Gift to Preserve, Expand Local History Collection Started by Late Alumnus

By Irene Gashurov

Photo of an antique coffee can produced by Endicott-Johnson labelled E-J WORKERS

Above: This is one of the many items that could be purchased at the E-J Workers Stores that sold groceries and home necessities at cost.

In September 2018, Olga Kulikowski made an endowed gift to the Binghamton University Libraries in memory of her son, Mark Kulikowski '76, MA '77, PhD '82. The gift will preserve and add to the existing collection on Broome County history that her son was building at Binghamton. Many of the materials in the Mark Kulikowski Collection are unique items from the region, including tokens that local bars handed out for free drinks to immigrant workers and combat boots made at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory during the Vietnam War. The gift from Olga Kulikowski will enable the Libraries to bring the collection to a wider audience.

Mark Kulikowski was an associate professor of Russian and East European history at the State University of New York at Oswego until his death in January 2018. At Binghamton University, he was widely known for his collection on local history, and in particular the social history of immigrant communities in Broome County, where he was raised. The collection comprises 10 linear feet of publications, prints, posters from businesses and organizations, and similar memorabilia, such as sheet music from World War I “dedicated to the boys of Binghamton, N.Y.” More recently, Kulikowski had turned to collecting historical ephemera, such as commemorative pins, coffee cans and bottles from brewing companies made by local industry.

“The historical ephemera that he discovered is priceless in terms of its historical value,” said Yvonne Deligato, bibliographer of the collection, which has been a favorite destination of historians and undergraduate researchers at Binghamton University.

Photo of combat boots produced by Endicott-Johnson

Above: Beginning in 1967, the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Corporation began manufacturing combat boots for the military serving in the Vietnam War.

Dael Norwood, now an assistant professor of history at the University of Delaware, assigned his class to research the Kulikowski collection in a capstone course, called “Binghamton’s Business,” which he taught last year at Binghamton.

“To actually see the Vietnam War boots in person changes your perspective on things,” said Norwood. “The collection is wonderful for providing students access to everyday life in Broome County and the history of its past. You can use these objects in concert with more standard archives and documents. The collection is not intimidating. It’s well-suited to the undergraduate mission.”

Deligato believes Mark Kulikowski would be happy knowing his collection is in demand. “He was very proud that it was named after him,” Deligato said. “He’d be prouder still if he knew of the continued development and growth of the collection.”

To learn more about the Mark Kulikowski Collection and other local history resources, visit the Libraries’ Special Collections Local History Resources.

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Last Updated: 1/29/19