Romus Broadway photo collages to be on display in Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood
Princeton University Library (PUL) and the Arts Council of Princeton are planning a public exhibition celebrating the history of Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Drawing from PUL’s Romus Broadway photography collection, the exhibition, curated by Jennifer Garcon, PUL’s Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections, will feature photographic collage banners that document Witherspoon-Jackson’s history adorning the neighborhood from August 10 through May 2023.
The photos, which were acquired in fall 2021 by PUL’s Special Collections, were part of Romus Broadway’s work to document his beloved neighborhood. Born in Belle Mead in 1939, Broadway relocated to Princeton with his parents at the age of four. He graduated from Princeton High School, after which he served in the Air Force and worked for American Airlines until 1969.
Though he sustained career-ending injuries when he was struck by an impaired driver while riding his motorcycle, Broadway would earn a college degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts and pursue his love for history and photography by researching his family history and chronicling the people and events in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.
For the last decade, the Arts Council has celebrated Broadway’s documentation at its annual Safe Streets event in August. After he died in 2020, Princeton University purchased the collection, which was then digitized under the guidance of Garcon.
The collection consists of approximately 90 photograph collage boards, 30,000 photographic negatives, 760 color slides, and several hundred loose photographic prints which document the history of the Black community in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood from the late 1950s through the early 2000s. University Archivist and Deputy Head of Special Collections Dan Linke believes that, “Given the interconnectedness between the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and its many residents who worked for the University, it encompasses both town and gown like no other part of Princeton.”
Linke first met Broadway several years before his death to review his photographic collection with him. “After his passing, the family reached out to both the University Library and the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP),” Linke said. “We agreed that it merited long-term preservation, and, while the collection held potential for both institutions, together we very collegially decided that Special Collections was better positioned to acquire it and undertake the work that it deserved, including conservation and digitization.”
This collage exhibition is an outgrowth of PUL’s collaboration with HSP, the Arts Council, the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, and the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association. To celebrate the launch of the public exhibit, Garcon has been invited to give the Jim Floyd Memorial Lecture about the Broadway Collection and post-custodial archiving and preservation. The lecture is part of the Joint Effort Safe Streets 2022 programming, which includes nine days of tributes, education, sports, and celebration, in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood of Princeton starting on August 5.
The programming and the Romus collection offer an opportunity for people to better understand the community, especially as it undergoes rapid transformation amidst re-development.
“Often we think something needs to be from the distant past to have value, but this collection documents something that will likely soon be gone,” Linke said. “This is the greatest single collection of photographs of the neighborhood, a special community not only within Princeton, but within New Jersey, with roots back to before the Revolution.”
The Romus Broadway photograph collection is currently undergoing processing with plans for full online exhibition as part of PUL’s digital repository.
Published on August 2, 2022
Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist
Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications.