Eric Bartheld 301-314-0964
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today it has received a gift from the AFL-CIO of its historical archive, an extensive collection of documents, photographs, books and audio and visual recordings pertaining to this federation of labor unions based in Washington, D.C.
With materials that fill six miles of shelving, the collection is the largest such donation to the university and a boon to scholars of labor studies. Complementing other labor-related collections at the University Libraries, the AFL-CIO archive will establish the university as a top archival repository for labor history in North America.
The collection, appraised at $25 million, dates back to the mid-19th century and fills approximately 20,000 boxes. The 40 million documents and other materials will help researchers better understand pivotal social movements in this country, including those to gain rights for women, children and minorities.
“This tremendous historic treasure covers some of the most vital periods of our history, and it needs careful exploration,” says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. “U.S. labor history is an area of faculty strength for us, so I know it will get heavy use from the UMD community, as well as from scholars around the world. We are honored by the gift and the trust placed in our hands.”
“The archive is a game-changer for us,” says Patricia Steele, dean of UMD Libraries. “Because it is comprehensive and so rich in intellectual value, it vastly expands our ability to support researchers on this campus and beyond. The AFL-CIO collection offers unique opportunities for us to collaborate in innovative ways with academic departments, government agencies and partners from labor and industry. We are pleased leaders of the AFL-CIO placed such a high degree of confidence in us to provide a new home for their collection.”
Additionally, Steele says, the AFL-CIO will also fund a position to support the collection by serving as a liaison with researchers, identifying components for digitization and partnering with interested groups.
Transfer of the collection to UMD is complete. Materials will be accessible from Hornbake Library, the university’s library for special collections, which features comprehensive environmental controls, a large reading room and exhibition space. Special collections, identified as such because of their rarity or format, frequently distinguish a library’s unique offerings at a time when information is broadly available online.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, is the umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 56 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women.
For more than 30 years the University Libraries have acquired archival resources that document the history of the labor movement in North America. Included in the collections are the archives of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; the International Union of Marine Shipbuilding Workers of America; the International Labor Communications Association; and the Cigar Makers International Union.
UMD is situated within a key national research hub, and the UMD Libraries make up the largest university library system in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area. The eight-library system supports the teaching, learning and research needs of students and faculty.