LIU gets grant for Moses archive digitization project

Teri West
Robert Moses with a model of the Brooklyn Battery Bridge, which he intended to construct until the federal War Department blocked the project. (Wikimedia Commons)

Long Island University’s project digitizing Robert Moses archives got a $695,000 grant, according to the university.

The Robert Moses Archival Project is digitizing a collection of photographs, letters and architectural drawings and is a partnership between the university and the New York State Archives and the New York State Department of Parks.

The grant is from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation based in Hampton Bays.

“From Huntington to the Hamptons, from Fire Island to Gardiners Island, the history of Long Island is rich and varied,” said Kimberly R. Cline, president of Long Island University. “By working to preserve Robert Moses’s archival heritage, we’re bringing another part of that history to life.”

Moses shaped Long Island through engineering parks and highways, beginning in the 1920s. Early in his career, as Long Island State Park Commissioner, he created Jones Beach State Park.

“The Power Broker,” a Pulitzer-winning biography about Moses written by Robert A. Caro, depicts how Moses shaped large swaths of New York, not always with pure intent.

In a 2016 interview with Gothamist, Caro said Moses was “the most racist human being I had ever really encountered.”

His book describes how Caro engineered bridges over the Southern State Parkway to be too low for buses to drive under, an attempt to restrict New York City African-Americans and Puerto Ricans from accessing Jones Beach.

“The influence of Robert Moses on New York State is unparalleled,” executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation executive director Kathryn Curran said in a statement. “Access to his archives will offer researchers new insight not only to the man, but to the social, political, economic and cultural influences surrounding his massive projects. We at the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation are carrying on the vision begun by Robert David Lion Gardiner in supporting organizations making a significant contribution to understanding our communities and their history and legacy.”

The foundation previously supported “Digitizing Local History Sources,” a six-year project in the works in which Long Island University is digitizing materials from Long Island historical societies.

The university’s Palmer School of Library & Information Science is taking on both projects.

Gregory S. Hunter is directing them. He previously helped create electronic archives for Washington, D.C.’s National Archives and Records Administration.

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