RECORD GROUP: Special Collections
RECORD SERIES #: 11200
SERIES: Louise Rosskam Collection
DATES: 1980s-2013, bulk 1980s-1990s
VOLUME: 4 boxes
The Louise Rosskam Collection contains exhibition photographs of barns and other farm scenes in central New Jersey and related materials including small photographs of barns. The photographs were taken by Rosskam and document changes in the landscape of Monmouth and Mercer Counties in New Jersey in the late twentieth century.
Born in Philadelphia, Louise Rosskam (1910-2003) was a resident of Roosevelt, Upper Freehold Township, Monmouth County, from 1953 until her death. The daughter of Morris and Hannah Rosenbaum, Leah Louise Rosenbaum majored in biology at the University of Pennsylvania. After her marriage in 1936, she and her husband, Edwin Rosskam, became documentary photographers whose work from the 1930s and 1940s is in the Farm Security Administration Collection at the Library of Congress and the Standard Oil of New Jersey Collection at the University of Louisville. Immediately prior to moving to Monmouth County, the Rosskams worked for the government of Puerto Rico and many of their photographs are held by the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos, Hunter College, City of New York. Photographs by the Rosskams were widely published in newspapers, magazines, and books beginning in the 1930s, including their San Francisco: West Coast Metropolis (1939); Washington: Nerve Center (1939); and Towboat River (1948). Among other works, Edwin Rosskam also wrote the historical volume, Roosevelt, New Jersey: Big Dreams in a Small Town and What Time Did to Them (1972).
While living in Roosevelt, Louise Rosskam taught biology in Roosevelt Public School and with Edwin engaged in several photographic projects, including documentation of a school for children with disabilities in Trenton, a daycare center in Hightstown, and children of migrant farm workers. About a year after Edwin’s death in 1985, Mrs. Rosskam began a series on barns and other views of farms in central New Jersey, mostly in Monmouth and Mercer counties. The title she gave to the project was “From Garden State to Garden Apartment” and described it as her “reaction to the disappearance of the orchards and vegetable farms in Central New Jersey.” In support of the project, she was awarded a grant in 1988 from the New Jersey Historical Commission, then directed by Richard Waldron.
Mrs. Rosskam began the series in black-and-white but then switched to color. She had enlargements made of some of the images and had them framed for the Edwin and Louise Rosskam retrospective at the Haverford College gallery in 1990, where the barn photographs were hung in a separate room. She then exhibited them in Roosevelt; at the Peddie School in Hightstown (1991); and Middle Township Municipal Hall, Cape May Courthouse (1995), as well as at least two other venues.
In 1998, Louise Rosskam donated 42 framed photographs from the barn series to the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, which exhibited them in 2002. In 2004, the Montclair Historical Society exhibited about half the framed collection.
The New Jersey Museum of Agriculture offered the collection to the Monmouth County Archives in May 2013 because it had closed permanently and was dispersing its holdings. The main reasons why the Monmouth County Archives was a logical repository included 1) Louise Rosskam had lived in Monmouth County and many of the photographs were taken in the County; and 2) In 2000, Louise Rosskam had been included in the Monmouth County Library’s project, “Remembering the 20th Century: An Oral History of Monmouth County,” with the interview, now on the library’s website, conducted by the Monmouth County Archivist. After acquisition, the Archives exhibited the framed photographs in the gallery of the Monmouth County Library in June 2013.
The collection is in two parts: photographs and other materials. The main part of the photograph collection consisted of 42 matted and framed photographs; the photographs were taken out of the frames in June 2015 for more efficient storage. In addition, there are two unmounted 11×14 color photographs, a few unmounted 8x10s, and a large number of 4×6 prints, mounted on cards with caption information. Some of the small photographs are the same images as in the enlargements. Also included are photocopies of additional 4×6 photographs provided to the Archives by Mrs. Rosskam’s daughter, Ani Rosskam.
The other materials were acquired primarily from the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, with a few relevant items added by the Monmouth County Archives. Included are files of correspondence concerning the NJHC grant and exhibits; exhibit files; deeds of gift; clippings; and other reference materials as described in the container list.
This collection is open to researchers.
An appointment is advised to use the collection.
The collection is arranged primarily by size in one manuscript box and three flat boxes of different dimensions.
Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
This collection was transferred to the Monmouth County Archives by The New Jersey Museum of Agriculture in May 2013. Ani Rosskam signed a deed of gift to the Monmouth County Archives on June 10, 2013.
Finding aid created by Gary D. Saretzky in August 2013 and updated June 8, 2015, and July 3, 2019.
The Monmouth County Archives holds the audio recording and a transcript of the oral history interview conducted with Louise Rosskam in 2000 for “Remembering the 20th Century: An Oral History of Monmouth County,” in the files for that oral history project.
A copy of the transcript is also in the Rosskam Collection and on the Monmouth County Library’s website at http://www.visitmonmouth.com/oralhistory/bios/RosskamLouise.htm
Katzman, Laura and Beverly W. Brannan. Re-Viewing Documentary: The Photographic Life of Louise Rosskam. University Park, PA: American University Museum/Penn State University Press, 2011. [Includes extensive bibliography.]
Saretzky, Gary D. “Louise Rosskam: Documentary Photographer,” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 5:2 (Summer 2019). https://njs.libraries.rutgers.edu/index.php/njs
Saretzky, Gary D. “New Jersey in Transition: Louise Rosskam’s Barn Photographs,” New Jersey History, 121-1-4 (2003), 83-92. [Copy in Louise Rosskam Collection.]