When the Jane Addams Papers Project came to Ramapo College in September 2015, space was a concern. The project was designed with the idea that undergraduate student workers would be an integral part of our work and in the early years, we were not quite sure where we would be able to fit them. Ramapo College has been a great partner to the project, giving us new space and increased capacity as the project has grown.
Our first office was a small faculty office, into which we squeezed three computer stations — one for Cathy, one for me, and one for a student. A short time later, Ramapo provided me with an office next door. We squeezed in three more computer stations and were now able to have four (or sometimes five) students working with us. We had to stagger schedules to make it work, and it got a little tight sometimes, but we built great camaraderie at close quarters. When we had too many students to fit, the Dean allowed them to use a conference room and sometimes we flowed out into the Library or student lounges.
In 2018, with the Project hiring between 8-10 students per semester, Ramapo upgraded our space. We moved into a Project office, a large space where up to six students and two staff can work together. This space has become a hub of activity and attracts attention from faculty and students alike who pass in the hall. Working from home during the pandemic meant missing the collaboration that goes on in the office every day.
When the construction is finished, we will have a new home at the Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons. Ramapo’s newest building, an expansion and enhancement of the George Potter Library, has been under construction since 2019. While it seemed the project would never end, and we feared that the pandemic would slow construction, the end is in sight: Fall 2021.
The Jane Addams Papers will occupy the Library’s Digital Humanities suite, with a large workspace that can fit eight or more students at a time, as well as space for my desk, files, and books, and a separate attached office for Cathy. We will be located on the Learning Commons’s second floor, close to the College Archives. All around us will be a brand new, four story library with abundant private and group study areas, smart classrooms and conference rooms, a café, outdoor seating, and a maker space. The hope is that this new lively space will become the heart of the campus and we are delighted to have a place there.
Cathy and I were recently given a hardhat tour of the construction site so that we could see our new space. Guided by Ramapo’s Director of Capital Planning, Daniel Roche, and Ramapo’s Construction Project Manager, Kosta Svarnas, we finally saw our new space! We are so happy that Ramapo gave us exactly what we wanted and needed in our new offices, and we could see all the possibilities of the space even while still under construction. Cathy’s office,
connected to the main workspace, will allow her easy access to the staff while also being able to conduct private meetings with students and others. My space, just outside her office, will allow close work with both the students and Cathy, and we will finally have enough space to store our document images in our offices. We have an overhead projector and screen which will help train students and give presentations about the project. And we will have a neat graphic presence that we will reveal once we are in the space.
While we don’t have an exact move in date, we are extremely excited about the future of the Project at the College and in this new space. And that, I think, is what really excites us the most.