Help from Washington gives history society a digital boost
Linda Forgosh, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest NJ, left, and JHS archivist Jill Hershorin examine a replica of the society’s oldest document — a record from the Essex County Court of Common Pleas regarding settlement of a debt in 1771, in which Joseph Lawrence promised to repay a debt of 10 British pounds to Hayman Levy.
Photo by Robert Wiener
January 20, 2010
The Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest NJ is making a catalogue of its treasures available to a vast potential audience through the Library of Congress.
The Washington, DC, library’s National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (nicknamed “Nuckmuck”) works with nonprofit groups in incorporating their catalogues into its on-line repository of archival and manuscript collections large and small.
A researcher looking for information specific to the JHS collection need only enter search terms at the Library’s on-line gateway of manuscript materials.
Search “Congregation Ahavat Achim B’nai Israel,” for instance, and Nuckmuck brings up a description of JHS materials about the Irvington synagogue, which later merged with Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn.
“This move to get us onto a larger stage came about because we don’t have a broad enough audience on a limited website,” said JHS executive director Linda Forgosh.
Inside its climate-controlled archives on the Aidekman Family Jewish Campus in Whippany are valuable manuscript collections, publications, photographs and other artifacts of a Jewish community dating back to the early 1800s — and in the case of one Colonial-era court document, beyond.
The new link with Washington is enabling JHS to update its digital files from an old computer program that Forgosh calls “user-unfriendly.” Up until now, a limited budget kept JHS archivists from improving the society’s software.
The society’s archives committee — Forgosh, archivist Jill Hershorin, JHS president Howard Kiesel, and past president Warren Grover — found their answer, free of charge, at the Library of Congress, which provides a unique service to nonprofit groups.
Since December, NUCMC archivist Peter Goodman has been working with JHS in a process that “could take years,” said Hershorin. But the effort is well worth it. “Otherwise, it will never get used, and what’s the sense of that?” she said.
Those wishing to access the JHS catalog on the Library of Congress website can visit www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc.