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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 14, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 22
Treasure Troves of History Arrive

Thomas Izbicki, collection development coordinator for the Eisenhower Library, with a harvest festival photo from the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Blaustein papers and Wyman Institute archive given to Jewish Studies

By Glenn Small

In one box are several volumes from the League of Nations, dated 1932; in another, folders full of photographs from the early days of Israel. Thomas Izbicki, collection development coordinator for the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Homewood, removes one of the photos.

Here is a smiling woman, carrying a basket of wheat. "This is a harvest festival," he says, noting that the older style Israeli flag in the picture dates it as very early.

Izbicki returns the photo to its box and notes the extensive stacks of similar boxes — more than 500 in all that comprise the archive and library of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and which are now part of the Sheridan Libraries' collections. The Wyman material, which provides a rich, early look into Zionism and the founding of Israel, is one of two new collections that give a boost to the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Jewish Studies program.

The other is the Collected Personal and Company Papers of Louis and Jacob Blaustein, the father and son industrialists who founded the American Oil Company in 1910 in Baltimore. They are credited with creating the first drive-through gas station and using the first metered gas pump.

Jacob Blaustein was an adviser to four presidents and served as a delegate to the United Nations. He was also president of the American Jewish Congress. The Blaustein collection includes 800 boxes of material covering the time span from 1910 to Jacob Blaustein's death in 1970. The papers were a gift to Johns Hopkins from his family.

David Nirenberg, head of the Jewish Studies program and a history professor currently on sabbatical leave, says the collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts, photos and prints from the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies provides the program with valuable source material.

"This is an immense collection, and we have only begun to work our way through it, but we already know how valuable it is for anyone interested in the early history of Zionism, the Palestine Mandate and Israel," he says. "This is a big jumpstart to our library in these new areas. Overnight, it gives us a world-class collection for teaching and research."

The Wyman Institute is based on the research of Professor David S. Wyman and strives to bridge the gap between the scholarly community and the general public. The institute is based at Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa.

Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute, says his organization was open to contributing the materials to Johns Hopkins not only because of the opportunity to build a relationship with the new Jewish Studies program here but also because of the number of prominent Baltimoreans who spoke out for the rescue of Jews from the Holocaust, including Sen. George Radcliffe, a Johns Hopkins graduate.

The initiative for bringing the Wyman collection to Johns Hopkins came from Baltimore attorney Shale Stiller, a Hopkins trustee and member of the Wyman Institute's Advisory Committee. As of Feb. 25, Stiller will be president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

"Our institute is very enthusiastic about our relationship with Johns Hopkins," says Medoff, adding that part of the ongoing association will be an annual event co-sponsored by the Wyman Institute and the Jewish Studies program.

The staff of the library now is challenged with the task of processing the two collections, which are distinct and valuable for different reasons. The Blaustein papers alone contain 28,000 folders.

Cynthia Requardt, curator of Special Collections, says that both collections require special care in sorting and processing to make the information they contain as accessible as possible. The library has received special funding from the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, the Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation and the Henry and Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Foundation to create an online searching tool for the Blaustein collection, which, when completed in about one year, will allow researchers from around the world to search a description of the material.

"This is a rich resource documenting the diplomatic activities and business acumen of this extraordinary family," Requardt says. "The online finding aid will enable researchers around the world to be introduced to the potential of this collection."

The Wyman material comprises more than 15,000 books, 225 bound and unbound periodicals, 10,000 pamphlets and more than 1,000 government documents in eight languages.

Although most of the material is in English, about one-third is in Hebrew and Yiddish, a fact that has slowed down the process of sorting and processing the collection because no one on the library staff is fluent in either language, Izbicki says.

As the Wyman material is being cataloged, some of it will make its way into the general collections, while the more rare material will be housed in Special Collections.

"A lot of the more standard print resources will be in general circulation, as long as [the material is] not brittle," Izbicki says.

Izbicki, who is also an adjunct assistant professor of history, says the most surprising aspect of the collection to him is the wealth of material on agriculture and farming techniques. "They were really thinking about the agriculture problems when they were thinking about the establishment of Israel," he says.


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