The Palmer School at LIU Post Embarks on the Robert Moses Collection Project

By: Jaime Karbowiak

With the assistance of a $695,000 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the Palmer School at LIU Post has embarked on an ambitious three-year project to create widespread public access to historic records produced during the era when Robert Moses developed and created most of Long Island’s state parks and parkways.  The Robert Moses Collection Project is a rare initiative under which both private and public entities have come together with a commitment to bring to light this previously hidden collection of documentation related to one of the most significant figures in New York history.  Long Island University and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, along with the New York State Department of Parks and the New York State Archives, are working to ensure this seldom seen treasure-trove of administrative correspondence and memoranda, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, and financial and legal documents dating from the Moses period is made digitally accessible to all on the New York State Archives website.

This exciting and important project is being completed under the direction of the Palmer School’s Dr. Gregory S. Hunter, who has assembled a team of archivists to inventory, arrange, describe, and digitize the collection.  Beginning in May 2019, Palmer School alumnae Jaime Karbowiak (Senior Archivist) and Emily Antoville (Processing Archivist) spent three months mining the recesses and vaults of the Long Island State Parks Regional Headquarters building at Belmont Lake State Park in Babylon and identified close to 450 cubic feet of archival records dating from the Moses era. Now in the second stage of the three-part project, the archivists are currently preparing the items for research and eventual digitization at the Long Island Parks Regional Archives state-of-the-art facility at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.

As the “Master Builder” of the 20th century, Robert Moses was responsible for the creation of many of New York State’s public parks, in addition to thirty-five highways, twelve bridges, two hydroelectric dams, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the United Nations complex, Shea Stadium, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and a revitalization of the Central Park Zoo.  As President of the Long Island State Park Commission from 1924-1963, his building projects largely shaped Long Island as we know it today.  Enabling access to these previously unavailable Long Island State Parks records is sure to greatly advance scholarship and enhance understanding of the development of Long Island’s infrastructure and public spaces, in addition to providing further insight into the public figures and individuals involved.  The project is scheduled for completion — and the Robert Moses Collection will be open for research — in Spring 2022.