Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 37
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
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Sarnoff, Historical Society of Princeton Among Groups Receiving State Grants

Linda Arntzenius

The New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State, has awarded a total of $3,440,000 in general operating grants to 83 historical organizations from every county in the state, including the Historical Society of Princeton and the David Sarnoff Library.

"Requests for funding this year exceeded the amount of dollars available by a factor of 2.5 to 1, reflecting the growing interest in preserving our state's history," said Commission Chair Larry R. Greene.

In Mercer County, the grants translate into items such as the Historical Society's new exhibition, "Princeton in the 1930s," (see story on page 18), as well as helping offset operating costs for the David Sarnoff Library.

The repository of documents that record the invention and development of significant telecommunications devices of the 20th century, the David Sarnoff library will receive an injection of $27,000.

"This funding is crucial for the operation of the library," said Alexander B. Magoun, executive director of the nonprofit library and former RCA research lab, located off Washington Road in West Windsor. "The funds go directly to the operating budget and add to the support the library receives from the Sarnoff Corporation."

Without an endowment, the library relies on funding from the New Jersey Historical Commission as well as in-kind support from the Sarnoff Corporation; the support of Friends and volunteers, and sales of books and rights to use items in its collection.

Besides Mr. Sarnoff's papers and memorabilia, holdings include 25,000 photographs and thousands of notebooks, reports, publications, and artifacts related to the histories of RCA Laboratories and RCA.

Each Halloween, the library hosts a replay of the historic October 1938 broadcast of the "War of the Worlds" radio play by Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre radio. The broadcast led many listeners to believe that an invasion of men from Mars had begun at nearby Grovers Mill.

Besides the annual "War of the Worlds" fundraiser, which drew an audience of some 200 last year and will take place this year on Saturday, October 27, the library offers field trips for third graders in area schools.

A three-minute video on the library will be air between programs as WHYY TV's "Experience the Arts and Culture" segment, September 11 24, and then in rotation over the subsequent five months. Mr. Magoun's book, Television: The Life Story of a Technology, has been published by Greenwood Press.

Local History

The Historical Society of Princeton, located in Bainbridge House at 158 Nassau Street, received the largest of the commission's grants in Mercer County.

According to curator Eileen Morales, the $91,000 grant will also be used for general operating expenses, including exhibitions, salaries, and utilities.

The commission's grants are designed to assist museums, historic sites, archives, libraries, and similar organizations with collections or programming relating to the history of the state.

Determined by a peer review process, the grants can be used to pay basic expenses such as salaries, hourly wages, utilities, leases, and postage.

The grants are funded by a portion of the revenue produced by the state's hotel and motel occupancy fee, and are intended to preserve New Jersey's historical record.

The largest grant ($376,000) was awarded to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts in Cape May County.

In Mercer County, in addition to the Historical Society of Princeton and the Sarnoff Library, funding was granted to the Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections ($36,000); the Old Barracks Association in Trenton ($42,300); the Howell Living History Farm ($36,000); the Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Commission ($17,500); the 1719 William Trent House Museum in Trenton ($34,000); Preservation New Jersey, Inc. ($54,000); the Trent House Association ($10,000); Crossroads of the American Revolution Association, Inc. ($14,000); and the Trenton Historical Society ($7,000).

For more information about the commission, call (609) 943-3306.

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