Rutgers staff visits the Hall to discuss WWII archives

Seton Hall University hosted a presentation on April 2 about eyewitness testimonies describing what life was like in both Italy and New Jersey during World War II.

There was a discussion and presentation of the resources in Seton Hall’s Valente Collection, located in Walsh Library. This collection includes more than 20,000 volumes devoted to Italian history and culture and is the second largest library collection of Italian books in New Jersey.

A speaker from Rutgers University gave a presentation about the oral history archives at the University. He explained that since 1994, Rutgers Oral History Archives (ROHA) has been interviewing alumni, staff and faculty of Rutgers University as well as New Jersey residents that have served in the military during wartime from World War II on, or anyone who has a story to tell about the history of New Jersey. These interviews, of which there are hundreds, are free and available to the public at ROHA’s website.

Another speaker, a librarian at Rutgers University, introduced the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive, which was created by Steven Spielberg in 1994 to gather testimonies of survivors or other witnesses of the Holocaust. He was inspired to create the Shoah Foundation while making the critically acclaimed film “Schindler’s List.” According to the presenter, the library at Rutgers University is open to anyone who would like to visit in order to view them.

Dr. Gabriella Romani, the director of the Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute and an Italian professor at Seton Hall, organized the event. She said that she was approached by one of the speakers to see if she would like to host it.

“I thought it had to do with history, Jewish studies, and libraries, so I thought it would be a great idea for an interdisciplinary event,” Romani said.

She said that she appreciated the event because it provided information that students might not be able to receive in class, so she wished that more students had attended and encouraged students to come to events like this one in the future.

“You can’t understand the future without understanding the past,” Romani said.

At least 50 people that attended Tuesday night’s presentation.

Junior Joanna Servino, who plans to become an Italian teacher, thought it was interesting.

“I liked listening to the oral testimonies,” Servino said. “I’ll definitely use the Italian language archives in my lessons in the future.”

Senior Michael Brown agreed.

“I really liked it,” Brown said. “I studied Primo Levi in one of my classes, and he was mentioned in this presentation. It was cool to see something that I learned about in class mentioned outside of class.”

The speakers were Dr. Marta Deyrup (, the Valente Collection; Dr. James Niessen (, World History and Jewish Studies Librarian at the Alexander Library at Rutgers; and Shaun Illingworth (, Director of Rutgers Oral History Archives.

Noora Badwan can be reached

Author: Staff Writer

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