Archive for the ‘Biographies’ Category

2012-01-05_19-42-58_250Despite growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania that’s rarely ever included on maps, where there’s nothing to do for miles, and whose residents don’t travel too far from home, stay away for too long, or concern themselves with art or fashion, I firmly believed a move to New York City would change my life for the better. Even before graduating from high school, I recognized my undergraduate education at The Pennsylvania State University was a stepping stone to even higher education, initially believing medical school was the next logical step after college. Like many incoming freshmen, I was under the impression only a curriculum in science could ever result in a successful career. However, everything changed with a single art history elective and a trip to New York City to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since then, more classes in the humanities have followed and have stimulated my thinking and creativity in ways science never could. Half way through my undergraduate education, I decided to change my major from premedicine to art history and even interned as a curatorial assistant for the university’s Palmer Museum of Art where I initially fell in love with working with primary documents and original artwork firsthand.

I moved to New York City soon after graduating from Penn State in order to attend the new MA Fashion Studies program at Parsons The New School for Design. Outside of the classroom I wrote concise, critical reviews on contemporary art exhibitions in and around the city for the blog M Daily, volunteered for Karen Augusta of Augusta Auctions, a rare dealer of historical textiles and antique clothing, as well as interned for the Special Collections and Archives of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Although I enjoyed learning more about experimental fashion and other instances of how art and fashion intersect, I truly missed learning about fine art and decided to finish my graduate education at Christie’s Education New York. In 2013, after finishing an internship with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of Christie’s Auction House, I graduated with an M.A. in The History of Art and the Art Market from Christie’s and began working as a freelance archival assistant.

My freelance positions made me realize I need to continue to strengthen my research and archival skills if I want to advance in the competitive field of modern and contemporary art and ultimately work for a museum or university collection. I’m excited to be a first-year student of NYU’s Archives and Public History graduate program, as well as a new graduate assistant at Fales Library. For this course I am looking forward to building upon my pre-existing skills, as well as learning more about digital humanities as I research the relocation of the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts to Greenwich Village in the late 1930s. This is certainly an exciting time to research Hofmann since a comprehensive catalogue raisonné on the artist, Hans Hofmann: Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Suzi Villiger, was only recently published in 2014.

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Samantha Houck

As a young girl growing up in central Pennsylvania, I have always been surrounded by history.  Despite the size of the town, Hershey is rich with local history and has found a way to weave itself into my life.  Milton Hershey’s legacy rings throughout my community even to this day.  When I was a young child, my parents and I would go to Hershey’s Chocolate World to take the informational tour ride on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I remember the historical summary of Hershey’s milk chocolate as well as the grandiose visual and audio displays that entranced me as I unknowingly gained knowledge and understanding outside of the traditional classroom.  Those small moments are when I fell in love with the sharing of history.


During my undergraduate studies, I majored in Historical Studies and earned my elementary school teaching certificate.  Moravian College provided me with a very well rounded and hands-on learning experience. My senior seminar class stands out to me because it was the first time I researched a topic that had not been studied.  I chose to research women who lived in the Lehigh Valley during the Great Depression.  My topic was broad enough that it allowed me to delve into the lives of women from all ethnic, socioeconomic backgrounds and to see how they were or were not impacted by the severe economic downturn.  I visited the local libraries and spent countless hours in the archives.  I will never forget the feelings I had when opening dated boxes that contained handwritten notes, pictures and programs from the past.  Reading the words of the Bethlehem Women’s Club’s meeting minutes created images in my head of what life was like during those years.  My imagination ran with the information and I found myself engrossed in the possibilities of the past.  Not only did I sift through primary documents, but I also used microfilm, visited the old Bethlehem Steel Factory and read other published academic sources.  I felt great accomplishment when I presented my findings to my professor and classmates.

Greyhound Love

After graduating, I spent two years in Pennsylvania teaching elementary school.  I have taught both first and fourth grade.  My teaching experience in addition to my educational experiences at Moravian College, have provided me with a solid background in effective teaching and management techniques.  In a classroom of 20-25 students, it is important to be well organized, flexible and to have good communication skills.  I believe that the skills sets that I have learned through teaching will be beneficial for other job positions that I may acquire.

Although I enjoyed teaching, I began to miss aspects of my historical studies background; therefore I made the decision to pursue my masters in the history field.  After researching various programs, I decided upon Archives and Public History.  My ultimate dream has always been to live and work in New York City.  I applied and was accepted into NYU’s program.

Now I live in New York and I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize that I am actually doing what I have wanted and set out to do!  I am a first year student in the Archives and Public History Program.  While completing my studies, I will be interning at the Special Collections Library Archive at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum.  In addition to my internship, I will be working as an Archives Student Assistant at NYU’s Special Collections Library.  I am looking forward to both of these hands-on experiences.

When I imagine my future, I see myself holding a position in New York providing other people the opportunity to be entranced by the visual and audio displays that provide an enjoyable, historical, educational experience, like the experience I had as a young girl enjoying a Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Chocolate World.

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Hi! My name is Laura and I am a second year graduate student in the museum studies program at NYU. I’m currently starting research for my thesis, which will identify and discuss methodologies that museums can use to create more socially conscious exhibitions.


Laura Williams, Brooklyn Museum

 While my master’s program has helped me better understand museums as a professional field, I’m really interested in researching regional and community subcultures that are found throughout the United States. I earned my undergraduate degree in American studies and history from the University of Maryland, a course of study that made me fall in love with cultural studies, identity formation, and ethnographic research. I think museums can be a powerful medium to share this type of information, and I hope to someday craft the narratives that visitors see.

 I love crowds! And people-watching. And seemingly dull stories of everyday people, both historical and contemporary, that I can relate to. On this blog, I hope to share such stories about the people who lived in Greenwich Village, finding something familiar in a city that always seems to be changing.

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Deborah Wexler

Hi, my name is Deborah Wexler and I am a first year graduate student in the Public History program at New York University. I come to NYU through a circuitous and serendipitous route. Having a deep and abiding love of history ever since I was a little girl, I nonetheless majored in Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana and eventually earned a MBA at Boston University. After working in consumer product marketing for a number of years, I relocated to the golden land of Northern California where I returned to my first love by pursuing a Master’s degree in Early American History at San Jose State University.

I first learned about the field and study of Public History in conversations with staff at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Massachusetts and the Van Cortlandt House in the Bronx. Here was a field where I could integrate my interest in the day-to-day stories of history with my desire to educate and pass along to other people my enthusiasm for a broken pipe shard, a torn piece of textile or the meanings hidden in a Naïve painting. I was intrigued by the idea of a formal course of study that would allow me to reach out to people and communicate the importance of history to our lives, what it says about where we came from and how it can inform our future.

I have been involved with the Palo Alto Historical Association, the planned Palo Alto History Museum, the oral history program at the Yiddish Book Center and most recently, as a volunteer at the Merchant’s House Museum on East 4th Street.  After graduation, I hope to work in a historic house museum, a living history site or history museum.


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Sana Masood

Originally, I am from Pakistan and came to the U.S. when I was 4-years-old. After moving around a bit, I lived in Oklahoma for the past 14 years. It may not be the most exciting location to reside in, but it was a nice and relaxed place to spend most of my life so far. I did my undergrad at the University of Oklahoma in history of science, medicine, and technology with a minor in history. OU has a wonderful history of science collections in its library. The time I spent there for classes and research first started my interest in archives. My final semester was spent helping research and design an exhibit on Galileo that the university will be opening next year.

During the semester brea10534687_2152399256470_7814245809982440994_nk I had between graduating from OU and coming to NYU, I worked at the Oklahoma History Center where I was creating a database of the WWI soldiers from the state by examining the draft documents from 1917. This project reinforced for me that I made the right choice in deciding to study archives because I truly loved my work.

Currently, I am a first year student in the M.A. Archives and Public History program concentrating on archives, and I am working at the Fales Library in Bobst. So far, I had a much easier time getting used to the difference in pace of life between Oklahoma and New York City, and I am looking forward to my time here.

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Sophie Glidden-Lyon

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I first had the chance to fall in love with archives during my second year of undergrad at Smith College where the Sophia Smith Collection provided an overwhelming number of options for someone looking to write a paper based on archival research. I ended up avidly consuming the oral history of Katsi Cook, a Mohawk midwife and activist, and have never looked back.

After graduating, I spent two years in my home state of Maine splitting my time between waiting tables and volunteering at the Maine State Museum and the Maine Women Writers Collection. If I wasn’t trying to get customers to order more booze, or reading the diaries of Maine islanders, I was spending as much time as humanly possible outside in the wonderland that is the Maine coast.

Now I’m here in New York, living in a city for the first time ever, and even though I already miss living in the country, NYC has welcomed me pretty warmly. I’m a first year in the Archives program, and I’m working at the Fales Library, which is already a blast. Every day I’m more excited for what’s to come!

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Deborah Shapiro

I am a fledgling archivist from Brooklyn, New York. My undergraduate degree comes from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, the town where the James-Younger Gang met its violent demise in 1876. My time in Northfield was not like Jesse James’. I conducted no bank robberies, failed or successful, but instead spent my time playing violin, writing Sporcle quizzes, and studying linguistics, Francophone literature, and American consumer culture.

I owe my passion for archives to the Florence Nightingale Digitization Project at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center (“Eitch-gark“). For much of the past year, I rummaged through countless boxes and JPEG 2000s, reading, summarizing, and creating metadata for eighteen hundred letters penned by the public health revolutionary. Not only did I get a first-hand look at Florence Nightingale’s genius, but I also had the chance to spread knowledge of her life’s work to those who know her only as “The Lady With the Lamp.”

Nowadays I am a first-year archives student in the Archives/Public History M.A. program at NYU, as well as a graduate assistant at the University Archives. I am looking forward to uniting together archival theory and practice as I strengthen my archivist wings and other metaphorical avian body parts.

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If you’ve ever walked down the streets between Avenues A and D in the East Village you have no doubt seen some of the paintings by the artist Chico. Although you might not have noticed, Chico’s paintings decorate buildings all over the neighborhood. Many of his works are difficult to spot at first glance as they blend seamlessly into the backdrop of the neighborhood covering local storefronts and restaurants. But a trained eye will notice his distinctive style as they browse the streets and take note of the bright colors and smiling faces that cover walls and roll-down gates of local establishments. Chico has been creating art across the neighborhood for 35 years and his murals reflect the transitions and the rich history of the neighbor throughout the last decades of the twentieth century.


Chico is a graffiti artist who grew up in the part of the East Village which was often referred to as “Loisaida” (a Spanglish adaptation of “Lower East Side”) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Now known as Alphabet City, the area was predominantly made up of immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. For these immigrants life in the neighborhood was not easy, as building deteriorated and many residents struggled to combat poverty and rising rates of crime and drug use. The blank walls of run-down buildings however, provided an opportunity for Chico who used them as an artistic outlet throughout his youth. Like many graffiti artists in New York City, Chico started his career by sneaking into subway yards and tagging train cars in the early 1980s. Soon after he shifted his focus to murals and found himself spending most of his wages from his Housing Authority job on spray paint. For Chico his murals were a way to shape his community, which was suffering from serious social and economic problems, in a positive way.


Throughout the 80s and 90s, Chico funneled most of his energy into his art, which began to gain notice from a number of people in the community. Some of his first paid work came from individuals who commissioned him to create memorial murals for their lost loved ones. Many these memorials depicted people who had died as a result of gang violence but he eventually he grew tired of creating tributes to individuals affiliated with crime in the neighborhood. These memorials helped Chico make a name for himself as an artist, but he had to step away from them for a period of time because he became concerned that he was glorifying the wrong kinds of images. In a number of interviews he explained his turn away from memorials stating that he did not want to immortalize gang members and instead wanted to focus on more positive messages.


Chico’s murals shifted to focus on positive messages and representations of community solidarity. Many of his paintings were filled with phrases of like “I love L.E.S.” and “Viva Loisaida,” or declared that “Crack Kills,” and encouraged youth to “Stay in School.” Indeed Chico’s love for his neighborhood and the messages he sent with his art garnered a similar affection from the members of his community. Although many of Chico’s early canvasses were abandoned buildings and train cars, which he illegally covered with Krylon paint, many neighborhood businesses began to pay him to cover their walls with similar images. The result has been a neighborhood that is covered in Chico’s murals, many of which have been preserved because the businesses that he painted them for are proud to display his art.

A special thanks to the artist Chico for permission to use select images of his early artwork.

Further Reading:



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Hi, my name is Emily Kramer. I am a first year master’s student of the Archives and Public History Program at New York University. I recently graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with a degree in The History and Theory of Contemporary Art. I am interested in learning the ways in which technology, historical research and record making interact. In relation to my undergraduate studies, I am particularly focused on digital history in relation to popular culture, social media, and the contemporary arts.

I am currently involved with a project involving the archives of a 1949 symposium entitled, The Western Round Table on Modern Art. The material charts a three day discussion on production, display, and understanding of art during the era. Luminaries such as Marcel Duchamp, Frank Lloyd Wright and Kenneth Burke are among the panel members, contributing to its historical importance. The material is being collected, edited and contextualized and is in the final stages of pre-publication.

I’m relatively new to the field of archives and public history and I’m looking forward to learning more about how they function in the digital realm. I am hoping to find some interesting cross-overs between contemporary art theory and creating digital history.


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Virginia Pastor

Hi, my name is Virginia Pastor, and I am currently in my second year Master’s student in the Archives and Public History program at NYU. I am a native New Jerseyan, where I completed my undergraduate degree at Rutgers University. In May 2012, I graduated from Rutgers with a B.A. in English and History. While at Rutgers, I worked on several projects that helped shape my interest in archives and local history, including a detailed rendering of New Brunswick, NJ’s street layout and infrastructure during the 18th and 19th centuries and a an examination of South River, NJ during the Great Depression using oral history and local archival material.


I am increasingly interested in the complexities of archival processing, having recently completed internships at Rutgers University Special Collections and the Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary, a division of the Columbia University Libraries. Through my experiences at Rutgers and Burke, I was able to learn the ins and outs of processing – from appraisal to arrangement and description. Additionally, I learned how to publicize completed collections through Web 2.0. applications, particularly at the Burke Library, where I contributed to the Burke Library blog. I currently work at Fales Library & Special Collections at NYU’s Bobst Library where I hope to continue to expand my archival skills.

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