About Laura Smith


Archives & Special Collections reading room closed for holidays

American Brass Company employees singing Christmas carols, 1955

Our reading room will be closed from Monday, December 19, 2016, through Monday, January 2, 2017. We will open at 9a.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, and resume our regular hours of Mondays through Fridays, 9a.m. to 4p.m.

In the meantime we’ll sing Christmas carols with these employees of the American Brass Company in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1955.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from all of us here in Archives & Special Collections!

Greater New Haven Labor History Association Collection

Sewing Department, D&I Shirt Company, New Haven, ConnecticutThe Greater New Haven Labor History Association’s mission is to collect, preserve and share the history of working people in the New Haven, Connecticut, area. For years they gathered the historical records of labor unions that served New Haven businesses, conducted oral history interviews, and constructed traveling exhibits to disseminate this history. Recently they’ve had to close their office and offered to Archives & Special Collections the labor history records they have collected through the years. Working with their archivist Joan Cavanagh we’ve received many records in batches in the last several months, with more to come.

Collections we have received so far include those of the following labor unions:

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Local 125/International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 151

Typographical Union of New Haven

American Association of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1939

New Haven Council for Unemployed Workers

United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Local 299

and the papers of local labor activists Nicholas Aiello, Dorothy Johnson, Joseph M. Rourke, and David Montgomery.

You can find out more information on the materials in the collections through the finding aid.


Railroad Photography Exhibits

In the past few weeks we’ve put up three exhibits in the Dodd Research Center in preparation for our hosting the Conversations Northeast 2016 meeting of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art on October 29. The exhibits are available now for anyone visiting the building.


The Call of Trains: Railroad Photography by Jim Shaughnessy, is available in the Dodd Research Center corridor until the first week of November. It shows the work of this extraordinary photographer who has spent his life traveling the country photographing trains and railroad scenes. This is a traveling exhibit created by the CRPA.

uconn_asc_2006-0195_box9_folder857_huntingtonave_boston_maDepots by the Number: The Legacy of Lewis Herbert Benton and Irving Newell Drake was created by two guest curators — railroad historians Richard A. Fleischer and Robert Joseph Belletzkie — showing and describing in detail photographs of Mr. Benton, who took thousands of photographs of railroad stations in New England from about 1910 to 1936 with the aid of an assistant, Mr. Drake. This exhibit will be available in the public lounge off of the lobby through fall semester.


Railroad Photographs in Archives & Special Collections of the UConn Library shows the work of ten photographers whose work is held in the Railroad History Collections. The photograph above was taken by photographer and author J.W. Swanberg and is one of many showing the impact and beauty of railroads in our region. This exhibit is now in the gallery and will be up through fall semester.

All are invited to attend the conference on October 29. You can find information about the conference and how to register at http://www.railphoto-art.org/conferences/northeast-2016/.

Many photographs from the exhibits can be found in our digital repository at http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/.


Are Photographs a Truly Reliable Primary Source?

Do you notice something different about these two images?


donovan_granby_box2_folder105I’m sure you see it — in the second photograph there is a man standing on top of the box car. These two digital images are from the same actual, physical object of a photographic print. What do you think happened here?

It’s an interesting story. This photograph, of the Granby, Connecticut, railroad station, was taken around 1930 by the noted regional photographer Lewis H. Benton, who was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1872 or 1873 and worked for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad as a clerk. In his free time he would travel around the region with his sidekick Irving Drake and take photographs of railroad stations and structures. In both versions of the photograph you will see Mr. Drake’s sedan near the station; in the second image that’s him on top of the railroad car. This image was donated along with thousands of other photographs of railroad locomotives, stations, and scenes by Mr. Francis D. Donovan of Medford, Massachusetts, in 2006.

Recently we had a visit to the archives of Mr. Robert Belletzkie, a very knowledgeable railroad historian who maintains a website focusing on railroad stations in Connecticut — TylerCityStation.info. Mr. Belletzkie was conducting his research in the Donovan Papers, saw the photograph, the version without Mr. Drake on top of the car, and knew something was wrong. He had seen this same image before in other collections (which is not uncommon; railroad photograph collectors routinely make copies and share the prints among themselves) but he knew the photograph to have the image of Mr. Drake on top of the box car.

Mr. Belletzkie brought the photograph to my attention and we took a close look at it. A small dot of white-out had been placed on the print to cover up the image of Mr. Drake in the photo. How intriguing! Who would have done that, and why? It was certainly done before the collection was donated to Archives & Special Collections. Did Mr. Donovan do it? Did someone do it before that particular print made its way to Mr. Donovan?

Mr. Belletzkie offers this explanation — “Whoever covered up Mr. Drake thought it was inappropriate for him to be seen posturing in a serious station photograph or perhaps even that Mr. Benton was unaware of him up there and did not intend him to be in the shot. A larger study of the Benton & Drake photos currently underway, however, shows several shots with a similar, humorous touch. The eradicator’s sense of propriety may have been offended but anyone who retouches historical  photographs does a disservice to future generations by not passing on something exactly as its creator intended.”

Well, who or however it happened, I wanted to set the record straight. Yesterday I gave the print to the UConn Library’s Conservation Librarian, Carole Dyal, who expertly scraped off the white-out to reveal Mr. Drake on top of the railroad car.

We’ve come to expect that photographs reveal the truth of any historical moment. Sometimes we have to remember that photographs can be altered and obscured, which affects our knowledge of historical events.

American Montessori Society Archives Committee meeting


Thanks to the Archives Committee members of the American Montessori Society for their visit yesterday to Archives &  Special Collections, to conduct a meeting, learn about the digital repository, and help identify images in the collection. The AMS donated their records in 2006 and the Society’s Archives Committee has advised us on the records since then, frequently adding important documents and media. The finding aid and selected documents from the records are available in our digital repository, as well as a full run of their publication The Constructive Triangle.

Present at the meeting, as shown in the photograph, are (seated) Robert Rambusch (husband of AMS founder Nancy McCormick Rambusch) and Marilyn Jean Horan, (standing) Maria Gravel, Matty Sellman, Archives Committee chair Marie Dugan, Carolyn Dodd, Susan Kambrich, Phyllis Povell, Laura Smith, Keith Whitescarver, and Natalie Danner.

Connecticut History Day winners of the ASC prize!


Congratulations to Nina Lestrud, Jocelyn Zordan and Bayleigh DiMauro, students at Torrington High School, who were the winners of the Outstanding Entry Related to Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in Connecticut History, sponsored by Archives & Special Collections and presented to these students at the Connecticut History Day contest held on April 30 at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

The project for which Nina, Jocelyn and Bayleigh won the prize was a Senior Group Documentary titled: Ivory Trade and the Impact it had on Connecticut.

Commemorating the Flood of 1936

1936 Flood in Hartford

In March 1936, after experiencing heavy storms that swept from Ohio to Maine and as far south as Virginia, the Connecticut River, swollen beyond its banks, spilled over into Hartford, Connecticut, flooding over one-fifth of the city.  Adding to that was the late winter melting of snow and ice, causing the river to crest at 8 1/2 feet, the highest ever recorded at that time. Other cities and towns along the Connecticut River were equally affected — in Springfield, Massachusetts, 20,000 townspeople lost their homes.

You can find photographs of the devastation of the Flood of 1936 on our digital repository, mostly from the Southern New England Telephone Company Records.

Introducing Our New Website

We have a new website! There you’ll find links to the digital repository, our finding aids, and to information for researchers about our collections and services. It all begins at http://lib.uconn.edu/libraries/asc/

We’re also moving our finding aids into the digital repository so they will look a bit different from what you’re used to. A search in the digital repository on any name or keyword can bring up a photograph, an audio file, or a document, as well as a finding aid.

We also have online forms for our Application for Use of Materials and for Reproduction Requests, to make it easier to let us know when you’re coming to visit the reading room or to tell us about reproductions you may want from the collections. Whenever there is any doubt about our collections or services you can always contact us at archives@uconn.edu.

Let us know what you think of the new website! and have a great time exploring Archives & Special Collections.





March is Women’s History Month!


This photograph from 1918 shows women previously employed as telephone operators for the Southern New England Telephone Company getting ready to serve in the United States Army during World War I as Signal Corps operators in Europe. These women, all of them operators in Hartford, were specifically chosen for their positions because they were fluent in French.

On April 28, 1918, this Signal Corps class marched in a Liberty Bond parade in Hartford, holding the flags of the United States, France, Belgium, and Great Britain. The SNET company magazine, The Telephone Bulletin, cheered the women for their patriotism and bravery in preparing to go to the war front, writing “…the enthusiastic reception given these young women was wholly deserved, for with heads erect, shoulders thrown back and with martial tread, they made a striking appearance as they marched past the dense crowd on the sidewalks.”

We are celebrating Women’s History Month by showcasing a photograph from our digital repository each day on our Facebook page!  Check out our posts each day to see the history and awesomeness of women at UConn and around our beautiful state of Connecticut.