For an archivist, opening a box from an unexpected archival collection can reveal strange and often wonderful items that can shed light on persons, places or events. Much of what is found between the pages of reports, tucked into scrapbooks, or loosely scattered in cartons can prove to be unexpected treasures for researchers. Under the umbrella term ephemera, the value of these archival finds has been chronicled in assorted journal articles and in the publications of the Ephemera Society.
In the days before the Internet and digitization, scholars became historical detectives, perusing the shelves of research institutions in search of that elusive bit of history which could be hiding between the leaves of a volume. Archival collections today still have the promise of revealing a unique window into the past, and often this takes the form of ephemera, which may be unique to an archival collection.
Gulick had an illustrious career, after World War II his efforts revolved around modernizing the functioning of the New York City government, when he was appointed the first City Administrator by Mayor Wagner in 1954. His life and career offer an unprecedented look into twentieth century municipal reform. What kinds of treasures were lurking in this collection, which has the promise of advancing the body of knowledge on the development of the good government movement in America?
Scrapbooks are always an exciting find, and there were several in the collection which contained unique pamphlets and other ephemera. Within reports compiled by the Institute of Public Administration, we have found manuals for snow fighters in New York City as well as pamphlets describing new technology in street cleaning. Found amongst the survey and project files of the Institute of Public Administration collection are news clippings about the projects they undertook. These clippings allow researchers to gain additional viewpoints on topics rather than relying solely on the reports produced by the IPA. Gulick’s scrapbooks contained ephemera that cannot be duplicated. As an article in the Journal of Archival Organization notes, “Scrapbooks…can provide a dual service to researchers. Not only are they useful as evidence of culture even if no provenance information for them exists, but in the case of an individual’s papers, they can provide particularly illuminating information about the way that individual interacted with his or her world.”In other words, scrapbooks give us insight into the owner’s act of curating their ephemera.
One of the early scrapbooks in the Institute of Public Administration collection is the Ahearn Investigation Scrapbook (May 27, 1907). This scrapbook contains news clippings relating to the ousting of the Manhattan Borough President John F. Ahearn. The Institute of Public Administration, then known as the Bureau of City Betterment, assembled this scrapbook because their research into the Ahearn’s mismanagement of public funds that led to his dismissal as Manhattan borough president. This scrapbook can be viewed as a memento of their success and hard work as crusaders for improving municipal government. Some clippings are from smaller newspapers, including foreign language papers, that may have folded, their own archives lost.
The Institute of Public Administration collection and the Luther Gulick Papers provide a wealth of previously unavailable information on the good government movement, which impacted governments across the world for almost a century. Although the bulk of the collections consist of reports and other printed documents, what is unique is the ephemera that is found alongside these items. Often clippings, scrapbooks and the other assorted ephemera help tell another part of the story. Why were these items saved? Were they thought to have lasting value? How do they fit into the larger picture of Gulick, or the IPA? With the Baruch College Archive initiative to make available the collection digitally to researchers and scholars, the ephemera provides an extra layer of research possibilities for years to come.
Sandra Roff is Professor and Head of Archives and Special Collections at Baruch College.
Sarah Rappo is Assistant Archivist at the Baruch College Archives and Special Collections.
 Jane S. Dahlberg, The New York Bureau of Municipal Research (New York: New York University Press, 1966), 31.
 Aleksandr Gelfand, Steven Calco, Sandra Roff, Jessica Wagner, Daniel Williams, Anivarul Alam, Hirra Zafar, Ronghui Lin and Nina Savila. Institute of Public Administration Record. March 30, 2015, 5.
 Juliana M. Kuipers, “Scrapbooks: Intrinsic Value and Material Culture.” Journal of Archival Organization2, no.3 (2004): 87.