Elsalyn Palmisano Preservation Papers

RECORD GROUP: Special Collections
SERIES: Elsalyn Palmisano Preservation Papers
DATES: 1944-2019 (bulk, 1975-2000)
VOLUME: 19 cubic feet
Palmisano pic

Elsalyn Palmisano has been a statewide leader in archives and library preservation initiatives for the past fifty years. In addition to her lifelong career as the director of several unique libraries, she has championed the growth of several archives and preservation professional organizations and has been instrumental in spreading the word about the importance of preservation and the availability of consultants and grants.

In 2003, Palmisano received the second Roger McDonough Librarianship Award presented by the New Jersey Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, the New Jersey Studies Alliance, the New Jersey Historical Commission, and the History and Preservation Section of the New Jersey Library Association for excellence for her “sustained support to generations of library users in New Jersey and beyond.” In the same year, she also was the first recipient of the Susan G. Swartzburg Preservation Award from the New Jersey Library Association in recognition of years of dedication, leadership, and service to the fields of archival and historical preservation.

From 2004 to 2006, Palmisano served as Coordinator of the Caucus Archives Projects Evaluation Service (CAPES) program of the New Jersey Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC/NJ). In addition, despite being “retired,” Palmisano continues to work as a consultant to local municipal organizations in need of her archival and preservation expertise. In 2004, she became the Records Management Consultant for the Borough of Rumson and soon thereafter, Sea Bright. She also volunteered at the Long Branch Public Library where, in additional to multiple professional functions, she has created, and acted as librarian/archivist for, a unique New Jersey History Room which held not only books but original source materials reflecting the rich history of Long Branch, Monmouth County, and the Jersey Shore. Palmisano also donated an extensive collection of Monmouth County and New Jersey pamphlets, books, clippings, and ephemera to this repository. She was honored in 2016 at the Long Branch Public Library Centennial Gala as Library Champion for her many donations, her consulting, volunteering, and serving as a mentor for graduate library science student interns from Rutgers University who worked under her supervision in the Local History Room.

Among other libraries benefiting from her consultant work have been the Red Bank Public Library, at which she assisted in the creation of a new Local History Room that was dedicated at the library’s 75th Anniversary in 2012.

Since 1992, she has been the consulting archivist at the Atschul Medical Library of Monmouth Medical Center. Working with Library Director, Frederic Pachman, she has assisted with the development of the Archives and Special Collections Room for the Medical Center. These collections were essential for the 125th Commemoration Anniversary of the Medical Center in 2012.

Palmisano’s library career is impressive on its own. After obtaining a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Delaware in 1965 and an M.S. in Library Science from Drexel University in 1968, Palmisano worked in a number of library positions in Philadelphia and New Jersey, including service as Librarian/Archivist of the Monmouth County Historical Association in Freehold (1974-1978). She was Director of the Ann May School of Nursing Library at the Jersey Shore Medical Center from 1980 to 1988. (Her papers on the Ann May School are in a separate collection at the Monmouth County Archives.) She also held positions at the Guggenheim Library at Monmouth University and at Brookdale Community College. Before her retirement in 2002, she was the Director of the West Long Branch Public Library for twelve years.

Palmisano seemed destined for a career that involved saving the past for future generations. A 1989 graduate of the Modern Archives Institute conducted by the National Archives and Records Administration, Palmisano soon became active in the field of archives management. She was the archivist of the Historical Society of Ocean Grove, 1987-2000, and also served as a board member of that organization. In addition, she was archivist of the Ann May School of Nursing Alumnae Association, 1980-1988, and archivist of the Region V Library Cooperative, 1985-1987. Palmisano, as of 2019, is still the consulting archivist for the Medical Library at Monmouth Medical Center.

In the 1970s, as an aftermath of the great flood in Florence, Italy, there was a surge in interest and concern about the preservation of archives and library materials. In New Jersey, the preservation gospel was spread primarily by the late Susan G. Swartzburg, Preservation Specialist at Rutgers University Library, who taught a course in Preservation of Library Materials. Swartzburg wrote numerous articles about preservation in Conservation Administration News, Mid-Atlantic Archivist, and other periodicals, and was active in many local, statewide, national and international professional organizations including the Princeton Preservation Group, which she founded, and the Preservation Section of the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA). Swartzburg also organized the Preservation Development Certificate program at the Rutgers Library School, from which Palmisano received her certificate in 1996 after many years of attending courses and workshops.

Palmisano met Swartzburg in the 1970s at meetings of the History and Bibliography Section of the New Jersey Library Association, for which Palmisano served as editor of its newsletter, The Chronicle, from 1977 to 1981 and as President in 1981. Among several archivists and librarians recruited by Swartzburg for “the cause,” Palmisano was one of the most energetic and influential professionals who went on to leadership positions in the preservation field.

In 1987, on her own initiative, Palmisano organized the Preservation Committee of the Region V Library Cooperative, which presented a series of workshops and preservation film festivals for librarians in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. (This organization, now defunct, was renamed the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative.) Palmisano collaborated closely with Swartzburg in planning and implementing other preservation initiatives. For example, both served on the Preservation and Conservation Advisory Committee to the New Jersey State Library, which led to the establishment of the State Library’s preservation grants program in 1988 (Palmisano became one of the grant reviewers for this program). In 1989, both were involved in the establishment of the Caucus Archival Projects Evaluation Service (CAPES), the consulting service conducted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference/New Jersey Caucus (MARAC/NJ). As one of the original CAPES consultants, Palmisano prepared nearly forty CAPES reports, many of them involving hospitals, public libraries, and local historical societies before serving as CAPES Coordinator, 2005-2006. Among other MARAC activities, she led New Jersey’s archivists as MARAC State Representative, 1986-1988, and chaired the Local Arrangements Committee for the Spring 1993 Conference in Long Branch, New Jersey.

Palmisano served as Vice-President, President, and Member of the Board of Directors of the NJLA Preservation Section, 1986-1990, which was active in organizing a number of educational programs. In addition, she held three terms as President of the Monmouth Librarians Association in 1983-1984 and 1997-1999, and among other leadership roles served as Vice-President and President of the Interagency Council on Library Resources for Nursing, 1986-1990.

Although this biographical summary is focused on Palmisano’s archival, library, and preservation activities, mention must be made that she has also been active in the fields of women’s history and Monmouth County history, for which she has received awards from the New Jersey Historical Commission (1990); the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders; and the Monmouth County Historical Commission (1993 and 1996). Palmisano received a grant in 1977 from the New Jersey Historical Commission for the development of a Brookdale Community College course entitled, “Women in Early Monmouth County and New Jersey History,” and two others from the Commission in 1979 and 1983 to develop slide lectures concerning women’s history. Palmisano’s Women’s History Papers form a separate special collection at the Monmouth County Archives. Her papers pertaining to her role as chair of the Monmouth County General Heritage Committee, 1977-1979, are in the Bicentennial Collection at the Monmouth County Archives.

In 2013, as a result of her decades of collaboration and friendship with noted Monmouth County historian and author, George H. Moss, Jr., Palmisano donated a significant collection of books, papers, photographs, and articles to the Monmouth County Archives. Palmisano also worked with the Rumson Borough Council to establish the George H. Moss History Room in the newly constructed Borough Hall dedicated in June 2010.

In conjunction with her work in the preservation field, Palmisano developed an extensive specialized reference library of books, reports, and serial publications. She reviewed some of the books for Conservation Administration News between 1989 and 1994. With the departure of Swartzburg’s preservation library from Rutgers–it was sent to Stanford University after her death–it is believed that Palmisano’s collection, now at the Monmouth County Archives, is probably the most complete of its kind in the State of New Jersey.

Palmisano is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of American Women. She maintains memberships in many county, state, and national library, historical, and archival professional organizations. 

The Palmisano Papers are arranged in five series, arranged alphabetically within series or subseries except where indicated below. The five series are I. Subject Files. II. Education. III. Organizations. IV. Publications. V. Consulting.

 Series I. Subject Files, Boxes 1-2

Documentation of Palmisano’s professional activities may be found in the subject files, which are arranged in two subseries:

     Subseries A. General Subject File, Box 1

The General Subject File primarily contains information about topics relevant to the fields of archives, libraries, and preservation work, including preservation of gravestones. Among the types of documents here are brochures, book chapters, pamphlets, and journal articles by or about leading figures in the preservation field such as George Cunha, Pamela Darling, Carolyn Clark Morrow, Peter Sparks, Susan Swartzburg, and Peter Waters. The subseries begins with biographical materials about Elsalyn Palmisano.

     Subseries B. Disasters, Box 2, Folders 1-23

The Disasters subseries is arranged in three groups: disasters at archives and libraries; disaster planning; and examples of disaster response plans. See also Education: Other and Publications: Books and Reports for workshops and publications about disaster response planning.

 Series II. Education: Conferences, Seminars and Workshops, Boxes 2, Folders 24-44, and 2A

The Education files are is divided into four subseries: General, Modern Archives Institute, Rutgers and Other.

     Subseries A. General, Box 2, Folders 24-44

The General group begins with a folder of preservation education directories compiled primarily by Susan Swartzburg. This folder is followed by the educational events, filed alphabetically by title. Most of these educational offerings Palmisano attended and contain agendas, handouts, and other documentation. These folders contain much useful information that supplements topics covered in the subject and publications series. Although most folders pertain to preservation of archival and library materials, a notable exception is a conference on preserving historic sites in New Jersey. Workshop instructors included George M. Cunha, the dean of American paper conservators and founder of the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Other instructors included Susan Swartzburg, Evelyn Frangakis, Sally Roggia, Gary D. Saretzky, and Ruth J. Simmons. MARAC Conference programs are filed separately in Organizations (see below).

    Subseries B. Modern Archives Institute, Box 2A

The second group consists of materials acquired by Palmisano when she attended the Modern Archives Institute at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in 1989. Among other useful references, included are several Society of American Archivists publications, including manuals on appraisal and accessioning; reference and access; conservation; and administration of photographic collections.

     Subseries C. Rutgers SCILS – Professional Development Study in Preservation, Box 2A

The third group reflects the syllabus and curriculum for advanced study in preservation at Rutgers University, attended by Palmisano. Course outlines, handouts and notes are included.

     Subseries D. Other Courses, Seminars, and Workshops, Box 2A

This fourth group includes preservation related courses.

Series III. Organizations, Boxes 3-5

Organizational files are arranged in five subseries:

     Subseries A. Professional Organizations, Box 3 and Box 4, Folders  1-12

These files include professional organizations in which Palmisano was very active. Documents include correspondence, minutes, and other manuscript and printed materials. They are divided into two groups: the MidAtlantic Regional Archives Conference/New Jersey Caucus (MARAC/NJ) and New Jersey Library Association Preservation Section (NJLA/PS).

The MARAC/NJ files are divided into a general section and a series pertaining to MARAC Conferences, filed chronologically, that feature packets containing agendas, handouts, and other documentation. The files include a folder on the CAPES program operated by the New Jersey Caucus during the two years that Palmisano was the Coordinator (see also Box 1, Folder 1E).

The NJLA/PS files are divided into a general section and Executive Committee files. Included is a folder with samples of the Preservation Bookmarks that the Preservation Section distributed to all the libraries in central New Jersey. The Care of Collections workshops organized by the Section are filed in the Education series.

     Subseries B. Other Professional Organizations, Box 4, Folders 13-22

Other Professional Organizations include the New Jersey State Library Conservation and Preservation Advisory Committee, which had a major impact on statewide funding for preservation projects. Also found here, among others, is the Region V Library Cooperative Preservation Committee in which Palmisano played a leadership role. Note: Journals and newsletters published by professional organizations are filed in Publications: Serials (see below).

     Subseries C. Other Organizations, Box 4 and 4A, Folders 23-61

Other Organizations consist of files concerning archives, libraries, and historical societies. Typical materials are brochures and other guides to the organization, as well as, in some cases, descriptions of preservation programs.

     Subseries D. Vendors, Box 5, Folders 1-19

Vendor files pertain to suppliers of materials and services for archival and conservation purposes, including microfilm vendors.

     Subseries E. Institutions: Other, Box 5, Folders 20-35

These files pertain to the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing and several preservation-related not-for-profit organizations.

Series IV. Publications, Boxes 6-11

Publications are divided into two subseries, both arranged alphabetically by title: Books and Reports; and Serials.

     Subseries A. Books and Reports, Boxes 6-8

The books and reports, arranged alphabetically by title, primarily pertain to preservation, including a substantial number published by the Commission on Preservation and Access. The 2010 supplement of publications is filed in Box 11 and those from the 2012 and 2013 supplements in Box 12.

     Subseries B. Serials and 2010 Supplement, Boxes 9-11

The serials, arranged alphabetically, include long runs of the CPA Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter; CAN (Conservation Administration News); The Mid-Atlantic Archivist (the MARAC newsletter); The Monmouth Connection (published by the Genealogy Group of the Monmouth County Historical Association); The Monmouth Chronicle (issued by the Monmouth County Historical Commission); Preservation Section News (NJLA Preservation Section); and The Chronicle of History and Preservation (NJLA History & Preservation Section). Single copies or short or broken runs of other serials tend to be special issues on preservation topics.

The 2010 Supplement includes four books by Susan G. Swartzburg, several other books on preservation, special issues of journals on preservation themes, and materials related to a disaster planning and recovery workshop held at the Monmouth County Library in 2001. The 2011, 2012, and 2013 transfers contained additional MARAC program packets and newsletters; serials issued by other organizations that were integrated into existing subseries; and books, pamphlets, and other reference materials, some of which were integrated into existing folders. Duplicates of NJLA preservation-related newsletters were sent to the NJLA in Trenton.

Series V. Consulting, Boxes 13-14

Consulting files consist of materials related to various records management consulting projects. Box 14 contains five albums of 5 x 7 and 8 ½ x 11 color photographs that are stored separately. Four photo albums document a project conducted for Rumson Borough, and include detailed captions; one of these albums also includes negatives. One album documents a project conducted for Sea Bright Borough, and includes both 5 x 7 and 8 ½ x 11 photographs with no captions. Photographs are in original order where possible.

This collection is open to researchers.
Use of the Palmisano Papers is unrestricted. See shelf list for folder headings. Contact the Archivist for additional resources in the Monmouth County Archives on topics found in the Palmisano Papers.
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: 732-308-3771
Elsalyn Palmisano donated the Papers to the Monmouth County Archives in March and April, 1999, with smaller supplements in February 2000, May 2006, January 2007, April 2010, September 2010, November 2012, January 2013, May 2017, and April 2019. The original accession (99-2) included fourteen cartons pertaining primarily to archival and library science, with an emphasis on the preservation of archival and library materials. These cartons were reduced to eleven cartons through elimination of duplicates. Also in 99-2 were two record cartons of the papers of the late Samuel Smith pertaining primarily to Monmouth County Place Names; the Smith Papers are now available as a separate collection. The second supplement included specific materials related to advanced study at Rutgers as well as additional general materials and these were all inserted in the existing four series, as was the small third supplement. The fourth supplement featured books and other publications on preservation, including four by Susan G. Swartzburg, one of Palmisano’s mentors; this supplement was filed at the end of the collection. The fifth and sixth supplements included materials on women’s history as well as preservation, including some files from Frederic C. Pachman, Director, Medical Library, Monmouth Medical Center.
This finding aid was created by Gary D. Saretzky in July 2000 and updated by Saretzky in 2007, 2010, and 2011; updated by Carmen Triggiano in 2000, Elizabeth McDermott in 2006, Lisa Iannucci in 2015, Eunice Mayfield in 2018, and Gregg Gaal in 2019 and 2020.