Romus Broadway Photo Collection Featured in Banner Exhibit Celebrating Princeton’s Historic Black Neighborhood
Princeton University Library (PUL) and Princeton Arts Council launched a public exhibit celebrating the history of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood of Princeton. Drawing inspiration from PUL’s Romus Broadway photography collection, the exhibit features photo collage banners that document the history of Witherspoon-Jackson and will adorn the neighborhood until May 2023.
The photos, acquired in the fall of 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 moved to Princeton with his parents when he was four years old. He graduated from Princeton High School, after which he served in the Air Force and worked for American Airlines until 1969.
Although he suffered career-ending injuries when he was hit by an impaired driver while riding his motorcycle, Broadway would earn a college degree from Amherst College and pursue his love of the story and photography by researching family history and relating people and events. Witherspoon-Jackson district.
For the past decade, the Arts Council has celebrated Broadway documentation at its annual Safe Streets event in August. After his death in 2020, Princeton University purchased the collection, which was later digitized under the direction of Jennifer BoyPUL librarian for modern and contemporary special collections and curator of the exhibition.
The collection consists of approximately 90 collage sheets of photographs, 30,000 photographic negatives, 760 color slides and several hundred loose photographic prints that document the history of the black community in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood of the late 1900s. 1950s to early 2000s. The Romus Broadway photography collection is being worked on with plans for a full online exhibition as part of Digital filing of the PUL.
“Given the interdependence between the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and its many residents who worked for the university, (the collection) encompasses both city and dress like no other part of Princeton,” said Dan LinkeUniversity Archivist and Deputy Head of Special Collections.
Linke met with Broadway several years before his death to review his photographic collection. “After his death, the family contacted both the university library and the Princeton Historical Society (HSP),” Linke said. “We agreed that it deserved long-term preservation and, although the collection had potential for both institutions, we decided together in a very collegial way that Special Collections were better placed to acquire it and undertake the work it deserved, including conservation and digitization.”
This exhibition of collages is the result 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 gave the Jim Floyd Memorial Lecture on The Broadway Collecting and Post-Custodial Archiving and Preservation on August 10.
Floyd was the first African-American mayor of Princeton Township, which in 2013 was consolidated with Princeton Borough in what is now the Municipality of Princeton. The conference is part of the Arts Council’s Joint Effort Safe Streets Program 2022.
A neighborhood is changing
The Romus programming and collection provides an opportunity to better understand the community, especially as it undergoes rapid transformation in the midst of redevelopment.
“Often we think something has to come from the distant past to be of value, but this collection documents something that will likely soon be gone,” Linke said. “This is the largest single collection of photographs from the neighborhood, a special community not just in Princeton, but in New Jersey, whose roots go back to before the Revolution.”