Early yesterday morning, Marion Barry, D.C. City Councilmember and former mayor, passed away at the age of 78.
We remember him with these archival highlights:
When JHSGW interviewed Barry in 2006 as part of an oral history project documenting the history of Giant Food, he spoke about the 1979 opening of the Giant store at Eighth & O Streets, NW, and its significance in rebuilding the city:
As you can imagine, the city had been devastated with the disorders of '68. Things were burned down, it was a shell of a city, people were depressed, and jobs had been lost from these establishments. So we were anxious to get some consumer goods...and my recollection, I don't even know where the closest Safeway was, but it certainly wasn't around that area of D.C. And we were very ecstatic about that store [Giant at Eighth & O] being opened.
These two items are from the collection of Janice Eichhorn, an activist for Washington, D.C.'s political rights. Eichhorn worked on Barry's staff starting with his 1978 mayorial campaign until 1992, when she retired from her position as a senior policy analyst.
Her papers were contributed to our archives by her sister in 2011.
In a 2010 oral history recorded by Glenn Richter, Ruth Newman, longtime leader of D.C.'s Soviet Jewry movement, recalled seeing Barry at the 1987 Freedom Sunday March for Soviet Jewry on the National Mall:
When we were...marching down Constitution Avenue, out of nowhere came the then Mayor of the City of Washington, Marion Barry. He said, "Washington," [upon seeing] our banner -- 'Washington Committee for Soviet Jewry.' He said, "That's where I belong," and all of a sudden he puts himself between those of us who were carrying the banner. He walked a couple of blocks with us and then he saw somebody else he knew and off he went.
Last week JHSGW staff attended the grand opening of Washington’s newest corner grocery store – the H Street NE Giant Food. As you can see, we were thrilled to receive a generous $2,500 contribution from Giant in appreciation for our work preserving Giant Food’s historical archives and photographs. With support from the Naomi & Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, JHSGW archivists spent five years cataloging Giant Food’s historical documents and photographs and conducting oral histories to help preserve Giant’s remarkable legacy in our community.
For a sneak peek into the Giant Food archives, check out this slideshow of historic Giant photos and a short film featuring memories of Giant Food and its founders, Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen, from interviews with community leaders, former employees of Giant Food, family, and friends.
Recognize the big G? Most of these iconic Giant store signs have been replaced in recent years so we were especially delighted to receive this sign last month when the Queenstown Giant in Hyattsville, Maryland closed. Opened in 1954 on Queens Chapel Road, the store achieved a brief moment of fame in 1957 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip stopped in for a brief tour of the store after visiting the University of Maryland.
We plan to make the GIANT sign a centerpiece of our new museum in the future - but in the meantime our costs to preserve and store the sign will come to $12,000 over the next five years. Won't you help us support the care and preservation of this GIANT piece of history? Donate to the Giant Food Sign Preservation Fund.
Cataloging the Rosenfeld Collection also afforded an opportunity to experiment with JHSGW’s database software to express more nuanced relationships between items within larger collections, which could eventually benefit online searchers. I look forward to continuing the arrangement of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Collection as I volunteer in the coming weeks.
Working as archival intern at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington this summer proved both great fun and valuable professional experience. I very much enjoyed pouring over photographs, papers, and scrapbooks in the collections I helped process. Along the way, I learned much about the development of businesses, community institutions, and even families I know today, with walks around my adopted city enriched by the many images of Washington’s past I’ve seen in JHSGW’s collection. Considering that there have always been integral ties between the Jewish and larger communities in the District and beyond, JHSGW’s archival collection reveals much about the broader history of greater Washington as it addresses its core narrative of local Jewish history.
In addition to participation in a range of public and behind-the-scenes activities at JHSGW, my primary responsibilities involved the “processing”, or preparing for accessibility to researchers, of several archival collections. Although I’ve benefitted from some relevant coursework and contributed to a manuscript conservation project in the past, my previous experience with the (I think) fascinating business of arranging and describing archival collections was mostly limited to hypotheticals. This internship offered more active participation, with much of my summer devoted to scanning and cataloging photographs comprising the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation collection; arranging and rehousing the Tifereth Israel collection; and arranging, cataloging, rehousing, and drafting both a finding aid and an Object of the Month entry for the Robert Rosenfeld Collection.
Shelly Buring is a second-year Master’s student at the George Washington University, where she studies museum collections management and history.