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  Municipal Library Notes, November 2017

SPOTLIGHT ON: Influenza Pandemic of 1918

By Christine Bruzzese, Supervising Librarian

    The year 1918 saw a worldwide outbreak of Spanish influenza, as the disease was then known. According to the Annual Report of the New York City Health Department for 1918, 10,886 deaths were reported in the city during the first wave of the pandemic from September 15 to November 17, 1918.

    To keep the public informed and aware, the Health Department published various leaflets. One such example, pictured below, offers advice on preventing spread of the disease, care of the sick and protection of children.

    Exploring the vertical files on the topic of influenza is another option for anyone doing research. Dr. Royal S. Copeland, Commissioner of Health of the City of New York in 1918, wrote an article "General Survey of the Influenza Epidemic." It was published in the New York Medical Journal.

    For a more contemporary view Pandemic Influenza: Preparedness and Response Plan from 2006 might be of interest. This report from Department of Health and Mental Hygiene contains a detailed plan for responding to any influenza pandemic that might threaten New Yorkers.

    Additional materials in electronic format may be found at the Department of Records and Information Services Government Publications site. The link is:

Municipal Library Book Group

By Christine Bruzzese, Supervising Librarian

    Do you like to read about New York City history, life and culture? Would you like to share your interest with other readers? Then come to the Municipal Library Book Group. It is held the first Wednesday of the month from 1-2 at 31 Chambers Street, Room 112 in the Municipal Library.

    Previous reading selections have included: "City of Sedition: The History of New York City during the Civil War," "Summer in the City: John Lindsay, New York and the American Dream," "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and "A History of New York in 101 Objects."

You can learn more at:

Unlikely Historians: Materials Collected by NYPD Surveillance Teams, 1960-1975

Curated by Quinn Bolewicki and Rossy Mendez

    Beginning in 1904 with the “Italian Squad’s” focus on anarchists and continuing to the present day, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has conducted surveillance of individuals and infiltrated organizations perceived as enemies of the status quo. At different periods, the focus was on immigrants, labor leaders, Nazi supporters, socialists, anarchists, and communists. One of the most prolific squads was the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI), later known as the Special Services Division.

    Although BOSSI gathered intelligence on individuals and groups arrayed along the political spectrum, their main focus was on civil rights, anti-war and feminist protestors. Their targets included the Communist Party, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, The American Renaissance Party, and Youth Against War and Fascism.

    The records created by BOSSI, and the ephemera they collected over the course of surveillance activities now provide unique documentation of one of the most turbulent eras in the City and nation’s history.

    The Department of Records and Information Services curated an exhibit (on view through February 2018) of the materials that address subjects such as the Vietnam War, the nascent environmental movement, racial and gender discrimination, fair housing, workers’ rights, as well as global issues such as independence and sovereignty, the spread of communism, and poverty.

    The items selected for the exhibit are drawn from the NYPD Photo Unit and NYPD Inspectional Services Bureau collections. The Municipal Archives acquired BOSSI records as one result of the Handschu v. Special Services Division class action settlement of 1985. The resolution of the lawsuit included guidelines for surveillance and investigations, and a provision for the Municipal Archives to review and retain all records created by the unit deemed to have administrative, legal, or historical importance.

    The exhibition’s goal is to showcase the records the Archives is currently processing, as they reflect current political, social, environmental and economic activism- both local and international. The curators focused on six themes:

In Times of War: The Vietnam War and Anti-Nuclear Movements

By Any Means Necessary: Extremist movements in the left and right of the political spectrum.

We the People: Issues affecting particular groups of people including African Americans, Women, and the LGBT community.

Class Struggle: Other parts of civil rights movement that addressed issues such as desegregation (integration), housing, fair pay, and gentrification.

Beyond the City: International movements affecting New York City and International groups active in NYC.

Save the Earth: Environmental movements occuring in NYC with a special focus on the first Earth Day in 1970.

    In 2011, The Municipal Records Management Division was contacted by the NYPD about disposal procedures for nitrate film. Our Photo Unit Curator at the time, Michael Lorenzini, was soon notified and proceeded to the basement of Police Headquarters to investigate, resulting in what we now know as, the NYPD Photo Unit collection.

    Since 2011, and through generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Municipal Archives has digitized over 30,000 images of the Photo Unit collection. Processing the Handschu collection is underway, and it measures 521 cubic ft. The collection has several distinct series including: Individual Folders, Large Organization Files, Small Organization Files, Film and Audio Tapes, Hard Hat Demonstration Files, and the Columbia University Disturbance Files. Request for more information about the collections can be emailed to

Launching New Website

by LaTonya Jones, Director of Community and External Affairs

    In October of 2017, DORIS launched a new and improved website. The site’s responsive web design allows for optimal viewing across a wide range of devices, from desktop to mobile. In addition, the website’s order function was expanded to allow for online purchases of the recently accessioned City Clerk marriage record series. Users can now purchase marriage records dating to 1950, which typically include an affidavit form completed by the couple, the license issued by the Clerk and a certificate filled out by the person performing the wedding. Moreover, the more streamlined site now showcases the most frequently used elements of the agency’s former website, while providing access to our Twitter feed, the policies of our Municipal Archives, Library, and Records Management divisions, and our New York Archival Society site.

Visit to see updates and learn more about agency projects, such as OpenRecords, Women’s Activism.NYC, and the agency blog.

100 Years! Stay Tuned...

By Robin Schatell, Manager, Public Programming and Development

    To honor the women who won the right to vote in New York State in 1917 and people fighting for justice today, WomensActivism.NYC at DORIS joined the Women’s Salon, BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center and Borough of Manhattan Community College Women’s Resource Center in presenting 100 YEARS! Stay Tuned... an interactive theater celebration of speeches, poetry, dramatic writings, stories, and suffragist’s recipes

    Created by the Women’s Salon under the direction of JoAnne Akalaitis, the event incorporated multi-media sound and video installations, site-specific performance, an open mic, a suffrage sing-along and birthday cake. The evening featured a multi-generational cast of 30 women and girls ages 10 - 15.

For more information on future Women’s Activism events , email

DORIS Network, Voice and Wi-Fi Infrastructure Upgrade

by Praveen Panchal, CIO

    Visitors to our DORIS research facilities can now look forward to a much better experience at DORIS from the technology perspective. Recently, we upgraded the computer network infrastructure with state-of-the-art technology and a brand new cabling plant replacing our aging, failure-prone, end-of-life and end-of-support equipment.

    The new infrastructure enables us to provide Wi-Fi access, not only for the entire agency staff but also for our public users. Public network access is now available in our public areas such as reading and reference rooms. It is notable that previously the agency did not have any Wi-Fi infrastructure. The agency has also upgraded its voice infrastructure with new voice gateway, desk phones and conferencing equipment. Advantages of the new infrastructure include faster speed, redundancy, security and resiliency with increased user productivity and easier access to agency resources. Additionally, the agency is in the process of procuring new computers to replace existing ones that are older than 5 years.

For more info on the Municipal Library, please visit our website.

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