Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Brooklyn's YWCA Builds Archive Collection To Preserve Its Storied History

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For 125 years, the mission of Brooklyn's YWCA has been empowering women and eliminating racism, and now the organization wants to make sure its history is forever preserved. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

Some of the original records of the Young Women's Christian Association of Brooklyn date back to the late 1800s, including the minutes from the first board meeting in 1887 establishing the YWCA as an organization.

Dozens of boxes of books, newspaper clippings, paperwork and photos were recently discovered in the building's basement.

"Much of, not only YWCA Brooklyn's history is here, but also much of Brooklyn's history is here, and it also mirrors what was going on in the United States during that time as well," said YWCA Brooklyn President Martha Kamber.

Among the findings is a written explanation in 1943 on why the YWCA in Brooklyn became the first in the nation to desegregate.

To help preserve its history, the YWCA partnered with Brooklyn College archivists, who recovered items from the basement and moved them to the college campus.

"Because it was not kept in a controlled environment, a lot of the paper has yellowed, it's very brittle. Items can actually break in your hands," said Brooklyn College Archivist Marianne LaBatto.

"Right now we have a lot of dry mold, so it has to be carefully brushed off under fumed hoods in our chemistry department, and you have to wear a mask, apron, it's very dangerous. If you breathe it in for too long, you can get serious respiratory problems, skin infections, so everything has to be covered," said Brooklyn College Archive Assistant Steven Calco.

A yearbook from 1888 was among one of the first items to be restored.

But the materials and the meticulous work are costly.

"To try to find the same pattern and make it as close as possible to the original piece," said Brooklyn College Conservator Slava Polishchuk.

About $50,000 is needed to preserve all of the items.

Brooklyn College will permanently house them, and a rotating archival collection will be on display at the YWCA.

A fundraising event for the archive project will take place at the YWCA Tuesday night.

For more information on the project, visit ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP