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New-York Historical Society Librarian Dorothy C. Barck records

Call Number



1921-1954, inclusive


New-York Historical Society


11.5 Linear feet in 26 document boxes and one box of cards.

Language of Materials

The documents in the collection are in English.


The New-York Historical Society Librarian Dorothy C. Barck record group primarily contains correspondence between Barck and patrons or members of N-YHS concerning research inquiries. The correspondence includes both incoming and outgoing letters from many amateur historians and genealogists. Some correspondence relates to Barck's duties as Editor, as head of the library, and to her involvement with professional organizations of librarians and archivists. The record group also includes annual reports, forms, statistics, offers from book dealers and sellers, and logbooks of reference inquiries.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy C. Barck was hired as an assistant in the library at the New-York Historical Society in 1922 by Librarian Alexander Wall. She did not have a background in librarianship, but a bachelor's degree from Vassar College and a master's in American history from Cornell.

By the early 1930s, when this record group begins, Barck had responsibility as the head of reference and research and in 1936 took over from Wall as Editor. In this capacity she managed the editorial responsibilities for the publications of the library and also the Quarterly Bulletin. She edited several publications, including Letters from John Pintard to His Daughter (1816-1833). When Charles Baker was hired as full-time Editor in 1944 Barck retained the editorial duties surrounding the Bulletin, but only for a short time. As the head of reference and research, Barck answered many research and genealogical inquiries and managed Photostat orders (a type of early copy machine).

During the late 1930s, the N-YHS underwent major construction on its building, which was not completed until 1939. While construction was underway, some of the collection was put in storage and the library was closed to the public, but Barck continued to manage the reference inquiries as best she could. In 1937, Wall became Director, a newly-created position, and the library staff increased substantially. In the early years of Barck's tenure, the staff was quite small, but when the building reopened it grew into several departments and staff members, including a curator of manuscripts, a chief of the reading room, map and print room staff, and several others. For a time, Wall managed the library as Director, but in 1942 Barck was named Librarian, taking over management of the day-to-day operations of the library. In this capacity, Barck was manager of the entire library, and the first woman to hold this position.

During World War II, Barck helped oversee the transport (and subsequent retrieval) of materials from N-YHS to safe locations. She was active in acquiring war-related materials for the collection and sent out several requests for current and older war posters, including recruitment posters. After the war she sent letters to several members of the government in order to ensure that the naval collection remained current.

Barck was very active in professional organizations during her time at N-YHS. She was a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA), the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), and others. Beyond being a member, Barck was active as a leader in these organizations. She presented at the annual SAA conference in 1951 on the presentation of archival displays at the N-YHS, the AASLH annual conference of 1948 on how reference problems were handled at the N-YHS, and was part of a panel about the magazine American Heritage at the AASLH annual meeting of 1952. Barck served as Chairman of the Museum Group of SLA, the Archives Group of SLA, the nominating committee of the AASLH, the Librarians section of the American Association of Museums, and was vice-Chairman of the New York Chapter of the Steamship Historical Society of America. Additionally, Barck was in attendance at the first annual SAA meeting and was acting-secretary/treasurer and council member when the AASLH was first established.

During Barck's time at N-YHS, the library changed drastically. Barck was an advocate for allowing youth and college-age students to use the library, and a 1948 statistic estimated that only one in twelve users was a member. In 1940, the library began to implement the Library of Congress classification system for new acquisitions, and in 1941, the curator of manuscripts Susan Lyman published a Survey of the Manuscript Collections in the New-York Historical Society. Barck also organized the microfilming of one of the largest collections at N-YHS, the American Fur Company Papers. The finished product was 37 reels, with the cost split between several cooperating libraries.

Dorothy Barck left N-YHS in 1954 after 32 years of employment. When she left she was managing seventeen staff members, the largest staff to date. She went on to become the Historic Sites Supervisor at Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh, New York, and later the librarian and editor of the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, New York.

(Principal sources for this note include the Dorothy C. Barck records themselves and Pamela Spence Richards's Scholars and Gentleman: The Library of the New-York Historical Society 1804-1982.)

Arrangement Note

The correspondence in this series is arranged in six chronological sets, which are arranged alphabetically by correspondent within each set. Frequent or notable correspondents have been noted at the folder level, as has notable contents. The miscellaneous folders included in most of the chronological sets contain content that may overlap with the alphabetical files, so it is recommended to refer to both. As time went on, less and less incoming correspondence was kept in Barck's files and it is likely that the other half of the communication can be found in the General Correspondence files (NYHS-RG 2).

At the end of the chronological sets is topical correspondence, alphabetically arranged by subject matter. The contents of the topical folders are noted at the folder level. Some materials related to the contents of the topical folders can be found within the chronological sets, so it is recommended to consult the appropriate date range and alphabetical folder.

Following the topical folders are two groups of For Sale letters, which are loosely chronological. Frequent correspondents in this group are listed at the folder level.

At the end of the record group are three notebooks and a telephone index.

Scope and Contents Note

The Librarian Dorothy C. Barck records primarily contain chronologically arranged sets of correspondence between Barck and patrons or members of the New-York Historical Society from the 1930s to the early 1950s.

The correspondence sets contain both incoming and outgoing letters, until the last set (1946-53), which is primarily outgoing correspondence and notes from Barck's employees. The bulk of the correspondence includes reference questions, many of which are genealogical inquiries. Also included are many letters related to Photostat orders and some personal correspondence. As Barck's role within the library changed, additional content appears. Some editorial correspondence can be found prior to 1944, and after Barck becomes Librarian in 1942, some correspondence related to hiring staff, and the acquisition of donated items and sales is present.

Many of Barck's correspondents are amateur historians, genealogists, and fellow librarians at institutions such as the American Antiquarian Society and the Library of Congress. Some of Barck's most frequent correspondents over the years are: M. V. Brewington, Bruce "The Answer Man" Chapman, Bartlett Cowdrey, Arthur C. Gerow, Richard Hyer, Rev. George B. Kinkead, John Hill Morgan, Robert Livingston Nicholson, S. H. P. Pell, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, and Florence E. Youngs.

Materials related to Barck's many professional organizations and activities are also found throughout the collection. There are some copies of speeches given at national conferences of the American Association for State and Local History or the Society of American Archivists, in addition to mailings from these organizations and the Special Libraries Association. There is correspondence related to Barck's leadership roles in these organizations and some printed materials from the National Archives, the New Jersey College for Women, University Microfilms, and some questionnaires from institutions and library students. In the topical boxes are several folders devoted to Barck's activities with the AASLH. Also present are copies of articles and their respective notes prepared by Barck for the N-YHS's Quarterly Bulletin.

Some internal correspondence can be found throughout the files, including memos and notes from Barck's staff about research or acquisition recommendations. In the last set of correspondence nearly every outgoing letter from Barck is attached to accompanying notes from staff members, most frequently the reference librarian E. Marie Becker and the newspaper librarian Louis J. Fox.

The topical boxes contain more information related to the running of the N-YHS Library. Nearly a decade of annual reports including notes from staff members about statistics and usage can be found in the topical boxes. Forms, memos, statistics, and other materials related to the collections of the N-YHS can be found in this set.

The For Sale letter folders contain primarily incoming correspondence from book dealers and individual sellers.

The collection closes with three notebooks and a telephone index. Two of the notebooks are logs of reference inquiries assigned to N-YHS staff and the third contains correspondence answered directly by Barck. These notebooks also indicate the correspondent, the subject matter, and whether a response was written.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the New-York Historical Society Librarian Dorothy C. Barck records (NYHS-RG 19), The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Related Archival Materials Note

This finding aid relates to just one record group of the New-York Historical Society archives. For information about the other record groups and for overall information about the archives, please see the Guide to the New-York Historical Society Archives (NYHS-RG Archives).

It is unlikely that this record group is the only place where correspondence to or from Barck is present, and as the later sets of correspondence primarily include the outgoing correspondence, it may be necessary to consult the General Correspondence (NYHS-RG 2) files for additional materials.

Collection processed by

Sarah Rose

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:49:42 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English

Processing Information Note

This record group was processed by archival intern Sarah Rose in Spring 2016.


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024