I’m Celeste Brewer, and I love a good story, especially if it happens to be true.

Stories are what drew me to study history and archives.  I am fascinated by the layers of narrative and counter-narrative that can be constructed around the narrowest frames of primary evidence, then deconstructed and rebuilt.  I love a sweeping historical saga as much as anyone, but I think more than that, I love the strange small anecdotes that get mentioned in footnotes, or not at all.  When I get the chance to create the narrative, those are the types of stories I like to tell.

I divided my time in college between classes in early modern British and twentieth century American history, with a senior seminar on nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina thrown in for good measure.  These days, I’m equally likely to be seen on the subway reading Blacks in Gold Rush California or The Grand Strategy of Philip II.  (Or I might be dozing.  Full disclosure.)

I could certainly be accused of dilettantism, but the balance of (relatively) new and old history works for me right now.  Sometimes the recent past is just too raw, while other times the distant past is too foreign.  If I continue to pursue academic history I suppose I’ll have to choose.  However, for now, it makes me a more versatile librarian and archivist-in-training.

Celeste at SAA

Me in professional mode, presenting a poster at the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in August 2015.

Andrea Kutsenkow

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.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve had a pretty intense interest in history for much of my life.  I knew going into my undergraduate studies at Rutgers University that I wanted to major in history, and I did, concentrating my studies on 20th century social history and earning a BA in History, with minors in English and Political Science, just this past May.

It was there, too, that I had my first interaction, via an internship in the spring of 2014, with a real, in-person archive after spending countless hours over the course of my life browsing the digitized Special Collections of other universities.  A great deal of my interest in history lies in dealing with the physical ephemera of the past: the letters and typescripts and pamphlets and posters that are sometimes our only way to experience the past first-hand.  Given that, I felt that it made sense to me to pursue a degree that would allow me to deal with this aspect of the historical record, and that led me to apply to the Public History and Archives program here at NYU, where I am in my first year of study.

One of my recent illustrations. Want to see more? Just click through.

One of my recent illustrations. More where that came from if you click through.

In addition to my studies, I’m also interning at the Centenary College archives up in the hills of northwest Jersey, where I have lived for more or less my entire life.  When I’m not working I’m jamming to punk rock and making a lot of art, mostly in the form of illustrations and comic scripts.  My illustrations can be seen here; the comic is still in the works.

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.

Using Evernote

I’ve found Evernote extremely useful for several research purposes, though limited for note-taking. Maybe it’s my own process that limits my ability to use Evernote for note-taking but I’ve found that I much prefer taking notes by hand when I want to consider them repeatedly or deeply. For me, Evernote notes get buried quickly and I never return to them. Also, since each note within each notebook is o the same valence, it is difficult to prioritize them visually or to move from notebook to notebook.

While I don’t use Evernote for brief thoughts or any type of journaling or in-class notation, I’ve found it extremely useful for working with documents in an archive. When I will want to return to each object in the context I’ve found it, Evernote has helped me keep track of a document’s location while also making it searchable across my own database. Evernote doesn’t work for me when I’m trying to synthesize ideas, but it does function as a useful repository for information. It is easy to transcribe pieces of a documents alongside its location in in the archive without filling out forms or clicking through any tabs. Even without using tags, you can just write an important tag in the note and it will be easily found with the search. When looking for connections between different documents, like names, it has been very useful. I enjoy the way the results narrow as you type into the search field so you can see if there is a significant spelling error or piece of information that repeats between documents.

I wish Evernote had a more dynamic way of organizing hierarchies of notebooks because many of my documents should appear in several notebooks without duplicating themselves. I’m often unsure which tags I will ultimately be looking for so I often don’t assign any when creating a note. This isn’t much of a problem when it is easy to search, but I would definitely prefer a way of visually connecting and moving notes.

Screenshot 2015-01-12 11.21.39

The Web Clipper is amazing and I’ve absolutely integrated it into my daily web use. I use it for academic and personal bookmarks. It’s actually been most helpful for me in keeping track of distant deadlines for grants, jobs, and applications as I can see a post and quickly tag it with “Deadline” and return when I’m able to look more deeply into the application.

Evernote is definitely useful for storing information in an easily accessible place but it doesn’t have the organizational complexity that I would like in a program that I could use solely. It’s not easy enough to move things around or to create many sub groups that can be viewed simultaneously.

I will definitely continue to use Evernote for research, deadlines, and web browsing because of the Web Clipper and search ability but I can’t rely on it for note-taking or any aspect of the writing process.


From 1849 to 2010, Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center was an invaluable resource for the residents of Greenwich Village during countless crises. Reflecting the demands of the diverse and struggling populations of Greenwich Village, St. Vincent’s Hospital was dedicated to serving the poor and disenfranchised. First located on West 13th Street, the charity hospital was founded to address a cholera epidemic. By 1856, the hospital needed a larger space and moved to 11th Street and Seventh Avenue, where the flagship location remained until its bankruptcy and closure in 2010.

St. Vincent’s treated patients during various historic disasters including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the bombing of Fraunces Tavern, the AIDS crisis, the Union Square subway crash of 1991, and the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Patients were treated regardless of their financial position, making St. Vincent’s an incredibly valuable resource to the surrounding communities. The hospital was one of the first in New York to provide ambulance services, beginning in 1870 with a horse-drawn carriage. In 1900, St. Vincent’s began using its first motorized ambulance.

St. Vincent’s was notable for its various outreach programs that served the community beyond the traditional emergency and medical services as well as many innovative medical programs. The hospital hosted a soup kitchen to feed the poor, and provided community programs for the homeless. More recently, the hospital provided pet-care services to patients, an example of the hospital’s mission to care for the community in various broad and deep ways. St. Vincent’s also opened a Chinese-speaking unit to better serve the Chinese community of nearby Chinatown which offered Chinese-focused services and treatments, as well as transportation. The hospital was dedicated to the idea that patient-care is not limited to basic or emergency medical treatment, but holistic community engagement.

St. Vincent’s Hospital was site of the first and largest AIDS center, providing intensive outreach, education and support services for AIDS patines and families at the “epicenter” of the epidemic. The hospital remains iconic in the telling of AIDS histories because of the sheer number of patients treated. Many people recall traumatic memories of the overwhelmed AIDS ward, where patients lay dying in the hallways, waiting for too few beds.

St. Vincent’s dedication to serving the most at-risk communities was an unprofitable mission. As the residents of the neighborhood shifted and became increasingly wealthy, many more affluent and insured locals chose to use other prestigious hospitals in Manhattan.


The location of St. Vincent’s is intended to be the site of the first AIDS memorial in New York City. While the memorial’s preliminary planning was begun in 2011, that part of site has yet to be developed, though controversial construction is underway for luxury condominiums.

The history of St. Vincent’s hospital is a useful lens through which to look at the traumas and trajectories of changes in Greenwich Village. Founded to serve one Village, it went bankrupt in another. The death of the hospital also points to complex changes in the American healthcare system and New York City. The hospital’s impact on 161 years of New Yorkers’ lives is undeniable. As one of the tens of thousands of babies born there, I feel its closure symbolizes the end of a particular New York.

“Remembering St. Vincent’s,” The New Yorker

“St. Vincent’s Remembered,” Out Magazine

“Where St. Vincent’s Once Stood,” The New York Times

“The Decline of St. Vincent’s Hospital,” The New York Times

Prior to the start of this semester, I had heard of Evernote and even watched a demonstration on how to use it properly. However, I would not consider myself the least bit prepared to dive into using it throughout the course of the semester. My experience with Evernote can best be described as a love hate relationship, but probably more along the lines of “I sometimes like it, but primarily dislike it.” In order to start off on a positive note, I’ll first discuss Evernote’s strengths and the reasons I found it useful over the past three months.

Most people using Evernote will agree that its web clipper tool is extremely effective and helpful when conducting research. When I first started researching my historical question for the digital archive and web exhibit, I greatly appreciated the web clipper as a tool. I used the web clipper frequently in order to save complete articles until I narrowed my research topic. However, my research topic changed in October and most of my resources were not readily available on the Internet. This rendered the web clipper fairly useless for this particular research project.

Another feature I enjoyed and used consistently was the search function in Evernote. I found this feature more useful than the tags I included in my notes. Normally when I conduct research, I prefer to use one hard copy notebook. I take notes and label them by source. I also color code them by theme or argument using pens or highlighters. I recognize that this method is not the most efficient way to go about research, especially in the digital age, but it works best for me. Evernote does not enable users to organize their notes by folders, colors, or any other method to which I am accustomed. However, the ability to do key word searches helped significantly in comparison to combing through dozens of pages of handwritten notes for a particular point or quotation.

Beyond the web clipper and the ability to search all of my notes in Evernote, I found the other aspects of Evernote to be quite frustrating. The software in general did not mesh well with my organizational or learning processes. I collected information for my research using the software, but I began to notice that I did not retain the information as much as I normally do when I take handwritten notes. It made me wonder whether I actually saved time using the search feature because I spent much more time reading my notes than I would if I wrote them by hand.

Additionally, I continued to write all of my blog posts, exhibition pages, and other assignments in Microsoft Word before transferring them into Evernote. The software works better as a repository than it does as a word processing application. However, the user needs to create a formal and rather strict system of tagging in order to successfully use Evernote as a place to store information for research projects. I failed to do this and encountered a variety of issues when it came to tagging. I used a variety of tags and thus rendered the tagging tool useless in terms of finding information and organizing my notes.

Overall, I am glad I tried using Evernote this semester for my research question and other course projects. Despite its challenges and frustrations, it proved to be a valuable learning experience for me. Tools such as Evernote can be helpful to students and researchers, but it is important to find the tool that works best for each individual. After three months of practice with Evernote, I will continue looking for another software package that works better for me.


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