University Libraries

Documenting Labor Inside and Out
Labor Culture
The Lives of Workers

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UE Local 301 softball team, ca. 1944
UE Local 301 softball team, ca. 1944, photographer unknown (Helen Quirini Papers; Quirini is in the center of the back row).
This exhibit has focused primarily on the records of labor unions and other labor organizations such as the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District. However, documenting labor does not stop there. Also of interest to scholars of the labor movement are the many materials that document the culture and social atmosphere in which workers live and work. As a result, the personal records of just one union member, particularly if he or she was active in his or her community, may contain a gold mine of materials documenting the life of a union member off the job and the community groups in existence in the various towns and cities that were home to large numbers of workers.

Pete Seeger and his magic banjo, date unknown
Pete Seeger and his magic banjo at Camp Woodland, date and photographer unknown (Norman Studer Papers).
Children at Camp Woodland, date unknown
Children at Camp Woodland, date and photographer unknown (Norman Studer Papers).

The M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives has only begun to document this aspect of labor history through the collections held in its Archives of Public Affairs and Policy, and is actively seeking to expand its labor-related holdings to include not just the records of labor unions, but of individual labor activists, groups that focus on the needs of workers and advocate public policy or other changes on their behalf, and of social organizations that were comprised mainly of working classes or specifically catered to the needs and interests of workers.

In May 2001, the Department of Special Collections and Archives acquired the papers of Norman Studer. This collection is currently being processed and is not yet available to researchers. When made available, this collection will provide a wealth of information for researchers in many disciplines. Included in it are numerous photographs and other records relating to Camp Woodland, a camp in the Catskill mountains attended by children of union members; records relating to the Downtown Community School in New York City; and approximately two hundred reel-to-reel tapes documenting many aspects of folk life and social culture.


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Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
Comments to bkeough@uamail.albany.edu