This summer, the National Institute of Social Sciences donated a trove of historical materials—some more than 150 years old—to the Yale University Archives.
The donation includes previously unknown correspondence and other handwritten documents, along with printed materials from the American Social Science Association (ASSA), which was founded in 1865 and was the predecessor the National Institute. Included within this part of the donation are handwritten letters and records from Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (1831-1917), one of the ASSA’s founders and an early NISS officer. Yale is already the official repository of ASSA records, so the NISS donation constitutes a valuable addition to an existing collection.
The heart of the donation, however, comes from the National Institute, which was established in 1912 as an independent department of the ASSA. NISS materials sent to Yale include early correspondence; lists of members and Gold Medal Dinner guests; typewritten records of annual meetings and NISS programs; invitations, dinner programs, and other ephemera; a substantial collection of early 20th-century photographs of NISS members and Gold Medal honorees; and 10 sets of 78rpm LP recordings of Gold Medal Dinners from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s.
“I know people will want to read these materials,” says Christine Weideman, the Carrie S. Beinecke Director of Manuscripts and Archives at the Yale University Library.
The eight boxes of materials were uncovered last year as the National Institute was preparing to move its offices to Brooklyn. The Board of Trustees voted to transfer these materials to Yale so that they could be properly conserved, catalogued, and made available to scholars. The photographs, LPs, and some correspondence were so fragile that the entire collection had to be driven to New Haven to avoid damaging them through commercial transport.
Ms. Weideman says the documents and photographs will become available to researchers as soon as they are catalogued. The collection of LPs, some of which have never been played, will need be digitized before students and researchers can hear voices that have not been heard for more than 60 years.
Located within Sterling Memorial Library, the Yale University Archives is the official repository for all records of the university that have enduring historical, administrative, or community significance.