The Benjamin Gettler Papers Processing Project Now Complete

By:  Alex Temple, Benjamin Gettler Papers Project Archivist

The Benjamin Gettler papers processing project has come to a close, but I wanted to write one more entry about efforts to ensure the lasting usability of the collection.  As I’ve explored and processed the collection, I found a broad range of material making up the scope and content.  Each item in the collection is important, but some items can actually harm others, and storage methods that work for one item will not necessarily work for another.  Therefore, each item has been assessed for it’s individual preservation needs, including how to store it so it would not affect the safety of the rest of the collection.

Jellybeans from President Reagan's desk in the Gettler collectionRegarding the paper documents, some are emails printed from an inkjet or laser printer as recently as 2013, while other documents are stock certificates dating back to the 1890s.  Regardless of their age, generally all paper-based objects need to be housed in a stable and protective environment, such as acid-free folders, and stored in a room with a relative humidity of 30-50% and temperature between 35-65°F, all of which the University of Cincinnati Archives & Rare Books Library provides.

Of course, not everything was as straightforward as placing into a new, preservation-quality folder.  I have written previously about items Gettler had taken from his visit with President Reagan at the White House, largely about some jellybeans.  Miraculously, these jellybeans had survived for nearly 40 years.  To make their longevity less of a miracle and more of a science, we deferred to The Preservation Lab, a joint lab of the University of Cincinnati Libraries and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  They vacuum-sealed the jellybeans, and brilliantly constructed a box for them that allowed them to be displayed alongside a note from Ben’s wife Dee.  The candy is now protected from being squashed, chewed on, or getting wet.  And just as importantly, the rest of collection is less likely to be adversely affected by the composition of the jellybeans, such as sugars and dyes.

Another object of concern was a related photograph, which had previously been mounted on a large piece of card stock, prohibiting it from fitting inside the folder and box.  Further, the photograph could not be removed without causing damage.  Again, The Preservation Lab came to our aid by constructing another custom box to display the photograph without risking damage by removing the card stock.  Besides Gettler and President Reagan, you may also notice a jar of jellybeans – some of which may be the ones in the photograph above!

A photograph of President Reagan and Benjamin Gettler at the White HouseThe Preservation Lab also constructed housing for a robe gifted to Gettler in Uzbekistan, which I previously wrote about, as well as a commemorative brick from the groundbreaking of Metro’s Government Square.  I would like to thank the Preservation Lab for their ingenuity and expert work!  If you would like to see more of their work, follow their blog at

A large selection of photographs, letters, and other documents have been digitized, and are available to view online through the University of Cincinnati’s Digital Resource Commons.  They can be viewed at  Rest assured, these digital images will never replace the originals, but they serve to provide access to people remotely.

Finally, a web exhibit about the life and work of Benjamin Gettler is available at  Please visit to learn and see more about his work in Cincinnati transit, the University of Cincinnati, the Jewish Community, and political participation.

A finding aid listing the entire contents of the collection is available at  If you are interested in seeing the Benjamin Gettler papers in person, please contact the Archives and Rare Books Library by phone at 513-556-1959, by email at, or in person on the 8th floor of Blegen Library.

I would like to give one final thank you to the Gettler family for their donation and support, as well as to the Archives & Rare Books staff for their kindness and guidance through this opportunity!