SUNY Poly Receives Grant to Archive Refugee Projects

SUNY Poly Receives Grant to Archive Refugee Projects

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - 10:20
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SUNY Poly's Utica Campus

Project originating at SUNY Poly to be archived for national access

Utica, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) today announced that stories told by Central New York refugee community members and recorded by SUNY Poly faculty and staff will now be preserved and archived for access by communities across the state and the nation thanks to a grant from the New York State Regional Bibliographic Database Grant program.

“We are very proud of Dr. Kathryn Stam and Lynne Browne’s accomplishments and well-deserved recognition for their commitment to telling stories about those who came to our country and region, often arriving with only the hope of a better life, inspiring each of us to learn more about them and our shared human experience through this work,” said SUNY Poly Interim President Dr. Bahgat Sammakia. “The Greater Utica area, like many other communities across the country, has been revitalized in part thanks to an influx of refugees who bring new ideas, languages, and cultures to the region.”

Managed by the Central New York Library Resources Council, the grant will help to preserve the work of SUNY Poly Professor of Anthropology Dr. Kathryn Stam and Web Coordinator/Adjunct Photography Instructor Lynne Browne to create an archive of the collection of images related to the Refugees Starting Over Project and Portraits of Hope: Faces of Refugee Resettlement in Central New York, which was recently exhibited at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica in conjunction with the work of internationally recognized photographer Steve McCurry.

Cultural anthropologists spend a lot of time trying to get access to how people view their world from an insider perspective, but it can be challenging to achieve,” says Dr. Stam. “The Refugees Starting Over photo collection is interesting because most of the images were taken by resettled refugees themselves and show many different cultures and also many sides of their new lives here in Utica. Many are personal and funny photos that I would never have been able to get with my own camera. They reveal a sense of humor and resilience of spirit that I hope to share with a wider audience.”

Led by Dr. Stam and the SUNY Poly Library, the project involves creating metadata and an online collection for the Refugees Starting Over Project, an online community for and about the refugees of the greater Utica area. The project will involve permanent online archiving of images from social media and other venues. Additional information about the images will be collected as well to help preserve the work of Stam and Browne and further strengthen connections to the refugee community in the City of Utica.

“I'm honored to have Portraits of Hope and other refugee photographs I've taken permanently archived and accessible for others,” Browne said. “I'm looking forward to going through the many photos I've taken over the years to see what images will be included with those that were exhibited. I've enjoyed working with Dr. Stam on this project and have loved making new friends from the refugee community.”

Portraits of Hope depicts survivors of war, genocide, and political strife who came to the U.S. and settled in the Utica region after living in refugee camps in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The exhibition celebrates diversity and confronts stereotypes about resettlement while exploring the challenges and aspirations of local refugees starting over in a new land. The collaboration began in Fall 2012 when Stam asked Browne to take photos of newly arrived refugees from Nepal and Thailand who were performing at a music festival in Utica. Many performances and thousands of photos later, the exhibit features refugees from around the world who have made their way to Utica, NY.

"This grant will help the SUNY Poly Library connect others to the excellent community network and research conducted by Dr. Stam and Lynne Browne,” said Shannon Pritting, Director of the SUNY Poly Library. “We will be enhancing and preserving access to the work of SUNY Poly's Faculty and Staff to provide another resource to help people further learn about the refugee community in Utica. In the past two years, the SUNY Poly Library has made many advancements in making the world-class research and creative activities of our Faculty and Staff more accessible to the world, and this is an exciting part of our overall efforts."

By creating collections in New York Heritage, the Portraits of Hope and Refugees Starting Over projects will be connected with other collections of New York history, as well as to a larger statewide and national community.


SUNY Polytechnic Institute. SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem, formed from the merger of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and SUNY Institute of Technology. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience and nanoeconomics programs at its Albany location and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica/Rome location. Thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and over 300 corporate partners since its inception. For information visit and