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Lehigh University to house Rodale archives

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Some of the hundreds of boxes in the Rodale Collection. (Photo by Christa Neu courtesy of Lehigh University)
Some of the hundreds of boxes in the Rodale Collection. (Photo by Christa Neu courtesy of Lehigh University)

The Rodale family has donated the archives of the former Rodale Inc. to Lehigh University.

The private, family-run business headquartered in Emmaus was a global health and wellness publisher of magazines and books, such as Men’s Health, Runner’s World and Prevention, and bestsellers such as “The South Beach Diet,” “Eat This, Not That,” and “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Hearst bought Rodale’s magazine and book publishing divisions in January.

Lehigh has already taken possession of the voluminous archives, which date back to the early 1900s and consist of thousands of boxes of letters, papers, financial records, publications and audiovisual materials, including photos, VHS, reel-to-reel recordings, Betamax tapes, cassettes and vinyl records.

The Rodale Collection, as it will be known, is important because “it fulfills our mission of building a regional collection of national significance,” said Lois Fischer Black, curator of special collections at Lehigh.

“Although we think of Rodale as part of our community here in the Lehigh Valley, we recognize the fact that the publishing company and all of the other initiatives led by the Rodale family have had an impact in health and wellness,” Black said.

J.I. Rodale, who founded Organic Farming and Gardening magazine in 1942, was a pioneer in the organic food movement. His work spawned the family’s publishing empire in health-related topics, and included the Rodale Institute, an organic research farm in Kutztown.

The collection will be a resource for researchers, particularly those who want to conduct cross-cultural studies because many of Rodale’s international magazines had separate editorial staffs, Black said.

“Our view is that this has the potential of being a very interesting research project to compare the health issues of the day in one country or perhaps of one continent with another,” she said.

The university will hire an archivist to catalogue the material, which spans 2,000 linear feet and is being kept in a temperature-controlled environment, Black said. The Rodales have provided funding for the preservation and digitization of the collection. The variety of audiovisual material will need to be reformatted.

“It’s almost a history of American recordings,” Black said.

“We will work to identify and organize the collection and then create a guide that will enable researchers both at Lehigh and around the world to pursue any topic of interest,” Black said.

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