University of Rochester to Provide Online Access to Rare Collection of Susan B. Anthony Letters

Gallery of 100-year-old documents reveals new details about women’s rights leader

Binary Code and Laptops

It’s not every day that a library acquires a collection of materials so rare and significant that researchers from around the world are interested in studying it. But that’s exactly what happened at the University of Rochester in the summer of 2014, when the River Campus Libraries purchased a large collection of correspondence between American women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony and her close friend and colleague, Rachel Foster Avery. An Avery family member had uncovered the collection in his parents’ home and contacted the University, where a large number of letters between the two activists had already been catalogued and preserved at Rush Rhees Library.

“This is an outstanding acquisition for the libraries and for the Rochester community,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the River Campus Libraries. “It augments what is arguably the nation’s strongest manuscript collection related to the long working and personal relationship between Anthony and Avery. We are honored to bring such historically significant letters to our libraries.”

Any time curators receive a collection of fragile, handwritten letters, one of their greatest challenges is to preserve the delicate materials so they can digitize the contents and make them accessible to others. When Bruce Holroyd, Kodak Alaris’ Worldwide Product and Integration Manager for Photo Capture Products, learned about the University’s plans to digitize the new collection, he reached out to offer his assistance. Holroyd, an expert at photo scanning, tested a few workflows at the library and decided to use the KODAK Picture Saver Scanning System PS50 with the KODAK A3 Size Flatbed Accessory (12” x 18”).

“We considered using even faster and higher resolution options but the flatbed allowed for greater flexibility in terms of input sizes for carefully handling each fragile item one at a time, and for scanning with a color correction bar,” explained Holroyd. “Color correction was needed because the letters varied so much in brightness and whiteness.” The University conservator worked directly with Kodak Alaris to agree on handling techniques for the century-old materials. The workflow enabled scanning of 1,470 images, including about 50 photographs, in just over 20 hours. The final outputs were 600dpi TIFF files.

Because the collection had been held by the Avery family for so many years, it had never been available to researchers before. Carefully digitizing the entire collection was essential to ensure widespread access.

“As librarians and archivists, we are grateful to families like this one that saved the material very carefully over generations,” said Jim Kuhn, Director of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester. “Digitizing this collection means scholars will have access to what has never been publicly shared before.”

The total collection spans from the 1880s—around the time Susan B. Anthony and Rachel Foster Avery began their friendship—to 1919, about the time of Avery’s death. The University believes this is the largest collection of letters written by Susan B. Anthony to any single person.

“These letters provide researchers with human, personal perspective on Susan B. Anthony, as well as details about the groundbreaking work she was doing for women’s rights,” said Lori Birrell, Curator of Historical Manuscript Collections, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester. “The new letters help bring the suffrage movement to life through the eyes of two of its most influential leaders.”

The images are now being linked directly to an inventory of the library’s manuscript collection ( and others can be found in an online exhibit (

For more information, please read the case study on this project at

About Kodak Alaris' Document Imaging Division

Kodak Alaris is a new company driven by the simple belief that “we can always find a better way.” Our Document Imaging division helps organizations capture and manage information from digital and paper sources, extract valuable insight from its contents, and deliver the right information to the right place at the right time to achieve better business outcomes. Our portfolio includes award-winning document scanners, capture and information management software, and industry-leading service and support. Kodak Alaris has shipped more than one million scanners and placed tens of thousands of software licenses worldwide. From small offices to large-scale organizations, Kodak Alaris helps clients automate processes, improve customer interactions, and make smarter business decisions. To learn more, please visit

The Kodak trademark and trade dress are used under license from Eastman Kodak Company. For more information, please visit Follow us on Twitter at and visit our blogs at and


Media Contact

Jonathan Ghent
Kodak Alaris
+1 585-722-4671