Expanding Access to American Jewish Archival Collections Initiative

Project Summary

The Center for Jewish History (the Center) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) have completed the first step of a multi-step collaborative endeavor to expand access to American Jewish archival collections at local Jewish historical societies and museums, as well as within academic special collections on the Eastern seaboard. The primary goal of the initiative is to boost online representation and collection visibility from a local to a national level, making a place for local histories in the larger narratives of American Jewish history. The Center and AJHS are grateful for the generous support of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for phase one.

Phase One: Relationship Building

Phase one (February 2014-January 2015) focused largely on relationship building and information gathering with 13 participating organizations, in order to facilitate goal setting for the next phases. The Center and AJHS assigned archival staff members to conduct site visits at 12 of the 13 organizations. During the visits, Center archivists recorded the following information about each organization:

Institutional Summary:
Institutional history and size, staffing, user population, reference traffic, collecting policies, current processing/digitization projects, collaborations, any affiliate organizations
Archival Collection Holdings:
Number of personal, institutional or artificial collections, total linear footage, subject scope, formats, languages, date ranges, quantity of collections/footage processed and not yet processed
Archival Description:
Descriptive/structural standards (EAD, MARC, Dublin Core, DACS) and vocabularies (LCSH, AAT, local, etc.) in use, level of description of materials (collection-, box-, folder- or item-level), number of online and/or paper finding aids and records
Data and Systems:
Systems in which archival description resides, data formats, systems’ export options, existence of permanent URLs for records or digital objects
Preservation and Conservation:
Stacks space, levels of environmental control, housing of materials, condition of materials
Quantity and types of materials digitized, associated metadata
Institutional Priorities:
Needs and challenges facing each participating institution, as communicated by each institution to Center archivists
Additional Notes:
Other observations, suggestions for follow-up

Following the visits, archivists compiled a 2-3 page report structured around these informational categories. Based on these findings, the Center and AJHS will set measurable goals for upcoming phases of the initiative, tailored to both the unique needs of each participating repository and the services the Center and AJHS can provide. To read a summary of the project's work, and to learn more about plans for the future, please see All History is Local: Expanding Access to American Jewish Archival Collections, a paper presented at the 2015 CLIR Unconference & Symposium.

Phase One: Project Participants

  1. Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives (Richmond, VA)
  2. Charlotte Jewish Archives at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)
  3. Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, University at Buffalo (SUNY) and Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) (No site visit was conducted, but data was transferred.)
  4. Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina and Duke University’s Rubenstein Library (Durham, NC)
  5. Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County (Freehold, NJ)
  6. Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey (New Brunswick, NJ)
  7. Jewish Historical Society of Delaware (Wilmington, DE)
  8. Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County (Stamford, CT)
  9. Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford (West Hartford, CT)
  10. Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven (New Haven, CT)
  11. Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts (South Deerfield, MA)
  12. Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association (Providence, RI)
  13. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Southern Historical Collection (Chapel Hill, NC)

For summaries of the site visit reports for these project participants, please see our Site Visit Report Summaries page. To see a map of all project locations, please see our Google map.

Phase One: Data Transfer

After establishing collaborative relationships, the initiative’s next step towards increasing access to American Jewish collections is the ingestion of collection-level records into AJHS’s Portal to American Jewish History. The Portal is a metadata aggregator that enables researchers to perform complex searches across American Jewish archival collections currently residing at over seven geographically dispersed repositories. As part of phase one, Center and AJHS data implementation specialists ingested 104 collection-level records into the Portal. The records originated from three project participants: the Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County (Stamford, CT); the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, University at Buffalo (SUNY) and Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo (Buffalo, NY); and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford (West Hartford, CT). For technical details on the data transfer, please see our Data Transfer Strategies page.

Future Phases

In progressive phases—and subject to project participants’ goals and resources—the Center and AJHS plan to migrate additional collection-level records into AJHS’s Portal to American Jewish History, encode legacy finding aids and inventories, process selected collections, digitize selected material and host the material online in the Center’s OPAC.


  • Susan Malbin – Co-Project Director, AJHS
  • Laura Leone – Co-Project Director, CJH
  • Rachel Miller – Project Manager, CJH
  • Rachel Harrison – Project Archivist, CJH
  • Sarah Ponichtera – Project Archivist, CJH
  • Christine McEvilly – Data Implementation Specialist, AJHS
  • Kevin Schlottmann – Data Implementation Specialist, CJH