Library Launches Online
Exhibit on the History of Baruch College
--Digital Time Capsule Tells Baruch Story from 1847 Onwards--
New York, NY, December 5, 2002 - 'History of Baruch College', a new Web exhibit produced by the William and Anita Newman Library, chronicles the fascinating evolution of Baruch College from a sub-division of the City College to a world-class school of commercial education. Based on the book Getting Down to Business: Baruch College in the city of New York, 1847-1987 by Selma Cantor Berrol, the extensive collection of printed material, pictures and audio-visual footage is one of the most comprehensive online exhibits dedicated to a college or university.
"I have always tried to publicize the holdings of the Baruch College archive through a variety of venues," said Roff. "I curated an exhibit in the Mishkin Gallery in 1993 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Baruch; I co-curated a traveling exhibit in 1997 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Free Academy at 17 Lexington Avenue, and I co-authored From The Free Academy to CUNY in 2000. Archival treasures were used in all of these venues."
"With the popularity of Web-based exhibits, the logical next step was to prepare an on-line exhibit based on Selma Berrol's (book about) the college," she added. Designed by Leo Klein, the Newman Library's Web Coordinator, the exhibit was originally a digitized version of the book and was only accessible to faculty, staff and students of the college. Copyright laws restricted the viewing of the site by the general public, so Roff and Klein developed a parallel exhibit that used much of the same archival material without including text from the book.
The exhibition begins with a suggestion from local businessman Townsend Harris in 1840 to establish a free secondary school in New York. The idea was controversial, and it took seven years of raucous debates in the press for the suggestion to become a reality. On May 7, 1847, then-Governor John Young authorized the creation of a 'free academy' in New York City, after the State legislature approved the bill.
Progress was fairly swift after that, as the city committed $70,000 to the construction of a campus at 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue in what was then considered 'northern' Manhattan. Architect James Renwick Jr. took his inspiration from the design of European universities like Cambridge, adding state-of-the-art technological conveniences like a warm-air heating system and gaslights to the new building and finishing construction $2000 under the allotted budget.
In 1908, the Free Academy (now called the College of the City of New York) moved to a more spacious campus set in the bucolic wilds of Saint Nicholas Avenue in Harlem. The 23rd Street campus was reserved for evening courses in commerce and vocational education. The growing popularity of 'commercial education' led to the establishment of the School of Business and Civic Administration there in 1919. The school began admitting female students into its day-session classes in 1930, and women formed the majority of the student body at the beginning of World War II. This trend declined after the end of the war, as returning veterans enrolled in record numbers.
It was not until 1953 that the college took the name of its most distinguished alumnus and benefactor Bernard Baruch, after a substantial gift from the famed financier. Baruch continued to remain active in college affairs, often appearing in special lectures on the campus during the 1950s. Three of these lectures were televised by NBC, and they can also be viewed as part of the exhibit.
The exhibit does not shy away from the college's turbulent growing pains, and includes articles about the implementation of open admissions in 1970 as well as the end of free tuition (and the open admissions policy) in 1976. Also included are pictures of the old campus building at 155, E. 24th Street, bought by the college to alleviate chronic space problems.
The exhibit ends with materials from the commencement exercises of the class of 1987. "In 1987, 91% of Baruch graduates were awarded the BBA degree, which was not much different from the first graduating class of Baruch in 1969," according to the Web site text.
Arranged according to connecting themes rather than in strict chronological order, the public exhibit captures the college's enduring role as an educational pathway to success. Both exhibits are located at http://newman.baruch.cuny.edu/digital/2001/history/, although the version based on the book can only be viewed from the campus or with authorized remote access.
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