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AFL-CIO and National Labor College Donate Six Miles of Labor History to the University of Maryland

Photo by Amaya Tune

The history of the AFL-CIO in 40 million documents contained in 20,000 boxes that take up six miles of shelf space have a new home today, with the donation and transfer of the George Meany Memorial Archives from the National Labor College to the University of Maryland's University Libraries.

In a ceremony on the College Park campus, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the vast collection “the raw material of so much of America's labor history.”

The contents of the George Meany Memorial Archives are important to the AFL-CIO, to the labor movement generally and to working people everywhere, not only so we can see the past with clear eyes, but because these materials offer us new perspectives on the future.

He said that at the recent AFL-CIO 2013 Convention, delegates recognized the need to broaden the labor movement and make common cause with community, faith, youth and other allies. The documents in the Meany Archives trace how that has been done before.

We can see over the generations what power and influence labor has built, lost and regained….These documents hold those stories as recorded in real time…often unselfconsciously…by the people who won those victories and suffered those losses.

The documents in the archives range from minutes of local union meetings, reports of international conventions, personal letters to dissident newspapers, strike broadsides, fledgling union charters and photographs. Click here for a more detailed look at the documents.   

Patricia Steele, dean of libraries at the University of Maryland, said, “The archive is a game-changer for us.”

Because it is comprehensive and so rich in intellectual value, it vastly expands our ability to support researchers on this campus and beyond. The AFL-CIO collection offers unique opportunities for us to collaborate in innovative ways with academic departments, government agencies and partners from labor and industry. We are pleased leaders of the AFL-CIO placed such a high degree of confidence in us to provide a new home for their collection. 

The 40 million documents and other materials will help researchers better understand pivotal social movements in this country, including those to gain rights for women, children and people of color.

Materials will be accessible from Hornbake Library, the university’s library for special collections, which features comprehensive environmental controls, a large reading room and exhibition space. Special collections, identified as such because of their rarity or format, frequently distinguish a library’s unique offerings at a time when information is broadly available online.

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