As a historian, I want to pause for a moment and thank the collectors. While I enjoy a jaunt through an antique, rare books, or vintage store, I have not developed the eye or the love of the search and acquisition of some desired object, document, book, or even clothing item. As a historian, I also readily admit that I do not have the financial resources of some of the great collectors of Americana. Richard Gilder, Lewis Lehrman, Samuel Tilden, John Jacob Astor, or James Lenox have been instrumental in building historical collections in New York City such as Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History at the New York Historical Society and the New York Public Library-Steve Schwartzman building. Their love of history and their ability to collect it have given many historians the evidence needed to demonstrate the complexity of the past. These important collections grew due, in part, to the focused work of collectors.
These stewards of American history have played an important role in my research and teaching. For the past couple of years, I have worked closely with librarians and archivists in New York City to teach my students to use the great collections resources for their own projects. That ongoing collaboration with historical practitioners has greatly enhanced my knowledge about drug and alcohol collections. As I discussed in a previous blog, “Doing Drugs in the Archive,” there are many unique collections on drugs and alcohol that are worth a trip to New York. Returning to this theme, I plan to highlight a couple of collections this year, and I want to start by introducing a smaller collection:the Liebmann collection of American historical documents relating to spirituous liquors. It is part of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations in the Schwartzman Building.