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Researching Activism at The New School

This guide provides suggestions for approaching historical research concerning activism at The New School throughout its history.

Collections in the New School Archives

There is no "Activism Collection" in the New School Archives. Researchers will need to consider parameters such as date range, specific New School division (Parsons School of Design, Eugene Lang College, etc.), role of the activists in the university community (staff, students, faculty) or area of activism to select an appropriate group of records to consult. Additionally, we encourage researchers to conduct secondary source research prior to conducting research in the archives. This will help researchers understand the context in which the primary source records were created, as well as help researchers identify potentially relevant folders.

Below are a selection of collections that past researchers have consulted while creating histories of activism at The New School. A title in red means that you can click on the title to access a collection guide. This list is not comprehensive. We are able to expand the list when researchers share with the New School Archives relevant information they've uncovered in the course of their work with the collections.

  • New School Art Center records -- The New School Art Center was established in the fall of 1960 with a donation from the Albert J. List Foundation, and remained in operation until 1973. Directed throughout its existence by Paul Mocsanyi, the Center's programs reflected the New School's founding commitment to engage provocative subjects, using art to explore contemporary political and social issues. Just a few examples include exhibitions exploring aspects of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, and Nazi propaganda. Materials in this collection include exhibition catalogs, press coverage, posters, fliers and other publicity, administrative correspondence, and photographs.


  • New School press release collection -- Press releases issued by the university, largely covering the mid-1940s through the late 1970s. This is a good resource for investigating The New School's official stance on political and social issues of the day and seeing how events and courses were planned in response to local, national and international issues.


  • New School Publicity Office records - Included in this record group are files documenting the Orozco mural controversy. In the 1950s, a curtain was hung over murals depicting Stalin and Lenin, sparking contentious debate in the New School community. You can read more about this episode on the Offense and Dissent website. Publicity created for public programming will also be found in these records.


  • New School Office of the Dean records - Included in this record group are files created by Deans William M. Birenbaum and Allen Austill, roughly covering the 1960s. Researchers will find documentation on such as events as the American Race Crisis Lectures, the Emancipation Centennial Lectures, the Negro Writer's Vision of America conference, and files on the Henderson Act, which required institutions of higher education to create plans in the event of student unrest. Also includes materials related to the New School administration's response to student unrest at the height of the anti-war movement and efforts by students to play a greater role in the university administration. There is currently no collection guide available, but researchers are welcome to consult unrestricted files in this collection.


  • New School central administration collection -- This is a "catch-all" collection of print documents created by the university administration. Whenever possible, the archives staff tries to associate records with the office that created or maintained the records. This collection includes such documentation as diversity planning, reports on activities by various high-level administrative units, and reports submitted to Middle States for accreditation purposes. While many of these documents may on the face of it seem dull and uninformative, intrepid researchers will learn a lot about the university from such documentation.


  • David C. Levy records -- Consists of records created, received, and maintained by David C. Levy, dean of Parsons School of Design from 1970 until 1989. Contains correspondence, reports, proposals, and subject files on issues including accreditation, affiliate schools, academic departments, and general administrative topics. Included in Dean Levy's records is documentation on the protests surrounding an exhibition of Japanese graphic designer Shin Matsunaga's work at Parsons. You can read more about this in the Offense and Dissent website.


  • Parsons School of Design academic departments, programs and schools collection -- Contains materials created by academic departments of Parsons School of Design. Includes materials originating from overseas facilities and affiliate schools, such as Otis Art Institute (California), Parsons Paris, and Altos de Chavon (Dominican Republic). This collection includes student artwork from My God! We're Losing a Great Country, a student-led anti-war exhibition (1970) as well as examples of environmentally-conscious curriculum and student projects.


  • Joseph Marcella student work -- Joseph Marcella, a Parsons student who graduated in 1970, helped plan Parsons' participation in the very first Earth Day. Parsons had just joined The New School earlier that year. Included in Marcella's collection of student work is documentation on Earth Day planning activities as well as designs by Marcella demonstrating a concern for the environment.


  • Bea Feitler papers -- Bea Feitler was a graduate of Parsons Communication Design program. She designed the look of the landmark feminist magazine, Ms., which began publication in 1972. You can see Feitler's original design and layout records in her papers.


  • Ann Snitow faculty records -- Records kept by New School faculty member Ann Snitow, largely documenting her activities in connection with the evolving status of gender studies courses and programs at The New School at the graduate and undergraduate level. This collection contains documentation on activism concerning race and gender at The New School.


  • Mark Larrimore faculty records -- These files relate primarily to the First Year program at Eugene Lang College, which Larrimore directed, while other materials reflect Larrimore's teaching as a member of the Religious Studies faculty, including student work from his class, "Religious Geography of New York." Includes posters and fliers Larrimore kept posted on his office door. Also includes files given Larrimore by fellow faculty member Ann Snitow, which includes a review of Lang's First Year Program (1999-2000) by S.H. (Heidi) Krueger (Krueger was a comparative literature faculty member and director of the program). Also includes materials dating from 1990 relating to establishing the First Year program, including Snitow's handwritten notes and communications with faculty, and reference materials on creating syllabi and curricula, and a file on the 1996 mobilization around diversity issues at The New School.


  • Human Relations Center records -- This center at The New School was established specifically for women. Among many activities, the HRC held public programs featuring lectures by prominent feminist activists. There is currently no collection guide available, but researchers are welcome to consult this collection.


  • Institute for Retired Professionals records -- A small collection documenting the efforts of retired and semi-retired people to create a cooperative learning program. You can read more about the IRP here. There is currently no collection guide available, but researchers are welcome to consult this collection.


  • Reuben Abel papers -- These papers document the academic career of Reuben Abel (1911-1997), beginning with his education as an undergraduate student at Columbia College and doctoral philosophy student in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, and continuing throughout his professorship at the university. It includes course notes and syllabi from his academic work, and correspondence and other material documenting his student activities, such as his role as founder and editor of the New School student magazine, 12th Street: A Quarterly, and later his membership in the Alumni Association. Abel's papers reflect his position within the Graduate Faculty, consisting of correspondence with colleagues and deans, appointment letters, faculty minutes, and committee documents; in addition to his role as instructor and advisor to students, consisting of lecture notes, thesis committee work and doctoral exam requirement reviews. Includes file, "Ad Hoc Committee of New School Faculty and Students for a Forum on Vietnam."


  • Joseph J. Greenbaum papers -- Joseph J. Greenbaum (1924-2011), a specialist in experimental psychology, joined the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in 1957 and was promoted to full professor in 1962. He also served as dean of the Graduate Faculty from the 1966-1967 academic year through the 1978-1979 academic year. During his four-decade career at The New School, Greenbaum taught a number of courses in the Psychology Department, documentation of which will be found in his records, along with administrative documentation from his role as dean. Memoranda from his role as dean will be of interest to researchers investigating how the culture of university campuses changed during the late 1960s into the early 1970s.