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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 8, 2007

After long hibernation, Abbey Ale wakes up to a waltz

By Saranac Hale Spencer

HOWES CAVE — A year ago, Randy Thiel put 2,400 bottles of beer in Howe Caverns, and last week, with the rhythm of a guitar and a fiddle, he dusted them off and popped a few corks.

"We’re here to wake up the beer," he said to a crowd of a few dozen as they filled the small space at the entrance to the cave. "I hope you guys have a thirst."

Indeed they did. The crowd drank down the Abbey Ale as they danced to the tune of the fiddle. Barbara and Joe Floeser, a couple who line-danced on their first date, cut across the hard stone floor as the band played a waltz.

"We’re trying to be on the alcohol circuit," laughed Ed Lowman, one of the musicians, with his fiddle still resting in the crook of his chin. This was the third time that he and Tom Wadsworth played for what has come to be known as a beer awakening.

Brewery Ommegang, based in Cooperstown, has been aging beer in the cave for almost a decade, according to John Sagendorf, Howe Caverns’ general manager. People used to age their beer and wine in cellars, he said, and, when Ommegang called to pitch the cave-aged beer idea, he went right along.

Years ago, Ommegang made a special beer for the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, said Thiel, brew master for Ommegang. A while after the beer had been introduced, museum staff found a couple of cases in the museum’s basement and asked if it was still OK to sell. "I tasted it," said Thiel. "It was good."

So the brewery started aging some of its ale in the cave. Although it makes no technical difference where a beer is aged, said Thiel, "On a very human level, you know that beer has been in a place, it adds to the experience of it. It can’t be quantified, but it’s still real."

The fermenting process increases the alcohol, said Sagendorf. The Abbey Ale that’s been in the cave for a year is about 8.5 percent.

"The uglier the bottle looks, the more people want it," said Thiel, holding a musty bottle with a crooked, stained label that just came out of the cave.

Having gone to school for microbiology, Thiel said that being a brew master isn’t much of a stretch. "Yeast is a microorganism," he said earnestly. At the end of the day, he wants to craft something tangible, he said. When he was working at a medical lab, he said, "I caught the brewing bug, so I thought I better make a career out of it."

Ommegang, which Thiel helped build, specializes in Belgian-style beers. "You can drive across the country in three hours," he said. "But there are more than 100 different brewers in Belgium."

Darker beers, like Abbey Ale, are better suited for aging, Thiel said. The next beer to be cave-aged is Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, a brew that got its name because anyone can get philosophical after a few beers.

The guitar sang a solemn folk ballad while cheeks turned rosy and the cave filled up with chatter. And Sagendorf said, "I think it’s absolutely marvelous."

‘When you and I are ashes, this stuff will still be here’
"Archives preserve the history of New York politics

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — The history of New York politics and public policy is asleep on the top floor of the Science Library at the University at Albany’s uptown campus — and archivists say it will be there long after we are gone.

Bound together in acid-free folders and boxes, endless archives of historical documents, reports, photographs, and personal letters are stored on the shelves of a climate-controlled warehouse.

"We have one of the premier political archives in the state," said Brain Keough, head of the M.E. Grenader Department of Special Collections and Archives. "We recognized this almost four or five years ago, that no one was doing this in the state."

The labyrinth of metal shelves encompasses over 10,000 square feet of the Science Library’s third floor. It’s vaulted classical chambers are like those found in the Library of Congress. Continuous volumes of binders containing millions of documents and photographs are lined up and stored away in every direction.

If pawing through a scrapbook is like strolling down memory lane, then visiting the M.E. Grenader Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University at Albany is like jogging along a six-lane superhighway.

As archival libraries go, the New York State Modern Political Archive at the university is one of the most extensive of its kind in the state, according its curators, and it continues to be expanded every year.

The library has everything from Theodore Roosevelt’s personal letters to pictures of Joseph Bruno taking over as majority leader of the state senate.

For citizens who have wondered what a New York State legislator actually does on a day-to-day basis, the university will have the answer once the legislator retires.

In December, the university received a collection of political papers from Syracuse University Libraries which include 22 former New York Congressional members and 41 members of the state’s legislature.

These have been added to more than 300 collections of records from advocacy groups, political activists, and legislators who have helped to form New York’s modern public policy.

"There were 70 separate collections and they are the official papers of people who served as legislators, state officials, and congressional representatives for New York State," said Keough. "These are the papers they generated in day-to-day business in the legislature and Congress."

The papers include correspondence between legislators, press releases, bill sponsorships, bill drafts, speeches, photos, graphs, and other items deemed "archival information" by historians and librarians.

Keough said there is a partnership between the Albany and Syracuse universities, and that Albany has grown into the centralized location for such state archives.

What’s inside"

The roughly 2,000 cubic feet of political papers sent to Albany in December were accompanied by another 3,000 cubic feet of records from special-interest groups, lobbyists, and other political information.

Keough said that 2,000 cubic feet translates into about 2,000 storage boxes.

"In all, there are more than 5,000 cubic feet," he said. "It really paints a pretty broad picture of political perspective over the last 60 to 80 years."

Most of the records will be available only at the university because many of the official papers generated are either too sensitive or simply too numerous to digitalize.

"None of these materials leave the room"They never circulate," Keough said.

There are between 2,000 and 3,000 papers in each box, which adds up to between 10 to 15 million individual papers.

"That’s a lot of material to scan," said Keough.

Recognizing that the library cannot hold the works of every single legislator in the state’s history, Keough said a criteria is used to determine which legislators the university accepts and what materials from those legislators are of historical significance.

Archivists look at how long a lawmaker served and go by a records-management manual that lists universal standards for record-keeping.

Some current politicians even hire full-time archivists as part of their staff, according to Keough.

"It’s so that staff will know, ‘O.K., these are things that we can keep and these are things we can get rid of,’" Keough said. "I think a lot of politicians are cognizant of their role in history"I think ego is also a part of it. You have to have a big ego to be a politician.

"They don’t want to look back and say, ‘What did I accomplish during my career"’" Keough continued. "People want to make it clear where they stand on the issues."

The library has more than just political collections, however. The Albany collections include archives on the persecution of people all around the world, including in Nazi Germany, as well as the history of the university itself.

The library has 163 years worth of student records, university publications, and course catalogs, said Keough.

"What classes were they offering in 1904" How many faculty did they have" Who were the first African Americans on campus"" asked Keough. He said all of those questions could easily be answered by using the library’s indexed archives.

There are other classic collections, too, such leather-bound volumes of 18 and 19-century literature. There are also collections of timeless children’s literature passed down through the generations which are still in circulation today in the form of Disney films and Mother Goose tales.

Tagging and bagging

All of the material is indexed and cataloged for researchers to easily access what they are looking for. It takes between eight and 12 hours to work on an average box, and, if you multiply that by 400 boxes at $15 or $20 an hour to pay an archivist, it begins to add up quickly, Keough said.

"You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars just to index it, said Keough. "The meat of the work is in the indexing."

The archives’ catalog is available via the Internet.

Four faculty members work at the library and between six and 10 undergraduate and graduate students work there to catalog the material.

"That’s part of our operations here"Sometimes a researcher will only use four or five boxes out of 100," said Keough.

The archives are only as good as their indexing, Keough explained. With thousands of boxes to sift through, and literally millions of papers to examine, a researcher looking for a particular archive could be looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

"These archives are invaluable to researchers"but it’s really almost useless if you can’t find anything," said Keough.

"Researchers who use the archives range from undergraduate students to distinguished faculty members from other universities all over the world," he added.

Students can work at the M.E. Grenader Department of Special Collections and Archives as part of their course study and train to be professional archivists. Keough himself, who is originally from the Pittsburgh area, worked as an archivist at the library as part his graduate program at the University at Albany.

After actually getting all of the material, the university library has to preserve it as well as index it.

"We put material in acid-free boxes and folders and then store them in a climate-controlled environment," Keough said, "which will preserve them for hundreds of years."

However, things such as audio cassette tapes and film reels will not last as long and may have to be digitally converted, he warned.

But, because many of the documents are made of paper, which Keough says is a very stable medium, they will be preserved for a very long time,.

"Most of these documents will last a thousand years — infinitely, actually," said Keough. "When you and I are ashes, this stuff will still be here."

The shipping costs and any acquisition fees for the archives are paid for by fund-raising and through donations. Some of the maintenance costs are covered by the university’s budget.

The University at Albany currently stores more than 10,000 square feet worth of political archives.

A look at some leaders

The collection will continue to grow as legislators retire or leave public service.

Materials are donated to the university either by living relatives, such as a spouse, or if the legislators themselves pick the University at Albany as the final destination for their life’s work.

"It’s up to the individual where they want their papers to go," said Keough.

Speaking specifically about Ronald Stafford, a long-term upstate legislator who served in the state senate for 35 years, Keough personally arranged for Stafford’s papers to be archived.

"If he didn’t find an archive like us, he would have just shipped it to his home or simply had it destroyed," Keough said. "I picked up the phone and called his widow"One thing led to another and we had 200 boxes shipped over to us."

Looking at some boxes labeled "Stafford" and "Lake Placid," Keough said they were all on "planning the Olympics, a pretty significant thing." The Olympics were held in the small Adirondack village of Lake Placid in 1980.

Another well-known New York legislator, Gerald B.H. Solomon, found his way into archival immortality at the university because of a coincidental plane ride with the university’s former president.

"Solomon’s wife and Karen Hitchcock happened to meet together during a plane ride," said Keough. "They started talking on the plane and that’s how we got 90 boxes of his papers sent to us"Someone donated $2,000 to cover the shipping cost."

Solomon was elected to the New York State Legislature in 1972 and served as a New York congressman from 1978 to 1999. He was an upstate representative, and known for his aggressive support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"Solomon, he’s an interesting guy," Keough said while anxiously pulling out a gray box from a wall covered, end to end, with similar gray boxes. Inside the box, pages of documents and photographs were filed away. Twenty years worth of public service were neatly compiled into a few rows of boxes.

"He was from the North Country and really captured the keep-your-hands-off-me, libertarian gun movement mentality," Keough said while thumbing through Solomon’s files. "It was a very upstate mentality"to keep government out of our personal lives; he was a patriot."

Solomon famously challenged Representative Patrick Kennedy to "step outside" in order to settle a dispute over a national gun-control issue.

"He was very reflective of his constituency," Keough said as he closed the box.

Looking at some of the older archives, Keough pointed to a folder full of personal correspondence between then-Governor Theodore Roosevelt and the state senator Frank Higgins. Further into the same file were more letters by then-President Roosevelt and Governor Higgins.

Keough said the two men were acquaintances and that the correspondence included both personal and business affairs.

Roosevelt penciled his signature as "T. Roosevelt" in the letters.

In a nearby folder, Keough also pointed to several letters from Melvil Dewey, who at the time was the head of the New York State Library. Dewey created the famous library cataloging system which still bares his name today.

In addition to the Syracuse collection, the University at Albany also acquired the papers of Congressman Sherwood Boehlert in December. Boehlert was a Republican who served the 24th District in Central New York. He was elected in 1982 and recently retired.

He served on many important committees in the House of Representatives, including the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Committee on Homeland Security. He also chaired the House Science Committee and served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

His papers alone fill about 500 boxes.

A sampling of the newly-acquired political papers at the university include these congressional leaders:

—William S. Bennet (1870-1962), representative from 1905-11 and 1915-17 with 14.25 cubic feet;

— James J. Delaney (1905-1987), representative from 1949-78 with 18.33 cubic feet;

— Clarence E. Hancock (1885-1948), representative from 1927-47 with 1.65 cubic feet;

— James F. Hastings (1926- ), representative from 1969-76 with 32 cubic feet; and

— Leo W. O’Brien (1900-1982), representative from 1952-66 with an additional 6.1 cubic feet;

The collection also includes papers from these state legislators:

— William E. Adams (1922- ), state assembly 1957-64, state senate 1966-70 with 28 cubic feet;

— E. Ogden Bush (1895-1972), state senate 1957-65 with 11.39 cubic feet;

— George B. DeLuca, lieutenant governor 1955-59 with 17.2 cubic feet;

— Paul A. Fino (1913- ), state senate 1945-50 with 68 cubic feet;

— John E. Kingston (1920-1996), state assembly 1960-74 with .33 cubic feet;

— Dutton S. Petterson (1894-), state senate 1953-64 with 105.44 cubic feet; and

— Joseph Zaretzki (1900-1981), state senate 1948-74, senate majority leader in the 1960’s with 60.8 cubic feet.


The University at Albany is planning a celebration of the collection in the spring to honor donors and to acknowledge the newly-expanded political collections.

"What we hope to do is some fund-raising"We’re looking to bring a nationally recognized keynote speaker and bring back some former legislators whose works are stored here," said Keough. "Or, if they have died, to have their families here to really celebrate the history of New York’s political development over the last 80 years."

The public celebration is planned for April 25 at the university, and historian K. C. Johnson of the Brooklyn College CUNY (City University of New York) Research Center will deliver the keynote speech.

The event will bring together researchers, historians, and politicians alike in order to commemorate the expansion of the university’s archives.

Keough said that Congress members Maurice Hinchey, Michael McNulty, and Kirstin Gillibrand, as well as various other local politicians have all been invited.

Among them is Assemblyman John McEneny.

"When he retires, he’s already committed his papers to us," Keough said of McEneny, who is himself known as a local historian.

The university’s archives are beginning to get recognized not only statewide, but nationally, too.

Albany’s University Libraries have been ranked among the top 100 research libraries in the United States by the Association of Research Libraries. According to Keough, the criteria includes faculty involvement, the buildings themselves, and strong special-collections archives.

"It’s a very distinguished list to be on, considering all of the colleges and universities around the country," Keough told The Enterprise.

The archives are open to the general public. Keough suggests that people call ahead if they are looking for something specific, and the library will pull the information requested.

When asked if he enjoyed his work of archiving state history at the library, Keough responded with a quick smile, saying, "Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

"Not to be too cliché, but archives are like a fine wine. They get better with age," Keough said comparing the newest installments of political papers to that of Theodore Roosevelt’s time. "I’m sure a hundred years from now these things today will be much more interesting."

And, when that time comes, he said, they will still be patiently waiting for your great-great-grandchildren to discover.

It’s official
First ever co-chairmen are in

By Jarrett Carroll

ALBANY COUNTY — And then there were two.

The county’s top Democrats came out in full force last night, after September’s contested election, to choose the party’s first-ever co-chairmen.

It was a freezing cold night, but the turnout was big and the reception was warm. The conference room of the Polish Community Center in Albany was packed with several hundred Democrats from every city, town, and village in the county.

Albany County Legislature majority leader, Frank Commisso, and Guilderland Democratic chair, David Bosworth, will now run the county’s party together after an agreement was reached last week to combine slates.

Bosworth ran against Commisso in September for the position, but lost 253 to 216. After a confusing standing vote without proxies allowed, the election was invalidated in a court decision because a weighted vote was not used.

Now, both men say, that is all behind them and the party is moving forward.

An overwhelming majority of the Democrats at Wednesday night’s party election voted for the new Bosworth-Commisso slate, after voting for changes in the party’s bylaws to allow co-chairs.

Part of the new bylaws state that any future mention of "chair" during the official business of the party will now refer to "co-chair."

Bosworth is also a town councilman for Guilderland and Commisso manages Albany’s port.

Only a handful of Democrats voted against the bylaw changes and the new slate.

The contested election between Commisso and Bosworth was seen as an urban-suburban rift in the county’s party, but, now, the new co-chairs say, the party is once again whole and stronger than ever.

"We will work as hard as ever to bring this party together," Commisso said after the vote. "I keep hearing this thing about the cities and the suburbs, but we’re all the same"Now let’s wear the same jerseys."

Bosworth mirrored Commisso’s sentiments.

"In the interest of party unity"we decided as a group that we would work together as a group," Bosworth said. "We need to speak with one voice in order to face the challenges in November," he continued referring to the fall’s local elections.

The new slate

The new slate includes Bruce Shultis, as first vice chair; Shirley Brown, as co-second vice chair; Matthew J. Clyne, as co-second vice chair; Carolyn McLaughlin, as secretary; and Peter Gannon, as treasurer.

The fallout from combining the two original slates resulted in several Democrats stepping down from a title seat on the committee. This issue was directly addressed during the acceptance speeches.

"I especially want to thank [Watervliet] Mayor Carlson who was originally on the slate"That’s what makes our party so strong today," Commisso said. "The same goes for those on Dave’s slate. They stepped aside for the good of Democrats in Albany County."

The former slate contenders stood and were recognized during the meeting.

Among them were Green Island’s mayor, Jack McNulty; Bethlehem’s Democratic vice-chair, Jack Cunningham; Albany Common Council member, Barbara Smith; Albany Common Council’s president, Shawn Morris; and Mayor Robert D. Carlson.

Members of the new slate also took a moment to speak to their fellow Democrats.

"There’s only one thing more exciting then to have our most talented leading us," Gannon said. "Having two of our most talented."

As for the town of Colonie, where Gannon is from, he said he is looking forward to "finally turning that town blue once and for all."

"This is a joint effort," Clyne said. "We’re going to work to make sure the party moves forward."

McLaughlin said that she was "very proud to represent the inner city of Albany."

"It’s been a dream of mine," Brown said, and now hopes to "to expand the empire."

Members of the newly elected slate stood together for the first time to a standing ovation.

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart," Commisso concluded. "Without your help, Frank Commisso is nothing, David Bosworth is nothing, this slate is nothing."

Bosworth agreed.

"Tonight is not the end; tonight is the beginning," Bosworth said. "Now I think we need to get to the business of being a party."

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