The Long Journey of the Griffis Collection Finding Aid, Now Online


By Fernanda Perrone, Curator of the William Elliot Griffis Collection

The William Elliot Griffis Collection documents the life, career, and connections of the man who has been described as “the most important interpreter of Japan to the West before World War I.” William Elliot Griffis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1843 and attended Rutgers College from 1865 to 1869. At Rutgers, Griffis befriended some of the earliest Japanese students to attend an American college, and developed a lifelong fascination with that country, which had recently opened to Westerners. After graduation, through his Rutgers connections, Griffis was offered the opportunity to teach natural sciences in Japan. Leaving in fall 1870, Griffis spent eleven months teaching in Fukui in western Japan before moving on to a position in Tokyo. He was joined by his sister Margaret, who kept house for him, tutored students, and eventually gained an appointment at the first government school for girls. Although Griffis and Margaret left Japan in 1874, he would spend the next fifty years writing, lecturing, and collecting material about Japan, producing more than 20 books, hundreds of magazine articles, newspaper editorials, and reference book contributions.

As well as keeping diaries and letters from his time in Japan, throughout his life Griffis collected publications, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera related to Japan and East Asia. Indeed, Griffis’ most enduring legacy is his archival collection of over 250 boxes, which was donated to Rutgers after his death on February 5, 1928. Reputedly his wife Sara Griffis filled half a box car of a train with Griffis’ collection for the slow journey from his home in upstate New York to New Brunswick. Arrangement and description of the Griffis Collection began as early as the 1930s with a grant from the American Council for Learned Societies. After a hiatus during the Second World War, cataloging resumed with the collection’s rediscovery in the 1960s and continued under a succession of curators into the 2000s. A finding aid in paper format was created in 2008, which numbered 288 pages. In the following years, a 69-page inventory of photographs, a 37-page list of oversize materials, and several other sections were completed.

While SC/UA faculty and staff have labored to mark up finding aids using Encoded Archival Description and make them discoverable on the Web, no one had the time or fortitude to attempt the Griffis finding aid. Only during the pandemic, with the uninterrupted time allowed by remote work did Processing Archivist Tara Maharjan take on the challenge of encoding this behemoth. Working closely with Griffis Curator Fernanda Perrone, Tara began work in October 2020 and finished in March 2021. Today the finding aid can be found on the SC/UA website at, where it is keyword searchable and discoverable by Google. Parts of the collection have also been microfilmed and digitized by Adam Matthew Digital and can be viewed through the Area Studies Japan database. Photographs of early Japanese students at Rutgers can be viewed in RUCore: for example, this portrait. The rare and unique Korean photographs from the collection have been digitized and will ultimately become available for research. Some can be viewed at SC/UA Primary Source Highlights

Congratulations and sincere thanks are owed to Tara Maharjan for this amazing accomplishment, which will bring the collection to a wide audience of students, scholars, and interested individuals, stretching from New Brunswick to Japan and beyond.

Teaching in the Archive: Rutgers First-Year Students and Popular Culture Collections, Part Three


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

This is the third and last post in a short series featuring final projects from the Rutgers Byrne First-Year Seminar I taught in Fall 2020, “Examining Archives Through the Lens of Popular Culture.” You can read about the course and the final project, in which students envisioned their own pop culture archives, and check out other student projects, here.

This project, An Old Way to Listen to Music: Archiving a CD Collection, by Carmen Ore, Rutgers Class of 2024, wraps up the series with a consideration of how one’s connection to a particular type of music can extend to the media form.

Teaching in the Archive: Rutgers First-Year Students and Popular Culture Collections, Part Two


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

This is the second in a short series featuring final projects from the Rutgers Byrne First-Year Seminar I taught in Fall 2020, “Examining Archives Through the Lens of Popular Culture.” You can read about the course and the final project, in which students envisioned their own pop culture archives, in this post.

This project, entitled Archiving Goodness, is by Sarah LaValle, Rutgers Class of 2024. Sarah’s archive, like our previously featured student’s archive, Domination of Face Masks in 2020, is another timely project that came out of this course.


Public Event: Exploring Special Collections and University Archives: Black History Resources


Announcing Exploring Special Collections and University Archives, a new webinar series from Rutgers–New Brunswick Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

Image from Rutgers Photograph Collection: Student Life: Black Student Activism

The webinars will feature talks, virtual tours, and demonstrations by our curators and scholars showcasing the rich resources of our historic and cultural collections.

You’re invited to the first webinar of the series, “Black History Resources.” Curators Erika Gorder and Christine Lutz will discuss Black history resources in Special Collections and University Archives.

Event Details:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, via Zoom

4:00-5:00pm (Eastern Time, US and Canada)


Questions? Contact Special Collections & University Archives


Color Our Collections 2021


For the past few years, Special Collections and University Archives has been creating coloring book pages based on our collections. The annual #ColorOurCollections week (usually the first full week of February) was created by The New York Academy of Medicine Library (NYAM) in 2016 and is a way for libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world to share their coloring pages.  In 2018, the NYAM created a website to bring together all of the pages and allow people to download images throughout the year.

This year Special Collection and University Archives decided to focus our coloring pages on the work of the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (NJDNP). The NJDNP is a collaboration of the Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, and the New Jersey State Library to make New Jersey Newspapers available as part of the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America project.  This project is funded by a grant for the National Digital Newspaper Program, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

You can download our NJDNP inspired 2021 Color Our Collections.  You can also check out our other coloring page here or you can check out the coloring pages from other New Jersey institutions:


Teaching in the Archive: Rutgers First-Year Students and Popular Culture Collections


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

For the past two fall semesters, I have taught “Examining Archives Through the Lens of Popular Culture,” a course I developed for the Rutgers Byrne First Year Seminars. In the course, students engage in active, hands-on learning to explore archives and special collections and how they can be used for research. We examine popular culture collections in Rutgers’ Special Collections and University Archives and elsewhere that document a wide range of topics such as the New Brunswick music scene, video games, cookbooks and restaurant menus from around the Garden State, zines representing a variety of subcultures, Women’s March and other protest movement posters, and Jersey Shore memorabilia.

The goals I set for students in this course include developing an understanding and appreciation of archives and special collections; developing primary source research skills and becoming careful interpreters of documents, images, and objects; understanding how critical factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, and class are documented and perpetuated in popular cultural materials; and to learn to think about what is included and excluded in archives and special collections, and why. We also learn from each other as we share, debate, and think creatively about expressions of popular culture.

I will be sharing some of the students’ final projects (some anonymously) for the Fall 2020 course, in which they envision their own pop culture archive, and present their concept for an archive, in narrative form or in a slide show.

Here is our first student project, a very timely archive, entitled Domination of Face Masks in 2020.

2021 Greetings


By Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services

Happy New Year from Special Collections and University Archives. In early 2021, we are reflecting on the fact that that 2020 was a difficult and challenging year for so many. Like most of our colleagues in archives and special collections around the country, and indeed around the world, Special Collections and University Archives (SC/UA) faculty and staff have had to redirect our efforts to increase remote services. In summer and fall 2020, we scrambled to enhance access to digital materials, offer Zoom research consultations, and provide remote classroom instruction. We probably made more PDF copies of materials for researchers than any year to date!

While we look forward to the day we can reopen our reading room to researchers near and far, we continue to provide research support, instruction, and information for enjoyment and edification as our faculty and staff work (primarily) remotely. To that end, we’d like to share a few highlights of the work we have been doing to support Rutgers faculty, students, and staff; researchers around the state of New Jersey; and students and scholars from all corners of the world.

Digital Resources

We are excited to share a new digital resource, “Special Collections and University Archives Primary Source Highlights,” a site that makes accessible a trove of images we have scanned for researchers over the years. The site also features images from an ongoing project to scan the Sinclair New Jersey Postcard Collection. While “Primary Source Highlights” is still in its infancy, we are adding images regularly, so we encourage you to check back periodically.

“Primary Source Highlights” will be included in the SC/UA Digital Resources Guide we created in the fall. This guide continues to serve as a one-stop-shop for centralized, easy access to SC/UA’s digitized resources.

During the fall semester, we started a project to revamp and update the content of our subject guides. These guides serve as a useful gateway to our collection strengths, and are a particularly good resource for students looking for paper topics, or to see what materials SC/UA holds on a particular topic.

The New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project is continuing to digitize historical New Jersey Newspapers for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website. Recent additions include the Gloucester County Democrat (1878-1912), Morris County Chronicle (1877-1914), Pleasantville Weekly Press (1892-1911) and The Pleasantville Press (1912-1914).

The NJ Digital Newspaper Project blog provides further information about the project and links to all NJ newspapers digitized to date. These newspapers have been digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Reference and Instruction

We will continue to provide instructional support this spring. If you’re looking for resources for your course, or would like a curator or archivist to provide instruction for your class, feel free to send a message to and your request will be directed to the appropriate faculty or staff member. For general requests or questions, feel free to contact Christie Lutz, New Jersey Regional Studies Librarian and Head of Public Services at

Looking for a quick way to introduce your students to the mission and work of SC/UA, or add a video to your Canvas course? We’ve compiled our videos, including a brief overview of SC/UA aimed at undergraduate students, and a couple of fun quizzes which in one spot. Check out

You can always write to our reference account at with questions and scanning requests. We are continuing to waive our reproduction fees this semester.

Exhibits and Events

2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) granting women the right to vote. Explore our most recent exhibition, On Account of Sex: The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage in Middlesex County or listen to a talk by Ann D. Gordon, “Bringing the Story Home: Agitating for Woman Suffrage in New Jersey.”

Photographer and author Barbara Mensch delivered the 34th annual Louis Faugères Bishop III lecture, “In the Shadow of Genius: The Brooklyn Bridge and Its Creators,” in November, 2020. Mensch was inspired by SC/UA’s Roebling collection to create her recent book by the same name (Fordham University Press, 2018).

What else is happening?

We’re starting to roll out a new look and feel to our finding aids, via ArchivesSpace, a platform that will provide easier searching of our manuscript collections and a uniform look and feel.

Along with the rest of Rutgers University Libraries, we are developing a new website that will be more user-friendly and feature updated content.

You can always check the SC/UA website and social media feeds (links in the column to the right, plus the New Brunswick Music Scene Archive on Facebook) for the latest news, events, and changes in operating status and/or services.

Douglass in Fluxus


By Rachel Ferrante

In these uncertain times, can I offer you Douglass College Arts History from 1945-1975?  

I want to start with a story called “Cumberland Street,” which was published in the Anthologist literary magazine in 1950. I believe that the controversy surrounding this short fiction underscores how different Rutgers culture was at the beginning of this period. Reflective of American culture of the time, Rutgers in 1950 had strict standards for the behavior of its students. For many years, the Douglass College student handbook (the Red Book), listed “willfully breaking social code” as grounds for suspension or expulsion. “Cumberland Street” follows three students who are not just breaking rules but laws, and doing so to commit what some New Jerseyans felt was an obscene attack on morality: abortion. The correspondence between angry New Jerseyans, religious leaders, and reporters spanned three university presidencies, and resulted in a few pauses in publication. Rutgers President Mason Gross was the one to put a stop to it by issuing an official endorsement of the magazine on September 11, 1960. In his letters to business leaders and reporters, Gross was respectful but emphasized his duty to defend students’ freedom of expression. Although the focus of my research has been to illustrate the impact of women artists on the university’s arts programming, I felt like this story was worth retelling because it portrays Mason Gross as a supporter of the arts and free speech. Supporting one without the other, I think he would agree, is insufficient.  

Portrait Mason Gross, 1962

Therefore, his name is rightfully attached to Rutgers’ school of the arts. However, the foundation that Mason Gross School of the Arts (MGSA) was built upon is quite literally dependent on female artists, and one microbiologist, Mary Ingraham Bunting. During Bunting’s tenure as dean of Douglass College from 1955 to1960, she made several important changes to the curriculum. Prior to Bunting, Margaret Trumbull Corwin had been the dean of what was then known as New Jersey College for Women (NJC) for 21 years, from 1934 to 1955. Some accounts of her tenure portray her negatively; however, her focus on internal improvements to the college through the World War II era laid the foundation for the vibrant Bunting years. Here are some of Corwin’s contributions:  

  • Developing an annual lecture series that would lead to renowned figures in all fields visiting Douglass, including artists.  
  • Expanding experiential learning so that by 1937 one third of all courses had field trips.  
  • Dissolving the clothing major and replacing it with Costume Design housed in the Fine Arts Department.  
  • Expanding interdisciplinary study opportunities by allowing students to create their own majors.  
  • Developing a recruitment program to draw students during and after the war.  
  • Using connections between NJC and Rutgers to have a university-funded student center built.  
  • Holding showcases of faculty work, specifically within the Fine Arts Department.  

 These showcases continued after her tenure. In 1956, Douglass art professor Robert Watts, then in his third year at the college, displayed his work to a crowd that included a chemist from Johnson & Johnson named George Brecht. Brecht, who had been exploring “the art of chance,” approached Watts, and soon was introduced to Allan Kaprow, a Rutgers College art professor who also began teaching in 1953. A key influence on Brecht and Kaprow was John Dewey. Dewey’s theories of education were also part of the ideology of Black Mountain College (BMC), a short lived but progressive institution that emphasized the importance of art-making in a liberal arts education. Following the 1950s, Dewey’s ideas of a democratic, individually-driven education were growing in popularity as social codes were also changing. At Douglass, Kaprow, Watts, Brecht, and their cohorts continued the legacy of BMC by using the college’s space for inter-media art installations, one of the first of which took place taking place in College Hall, the administration building.  

The genre largely associated with these artists is Fluxus, an interdisciplinary movement including composers and performers, which focused on the artistic process rather than the supposed quality of the final product. Fluxus played a large part in changing how art was being taught and practiced at Douglass. The events that resulted from this movement, Happenings, expanded the importance of art in campus cultureattracting students who were not just interested in art, but radical art. Taking over for Corwin in 1955, Mary Bunting’s time at Douglass, as one author put it “saw the glitter and flamboyance of the [Dean] Douglass years return.” In 1960, her successor Ruth Adams worked closely with President Gross to develop the precursor to the school of fine arts. With these women at the helm, Douglass was able to provide an equitable arts education to women who would go on to become innovative artists themselves.  

Portrait Ruth Adams, 1962

 Well into the sixties, art courses took place on the top floors of Recitation Hall, now the Ruth Adams Building. These courses became increasingly popular as the college grew. In 1961, the Mabel Smith Douglass Library was built, freeing up space in Recitation Hall for more courses. In 1964, liberal arts courses moved to the newly built Hickman Hall, and in 1965 Recitation Hall was renamed the Arts Building. Among the Douglass women studying there were Rutgers MFA students. This period was one of exciting growth at Douglass. One of Bunting’s early goals had been for the student body to reach 3,000 by 1968, which it did, expanding from only 600 students in 1942. With these new students came more diversity and therefore a need for more collaborative and progressive approaches.  

Recitation Hall aka Ruth Adams, undated

These developments occurred both from the ground up and from the top down. While coeducation was never the priority of Douglass College, it started to become a university necessity to accommodate the growing student body. By the late sixties, although men’s degrees were from Rutgers and women’s degrees from Douglass, men and women could attend classes at either campus and in 1969, at the new “urban” Livingston College. One of the ways the University began to integrate was through the “Arts Section” created by Ruth Adams and Mason Gross in 1960. The section consisted of members of Douglass, Rutgers, and Newark visual arts programs and was the official precursor of the School of Fine Arts, as stated in Section II of the document. Section I outlines the primary intent: to paraphrase, the Arts Section was created to strengthen and unify the visual arts curriculum at the university and guide the development of arts programming at other Rutgers’ colleges, including Livingston and Camden. In a letter to the members of the Art Section dated March 10, 1960, Gross writes that “unnecessary duplication must be eliminated,” and that “Douglass and Rutgers can no longer operate separately.”  

Douglass Art Department, ca. 1960s

Touching on a common cultural connection, Gross acknowledged the proximity of New Brunswick to the art scene in New York and cited it as advantageous to Rutgers arts programming. He did make it clear, however, that he wanted Rutgers to have an arts program of its own significance. Gross also expressed a desire for the arts to be integrated into academics and the New Brunswick community at large, seeing the university as a cultural center, and Rutgers having an obligation to the state of New Jersey to develop its own cultural output. With growing interest in Fluxus/Happenings and the “New Jersey School” of art, Brecht and Kaprow began taking classes at the New School for Social Research in 1959. This marked a turning point for the artists. By the mid-sixties, they were well known outside of Rutgers for the movements they pioneered, and therefore became “New York Artists,” no longer associated with New Brunswick. As it turned out, New Jersey influenced New York arts rather than the other way around. In 1965 Brecht stopped working as a chemist, using his education at the New School to inform his art career. Kaprow worked at Rutgers until 1961. Watts would continue at Douglass until 1984, alongside artists Geoffrey Hendricks (1956-2003) and Roy Lichtenstein (1960-1964). The first female faculty member, artist Carolee Schneemann, wasn’t hired until 1976, as an adjunct. 

The arts section had a number of policies. I will focus on two. The first is policy number four–that art museums, exhibition programs, and galleries will be integrated into buildings, no longer as separate spaces. The second, policy number seven, called for an expansion of facilities for the arts. These policies are still being enacted universitywide, especially on the Douglass Campus. An example of how these policies manifested on campus is the Mary H. Dana Women Artist Series housed in the Douglass library. The series, which is the oldest continuous exhibition series showcasing women artists in the United States, remains a fixture of the Mabel Smith Douglass Library. 

Prior to the founding of the Women Artist Series, Douglass students participated in events and installations on the campus. By the 1950s, there was no shortage of women artists at Douglass, just a shortage of female role models. According to Women Artist Series founder Joan Snyder in a 1992 article, “the faculty consisted of some old blood, some new blood–all male blood. The irony of this was inescapable for the MFA program which was on the Douglass Campus, a women’s college never having had a woman teaching a studio course. These were the years right before the dawning of the women’s/feminist art movement.” Snyder is one of the many Douglass graduates who eventually got MFAs from the co-ed master’s program. Another is Letty Lou Eisenhauer, who graduated from Douglass in 1957 and Rutgers in 1962. Eisenhauer is one of the earliest students who gained prominence in the art world particularly in performance art. She first appeared in Kaprow’s Spring Happening, which subverted an old Douglass tradition of the Maypole dance. Eisenhauer continued performing in Happenings through the sixties while building her own Pop Art career. While attending the MFA program from 1961 to 1962, she also acted as the department secretary.  

Loretta Dunkleman (DC ‘58) would go on to get her MFA from Hunter College in New York City and, like Eisenhauer, became a prominent figure in the New York art scene. Dunkleman was also important in the feminist art movement of the seventies. In 1972, Dunkleman co-founded A.I.R. Gallery, the first allfemale artist-run gallery in the United States. At this time, the need for female-exclusive spaces, especially in the arts, began being filled. Especially in New York, many of the women who initiated these changes were Douglass women, once again illustrating the symbiotic relationship between the New York and New Jersey art scenes. Dunkleman sat on the board of the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists with fellow alumna Joan Snyder in 1972. The Ad Hoc Committee was founded two years prior as a coalition of feminist artist groups such as Women Students and Artists for Black Liberation, Women Artists in Revolution, and Art Worker’s Coalition. The group’s primary purpose was to protest under-representation at the Whitney Museum’s Annual Exhibition. While Snyder and Dunkleman both sat on the Ad Hoc Committee, a prompt was sent to 800 artists asking about their experiences with gender-based discrimination. The result was a series of letters called “the Rip Off File,” which was displayed at the Douglass Library the following year. The exhibit was in good company, as the space showed the work of 31 artists during the 1973-1974 school year.  

“The Rip Off File,” was displayed at the library as part of the newly established Women Artists Series. This ongoing series began as a result of Snyder’s frustration with the marginalization of women in the gallery system. The series was founded in 1971 through Snyder’s collaboration with Douglass librarians, and was a solution to a variety of issues that Snyder, her classmates, and colleagues identified. First, the series provided gallery space to women artists, and secondly the gallery space provided female role models to students. She recounts the story of the series founding in her article “It Wasn’t Neo to Us,” for the Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries. Sandwiched between Ad Hoc and AIR, the founding of the Mary H. Dana Women’s Artist Series is an important part of feminist art history. The series continues to represent the values Mason Gross advocated as the president of Rutgers. It integrates art into academic space, uplifts the community beyond New Brunswick, and showcases diversity in artistic voice. Thanks to Snyder and ongoing support of the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities, Rutgers University Libraries, and Douglass College, the Mary H. Dana Women Artist Series maintains these values at Douglass today and reminds us of its history as the place for women in radical art.  


 More information can be accessed at The Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). Online at: 

The Miriam Schapiro Archives, houses materials about female artists, educators, and much more.  

About the Author: 

Rachel Ferrante, DRC ‘19, has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers and currently serves as the Historic and Architectural Preservation intern for Histoury, a subsidiary of On Location Tours a nonprofit heritage tourism company.  

 Works Consulted: 

Beryl K. Smith, “The Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series: From Idea to Institution,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, 54.1 (1992), p. 4-5. 

Hendricks, Geoffrey. Critical Mass: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia, and Rutgers University, 1958-1972 (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2003). 

“History.” Mason Gross School of the Arts,

 Joan Snyder, “It Wasn’t Neo to Us,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, 54.1 (1992), p. 34-35. 

“Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series.” Rutgers University Libraries, Exhibits. Online 

Marter, Joan M., and Simon Anderson. Off Limits Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963. Newark Museum, 1999. 

Marter, Joan M. Women Artists on the Leading Edge : Visual Arts of Douglass College New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2019. 

Olin, Ferris., and Joan M. MarterArtists on the Edge : Douglass College and the Rutgers MFA New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2005. 

Schmidt, George P. Douglass College; a History. Rutgers University Press, 1968. 


Archival Sources:  

Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers University Office of the President (Mason Welch Gross), 1936, 1945-1971 (RG 04/A16), Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Inventory to the Records of the Dean of Douglass College (Group I), 1887-1973 (RG 19/A0/01), Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.