Skip to main content

The Gladys Marcus Library unit of Special Collections and College Archives

A Brief History

The unit of Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) operates within the Gladys Marcus Library at FIT, one of sixty-four (64) institutions of the State University of New York system. The collections existed and were built upon continuously as an informal unit of activity well before the unit as it operates today formally existed.

For the most part of its history, the SPARC operation was a part of the larger Reference and Instructional Services unit. The first Register of Visitors demonstrates that the first monitored use of material was recorded in 1981. Leadership over the collection has varied over the years. Prof. Janette Rozene pioneered the effort to bring both physical and intellectual control over the holdings as its Cataloger (1981-1987). Prof. Judith Wood must be credited with the early building of the collection both in terms of quantity and quality. Prof. Marjorie Miller served as a de facto manager of the collection. Until her retirement in 1995 when Prof. Joshua Waller assumed the management role; he retired in 2007. Prof. NJ Bradeen, former Library Director (2002-2019) first instituted the unit as a discrete, formal operation within the Library, established the role of Head of the unit, and hired Prof. Karen J. Trivette as its first incumbent in the fall of 2008.

Today, Trivette still leads the unit under the supervision of Prof. Greta Earnest, Library Director.

It is estimated that the unit holds more than 500,000 works of original art on paper; most of these contain fashion-, costume-, and textile-oriented subject content. They are distributed among nearly 500 discrete manuscript collections entrusted to the unit’s care. SPARC also holds nearly 4000 rare book titles, 700 rare periodicals titles, and circa 200 linear feet Archives series titles. Much of the material has come, and continues to come, from donors to whom we are most grateful. All of the material is held within the Gladys Marcus Library, which is housed in the Shirley Goodman Resource Center, in an approximately 6100 square foot footprint of space.

SPARC’s mission is to foster original research across and beyond the FIT community. To fulfill this mission, it acquires, preserves, and provides universal access to primary research materials -- in their original formats and across many languages and geographical spectra -- and to College records permanently scheduled for retention or deemed to have enduring, historical value created or received in the course of College business. Unit formats include physical, digital, and 3-dimensional examples. All acquisitions support one or more curricula offered at FIT; our user community is as diverse as the content on our shelves and all are welcome.

The department exists and fulfills its mission for those who need to consult the material. By far, the largest audience to use the collection is the faction of FIT Graduate Students from the Master of Arts program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice. Another strong segment of researchers comes from the curatorial departments of the Museum at FIT; its personnel use the material both for research and for inclusion as contextual exhibits with garments on display in Museum galleries. FIT faculty, national and international scholars, fashion designers, and costume designers for both stage and screen all avail themselves of the material frequently to satisfy ongoing informational and inspirational needs.