October is New York State Archives and National Archives Month, a time to celebrate and promote the rich and diverse documentary heritage of our great state by increasing public awareness of archival materials and repositories and by acknowledging the importance of our records keepers.
Archives are essential to the historical record and include a wide range of document types, including letters, legal records, transcripts, diaries, newspapers, photographs, reports, architectural drawings, manuscripts, artifacts, audio and video records, and materials in electronic formats.
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission has 110 years worth of archives in all of these categories. The PIPC’s archives are currently housed in a former naval barrack on the Iona Island Estuarine and Bird Sanctuary. The vast collection, which documents the creation and development of the nation’s first interstate park, is an important resource for historians, environmental advocates, and archaeologists. From the documentation of the movement to stop the destruction of the Palisades cliffs, the collection of statistics of multiple natural studies, to the reports and hearings that form the genesis of today’s environmental movement at Storm King Mountain, to the creation of its 28 parks and historic sites, PIPC’s archival holdings are a largely untapped Hudson Valley treasure.
Palisade’s archives are divided into four disciplines: Archaeology and Native Americans, Historical Photographs, Research Library, and Park History. Researchers, educators, and authors have used items in the collection for unlimited projects including books, films, newspaper articles, and lectures.
But like many repositories of history, the PIPC Archive is in serious need of improvement. Only generally organized, volunteers and funding are greatly needed for database entry, cataloging, digitizing documents, and general upkeep.
The Commission is grateful for its first archive grant given by the Nyack based Austin Stokes Ancient Americas Foundation in support of the PIPC Native American collection. This funding allowed the protection of this invaluable collection.
But, much more is needed. For example, of the approximately 100,000 photographs located in the collection, less than five percent have been digitized and catalogued. And the facility in which the archives are stored, originally a barracks from when Iona Island was a naval munitions factory for World Wars I & II, lacks climate control, a critical component in the preservation of any archive.
If you are interested in assisting the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to preserve and make available this unique collection, please contact Susan E. Smith, PIPC Research and Development Director, at [email protected]
Photo: The Carpenter Quarry, Fort Lee, NJ.