After three years of processing, preserving, and cataloging, Hagley Library announced today that the contents of the David Sarnoff Library collection, formerly of Princeton N.J., are now fully available to the public, including 700 digital images available through the Hagley Digital Archives. The collection includes thousands of linear feet of documents, reports, photographs, films, and publications detailing the rise and fall of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and of Sarnoff, its longtime leader.
In December 2013, Hagley Library was awarded a $291,500 grant by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) through CLIR’s Hidden Collections and Archives program, made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to process and make accessible the collections of the David Sarnoff Library. Employing two project archivists, Daniel Michelson and Kenneth Cleary, a number of graduate assistants and interns from the University of Delaware, and occupying a number of its library staff, Hagley completed the David Sarnoff Library Processing Project in May 2017. Hagley took an innovative approach to the project, making individual collections available to researchers as work progressed rather than the more typical approach of releasing all material only at the conclusion of the project.
“Hagley is proud of its work to preserve this collection documenting an iconic and innovative American business and the man who led that business for multiple decades,” said Erik Rau, director of library services at Hagley. “The collection includes materials donated by more than one hundred individuals and companies resulting in tens of thousands of individually cataloged reports and publications. We invite the public to explore this incredible collection on our website and at the library.”
David Sarnoff ran RCA for nearly 40 years after developing his skills as a teenager in the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America at the dawn of the radio age. When RCA was formed in 1919, Sarnoff steadily raised his visibility as a shrewd negotiator and strategist, leveraging these talents to become president of the company in 1930. Over the next four decades, Sarnoff led RCA, one of the most important American technology companies in the twentieth century, introducing FM radio, color television, and a host of technologies in the communications and computing fields.
In the early 1960s, Sarnoff was inspired by the Roosevelt and Truman Presidential Libraries to open a library in the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N.J., to house his private papers and focus on his contributions to the communications and electronics industries. The David Sarnoff Collection (as it was then known) opened in late September 1967. The collection developed further with the acquisition of papers of former RCA executives, scientists, and engineers. However, the Sarnoff Corporation closed the library in 2009, following the onset of the Great Recession. Hagley obtained the Sarnoff collection records shortly thereafter.
The collections of the David Sarnoff Library are open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Researchers are encouraged to contact reference staff ahead of arrival so they can be sure material is available upon arrival. Digital materials are available online anytime at digital.hagley.org.