorded for film scores. We got a call from one of his daughters who was the executor of his estate. She called when they were cleaning out his house and said she knew her father would have wanted his materials to come to the IJS. Bert had a long-standing relationship with our then- director Dan Morgenstern, so we acquired the materials from Connecticut—photographs, his instruments, etc. A deed of gift was signed. Then maybe in 2014, another family member called expressing discontent that Bert’s materials had been given to the IJS. We had been unaware there was any contention with the executor’s decision. It required some delicate negotiations. We got our counsel to weigh in, who determined the executor had acted in accordance to the law. But we wanted to reassure the upset family member, which took several sympathetic conversations, offering an open invitation for their family to come to the Institute whenever they wanted to see the materials, and that we would include them in any concerts or exhibits involving the collection. That was my first acquisition on the job; and, about a week into the job here at IJS. But, I did keep good notes!

So you worked to make the unhappy party a stakeholder in Bert’s donated legacy?

Definitely. You want to help someone come to a decision themselves that hopefully aligns with your goals, but you never want to antagonize them.

The IJS is known as the world’s largest and most comprehensive jazz archive. Considering jazz is such a massive topic, are there currently narrower areas of scope in which you are focusing new acquisitions? 

We are definitely the world’s largest and most comprehensive jazz archives, yes. I wouldn’t say we are narrowing our areas of scope, but what we are really working on is a complete collection inventory as compared to our 2010 list. Then we will assess what we have, and hopefully set up a collections map, breaking down by instrument, time period, musicians, etc. We might realize we don’t have enough, say jazz tuba. We do know that our collection strengths move past the 1950s and into the ‘60s a bit, but then decline. That is a more contemporary collection area we want to pursue, but many of those musicians are still living and performing. Over the years we have acquired various materials, like a huge amount of big band stock arrangements, and now we realize we have twelve collections with stock arrangements, so perhaps we could have steered these donors to go somewhere else? We cannot do that though, unless we know what we have. We are focused on really pinpointing those areas so we know how to fill the voids.

Will you deaccession any duplicates?

No, I think we will just chalk it up as a learning experience. That is one thing this collection-wide survey is helping us realize. There are a lot of photocopies in our archival boxes. People would randomly photocopy things and bring them to the Institute to donate, and they might be already archived in original form at the Library of Congress. We really do not need to be holding on to these in archival form, though they could be moved into the reference section. This survey is yielding those kinds of results, so we will be able to see the bigger picture once it is done to inform future acquisitions decisions.

Rutgers is among the nation’s most diverse universities, with an ongoing commitment to new initiatives aimed at continued improvements in this arena. How do the IJS, and its acquisition goals, fit into this mission?

Diversity is a big theme that runs through Rutgers – Newark and the Rutgers University Libraries. I think the Institute itself was founded in that same spirit: no one thinks jazz is worthy of serious study, so let’s do it. That has always been in the back of our minds. For example, we do not just collect the papers of famous people. That is an area I think is worth thinking about critically—the role of, say, K-12 music educators. These are the people that are at the grassroots of teaching and inspiring kids towards careers in music. These are the first lines where children get acquainted with jazz—wouldn’t it be nice to say we are representing that segment of the population in our jazz collections? That is something that needs more study, and requires us to get to know the players and the people.

We recently got a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to arrange and describe collections of four native New Jersey jazz musicians. One of them, Harry Leahy, a guitarist who was very well known in the local area, but was not, by any means, a big, touring name. But he really brought jazz to a lot of people in this state, and taught at Paterson University, Essex County College, and other local spots where a lot of the gigging musicians in the area got their education. He was really meaningful in the local scene, and as I put it in our grant, he is someone that really deserves the recognition, and to have his contributions documented for the future.

So yes, we are always thinking about diversity, always thinking that there are many, many points of view, and that the historical record should reflect all of those points of view.


Interview conducted and written by Lily Troia, Social Media Intern.