The Woman Is An Archivist

If you’ve been following my blog for, OMG, almost three years, you know I’ve taken archival courses, have been interested in the OHA archives, and have been a volunteer of OHA since February of 2006.  As of December of 2008 I became a part time employee of OHA, learning some other parts of OHA – their museum and their gift shop.  And as of just recently, I’m working there full time, and am now the archivist!  And man am I  busy, there’s so much to do, but it’s all good, it’s fun, and very invigorating!

Yesterday I was mentioned in the Syracuse Post-Standard by Dick Case who wrote an article here, but I will also quote it since it will go off the website, eventually.

Syracuse China owner donates china and paper archive to Onondaga Historical Association

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The magnitude of the gift is just beginning to sink in for Gregg Tripoli, executive director of the Onondaga Historical Association.

Details have been worked out for Libbey Inc., owner of Syracuse China Corp., to donate its entire archive of china and paper to the historical association, one of our oldest ongoing institutions. Syracuse China, with roots back to 1871, closed its Lyncourt factory, eliminating 275 jobs, last week. Libbey bought the Syracuse company in 1995.

Gregg has been negotiating for the collection since Libbey announced the closing in January. He called it “phenomenal” and “spectacular, a collection any institution would love to have.” The trove includes an estimated 25,000 pieces of china and an uncounted number of company records, photographs, documents and letters.

Gregg said Libbey agreed to pack the collection. It will be moved to the association’s downtown headquarters by OHA staff and volunteers, sometime before Libbey closes its outlet store on Court Street in June.

The association plans to store the china in the collection in a large “back room” exhibit on the fifth floor of its building at 321 Montgomery St. Eventually, the exhibit will be open to the public for tours by appointment for a fee. Gregg said the OHA will move its fifth-floor reading room and research center to the second floor, where new space is being created for an enlarged public room that will include a library. This will house the association’s large holding of books, which have been in storage since it moved from the original headquarters at 311 Montgomery.

Thousands of archival materials, which are part of the collection, will be kept separate from the OHA’s main archive. The archives are to be supervised by a new archivist, Pam Priest from Rochester, who has been hired and is working “behind the scenes” in the building, according to Gregg.

A few items from Syracuse China will be added to an existing, permanent exhibit devoted to the company. Gregg said some of the china in the company archives in Lyncourt will be shared with the Everson Museum of Art, including items decorated by ceramist Adelaide Robineau.

The archives at the plant were developed in recent years by a team headed by historian Cleota Reed, assisted by Stan Skoczen and Ruth Hancock, a member of the Pass family who owned the company until 1971. Stan, retired as quality control manager, is regarded as a world-class collector of Syracuse China. Ruth Hancock’s great-grandfather was Richard Pass, an English potter hired as superintendent of Onondaga Pottery, as the company was known until 1966. Her grandfather and father were presidents of Syracuse China.

Gregg said Reed, Skoczen and Hancock were part of a group of volunteers that supervised selection of the china pieces for OHA, under the supervision of OHA curators Tom Hunter and Dennis Connors.

Pottery in the collection goes back to 1841 and a Syracuse stoneware potter from Vermont named Williams Farrar, whose pot shop in Geddes is regarded as the ancestor of Onondaga Pottery Co.

Gregg said the gift includes pieces of furniture, such as shelves and cabinets, that will have to be moved by professionals. Examples of fine china encompass hundreds of pieces, including lines made for hotels, railroads, steamship lines, embassies and airlines. One line was decorated with paintings by Grandma Moses.

And we’re building a new research center and archives, and I’ve been documenting the weekly progress via photos.  Here’s part of the research center space as of last Saturday:


And according to the floor plan, my research center desk will be back near the wall, which will be covered with bookshelves, as will the whole room. Bookshelves, all over the place? Oh my, just like home!


I love this building. This building makes me feel happy. This is the 1906 New York Telephone Building. My Dad, who worked for the New York Telephone Company didn’t work in this building, but his work occasionally brought him to this building.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lynne at Hasty Brook
    Apr 17, 2009 @ 21:50:08

    Way to go Pam!! Congratulations on the new FT position! It sounds like the perfect fit for you. I am so very happy for you. It’s wonderful that your workplace brings back memories of your sweet Dad too. That makes it all the better.


  2. jayne
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 08:56:26

    WOW! You go girl! How exciting! Congratulations Pam. :c)


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