SCHENECTADY Thanks to a $164,6000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, letters between Franklin D. Roosevelt and conservationist John S. Apperson will be showcased as a part of the Apperson-Schaefer collection at Union College’s Kelly Adirondack Center.
Edward Summers, chief of staff to the college president and director of the Kelly Adirondack Center, said this funding helps further the mission of both Union College and the Kelly Adirondack Center by helping to create a strong research entity.
“This grant is tremendous for the Kelly Adirondack Center and the Adirondack Research Library,” he said.
In a story on the college website, Summers said the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant will provide researchers access to materials from Apperson and Paul Schaefer, two figures who contributed greatly to the environmental movement.
The grant will will help fund an 18-month project that will begin in June. According to Summers, that includes hiring an archivist, cataloguing the material and processing the letters. In addition, the collection will be made public through an interactive website available nationally to scholars, students and those interested in the ideas and politics of American environmentalists and conservationists.
“There is a lot to be learned from the political battles Schaefer and Apperson had to go through to give birth to the conservation movement,” Summers said.
In April 1926, Apperson, an engineer for General Electric in Schenectady, wrote to Roosevelt, a politically powerful attorney who had yet to be elected governor of New York, seeking advice on how the state could preserve a valuable stretch of land on the eastern shore of Lake George, according to the story on the college website. In return, Roosevelt offered some suggestions on how to approach the landowners .
“Before you and I die,” Roosevelt wrote, “the state will have parks and parkways to be really proud of.”
The Apperson-Schaefer collection spans from 1899 to 1996 and provides an inside look into the efforts to conserve the Adirondack Forest Preserve and expand the Adirondack Park. In addition to correspondence with Roosevelt, the collection also includes communication between other well-known national figures and environmental activists.
Using photographs, maps, pamphlets, meeting minutes, lantern slides and letters, the collection gives an inside look at the birth of environmentalism.
The cabin-like home where the Kelly Adirondack Center is housed was built in 1934 by Schaefer, who gained a local and national reputation for advocating and protecting the river valleys and wilderness areas of the Adirondacks. The 2,400-square-foot Dutch replica home is now used for office space and meetings. A 3,900-square-foot addition contains additional offices, conference rooms and the Adirondack Research Library.
Union acquired the property in 2011 from a private conservation group.
Schaefer also compiled and managed the Apperson collection until his own death in 1996, according to the story on the college website.
Summers said there is a lot to be learned from Apperson and Schaefer.
“They are known as sort of the godfathers of the conservation movement,” he said.
On the Union College website, Summers credits Loraine Wies, the center’s librarian; Frances Maloy, head of the Schaefer Library; Annette LeClair, head of technical services at Schaefer; and Andrew Morris, associate professor of history, with being instrumental in securing the grant.