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Furthering Research through Special Collections Archives 

May 18, 2009

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Group photo of awards ceremony

From left, Bonnie Spanier, Iris Berger, John Palella, Carey Jean Sojka, Barbara Sutton, and Brian Keough.

John Palella finished his study on Albany's Gay Imagined Community: Gender Politics and Gay Liberation without even putting a dent in the five full boxes of historical material he found in the archives of the Libraries and Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University at Albany.

“Next semester when I start the next 40-page segment, I know I will have plenty of resources to draw from,” said Palella, a first-year doctoral student in history who is on leave from his high school teaching job. He used the collection of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council to study the Council's CommUNITY newsletters from the 1970s. The Council is the oldest continually operated Gay and Lesbian Community Center in the United States.

Palella, of Cohoes, N.Y., won an award for the paper he wrote for a research seminar on gender history for Professor of History Iris Berger.  Palella and Carey Jean Sojka, of Fairfield, Iowa, recently won $500 awards for research through the Patricia Stocking Brown Fund for Feminist Social Justice Research in University Libraries.

Professor Patricia Stocking Brown taught biology and started women's and minority studies at Siena College. She taught at Siena for 35 years, and died in 2004 of metastatic breast cancer. The archives include Brown's activist papers on feminism, science, and breast cancer. Brown was the wife of UAlbany Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biology Emeritus Stephen C. Brown.

The awards were created to promote student interest in and use of primary materials housed in the UAlbany Libraries' Special Collection and Archives related to the study of social justice. The departments of Women's Studies, Biological Sciences, and Special Collections and Archives are co-sponsors of the award.

"UAlbany Libraries' Special Collections and Archives contain a wealth of research materials on social justice activism in New York State," said Brian Keough, head of Special Collections and Archives.

Sojka is a second-year doctoral student in sociology who is also pursuing a master's degree in women's studies. The paper for which she won the award began as a class assignment from Assistant Professor Barbara Sutton, her award sponsor, in a Women's Studies research seminar. For her paper on transgendered people and their partners, she used the Capital Region Transgender Community Archive Collection, which also dates back to the 1970s.

Sojka will extend her research this summer, and will use the award money to buy books, available from smaller publishing houses, to continue her work.

"I will also put together a report on my research findings for the Capital District Gay Lesbian Community Council and for In Our Own Voices to add to their libraries," said Sojka. After completing her doctorate, Sojka plans to teach and conduct research as a professor.

"We created the Patricia Stocking Brown Award to attract students and other scholars to the University's great treasure of social justice archives," said Associate Professor Emerita of Women's Studies Bonnie B. Spanier, a co-founder of the award.  "It is a goldmine for original research."

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