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Guide to the Carolyn Ratcliffe Collection on La Plaza Cultural
1980s-2006
 MS 3051

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on March 30, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Ratcliffe, Carolyn
Title: Carolyn Ratcliffe collection on La Plaza Cultural
Dates: 1980s-2006
Abstract: La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez is located on the Lower East Side of the Manhattan borough of New York City. Founded in 1976 on the site of an abandoned city lot, the space has become an outdoor community garden, space for play and social gathering, and a performance venue. The collection includes photographs, ephemera and working papers from the files of Carolyn Ratcliffe, an officer in the 1990s to early 2000s of the non-profit organization formed to rebuild the La Plaza Cultural site, acquire grants, and develop programming there. Photographs are the core of the collection and include images of performances; community celebrations of Halloween, springtime, and other occasions; sculpture and other artwork; people gardening, building, and doing other work in the space, as well as enjoying leisure activities; flowers and other plants in the garden; and other related subject matter.
Quantity: 3.0 Linear feet in three record cartons
Call Phrase: MS 3051

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Biographical/Historical Note

La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez (La Plaza Cultural) is located at the corner of East 9th Street and Avenue C on the Lower East Side of the Manhattan borough of New York City. Occupying a large corner lot, La Plaza Cultural is an outdoor community garden, space for play and social gathering, and a performance venue. It began in 1976 when an artist in the area, Gordon La Matta Clark, led a neighborhood effort to clean up an abandoned lot that had been the site of since-demolished buildings. Into the 1980s, the site developed into a park, with garden and theatre space. By the late 1980s, though, real estate interests sought to rebuild on the site. This led to a series of court battles, ending eventually in 2003 with a settlement that ensured La Plaza Cultural's survival.

Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, as the court fights went on, the programs at La Plaza Cultural did also. A non-profit, the 600 B/C East Ninth Street Block Association, was formed and incorporated to rebuild the park and manage programs, such as the performance of "Demeter's Daughter" in 1997 and the annual Halloween celebration. Among the active members of this non-profit was Carolyn Ratcliffe, a resident of the La Plaza Cultural neighborhood. Ratcliffe was elected Chairperson of the association in 1990 and held various official positions with the organization over the next thirteen years until the 2003 legal victory. Over that period, she acquired various grants in support of La Plaza Cultural's programming, organized many of the programs, wrote publicity materials in support of the organization and site, and was an overall active participant in building La Plaza Cultural's role in the community while defending it from development.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection includes photographs, ephemera and working papers from the files of Carolyn Ratcliffe relating to the history of La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez. The bulk of the collection dates from the mid 1990s to about 2003, with much of this material being photographs. The photographs include images of performances; community celebrations of Halloween, springtime, and other occasions; sculpture and other artwork; people gardening, building, and doing other work in the space, as well as enjoying leisure activities; flowers and other plants in the garden; and other related subject matter. Most of the photographs are color print snapshots; other formats include slides and negatives. Some of the photographs and other images were gathered into albums.

The collection also includes at least some of Ratcliffe's working files. These primarily include documents related to grant funding proposals, reports to project funders, financial summaries, contact lists, and other administrative matters. Among the programs and grants represented in these files are the La Plaza Cultural Environmental Living Lab Program, Community Assets grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Neighborhood Open Space Management grants from The Trust for Public Land. The files include letters received from schoolchildren at PS 188 who participated in a gardening curriculum in 2003.

The collection also includes small posters and other publicity materials related to events at La Plaza. Also, the collection holds several digital formats, including zip drives, floppy disks, and CDs, that are labeled as holding photographs, brochures, hard drive back-ups, contact lists, and other matter; access to these is currently restricted in order to avoid the risk of corrupting or otherwise damaging the files.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged with photographs and other images first, followed by working files, and then digital formats, which are currently restricted.

Most of the photographs are snapshots. Those found together in albums or packets were retained together. Many though were loose. Photographs that were explicitly dated are presented first, followed by undated photographs. Loose photographs were compiled together by the processing archivist based on IDs or other markings on their reverse in an attempt to bring together like subject matter. These are compiled together in envelopes that note the linking ID. Photographs with no linking ID were sorted by rough subject.

Photographic slides were found in a series of small boxes and a carousel. The slides were moved to a sleeve, keeping together those slides found in particular boxes. The boxes were identified arbitrarily by letter, A to P, and that designation was noted on the slide sleeves.

The working files were found in unlabeled plastic folders; during processing the content was moved to archival folders. In the container list, these are all summarized in one entry. In the box itself, each folder retains the content of the original file. The original files were identified arbitrarily by the archivist by letter, A to E, and that designation was noted on the folder.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Photographs

Subject Organizations

  • La Plaza Cultural (New York, N.Y.).

Subject Topics

  • Community gardens -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Theater, Open-air -- New York (State) -- New York

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. The collection includes some digital formats (zip drives, 3.55" floppy disks, and CDs) and those are currently restricted from access in order to ensure that the files are not accidentally corrupted.

Use Restrictions

This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the Carolyn Ratcliffe collection on La Plaza Cultural, MS 3051, The New-York Historical Society.

Credit line: Photographs in the collection that were taken by Carolyn Ratcliffe should be credited to her when used for public purposes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Gift of Carolyn Ratcliffe, June 2016.

Processing Information Note

The collection was processed by archivist Larry Weimer in March 2018.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 "Viva La Plaza: Growing a Garden, Building a Community"

Scope and Contents Note

Overview booklet with a history of La Plaza, press clippings, letters of reference, renovation drawings, images, and other material.

circa 1999
Box: 1 Folder : 2-6 Photograph and Ephemera Albums (5 folders)
1980s?-circa 2000
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Save the Garden Benefit Photographs
1990s?
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Rites of Spring Images
2000
Box: 1 Folder : 9-20 Photographs: Snapshots - Dated (12 folders)
1993-2002
Box: 1 Folder : 21-26 Photographs: Snapshots - Undated (6 of 7 folders)
circa 1990s-2001
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Photographs: Snapshots - Undated (1 of 7 folders)
circa 1990s-2001
Box: 2 Folder : 2-5 Photographs: Slides (4 folders)
circa 1990s-2001
Box: Oversize-Small Oversize Posters and Other Graphic Material
circa 1990s-2001
Box: 2 Folder : 6-8 Photographs: Negatives (3 folders)
circa 1990s-2001
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Photographs: Film Rolls (RESTRICTED)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes small rolls of film from the collection, which cannot be viewed.

circa 1990s-2001
Box: 2 Folder : 10-19 General Working Files (10 folders)
1992-2003
Box: 2 Folder : 20 Wall Image Proposal
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 21 Armando Perez Street Naming Ceremony
2006
Box: 2 Folder : 22 Ephemera
1990s
Box: 3 Digital Formats (RESTRICTED)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes zip drives, CDs, and 3.5" floppy disks.These are currently restricted from access in order to ensure that the digital files are not accidentally corrupted.

circa 1990s-2002

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