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A request to approve the transfer of a collection of 40,000 books and other artifacts related to American Indians from a privately funded library in the Bronx to the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown has been denied by a state supreme court judge. The deal was contingent on a $2.5 million payment to support the library’s general collection that would have violated the terms of a trust, the judge found. Acting Justice Stanley Green in Matter of Board of Trustees of The Huntington Free Library, 8946/01, found that the $2.5 million payment as required by a stipulation between New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office and the Huntington Free Library would violate the terms of a trust created in 1930 by the stepson of the original benefactor of the Huntington Free Library, Collis Huntington, a founder of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Archer M. Huntington expanded the library at Westchester Square in the north Bronx as a memorial to his stepfather in 1930. He accepted some 20,000 books and artifacts concerning Native Americans from the former Heye Foundation/Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan, and endowed a fund to acquire more books for its American Indian collection and others for a collection started by the American Numismatic Society and its general reading room collection. The American Indian collection has doubled in size since 1930. The library, saying it did not have sufficient funds to support both the American Indian collection and its reading room collection, negotiated unsuccessfully with the Smithsonian Institution (which operates the National Museum of the American Indian), and then more fruitfully with the New York State Historical Association, which also has a renowned collection of American Indian artifacts. The attorney general’s office, which must approve the transfer of trust assets, had balked at the Smithsonian’s proposal because of insufficient consideration paid to the library; it also preferred that the collection remain with a New York institution, the judge’s decision noted. TERMS OF THE TRUST After negotiating the agreement with the historical association in Cooperstown, the library brought the petition seeking the court’s approval of the transfer of the American Indian collection because the original intentions of Huntington’s charitable trust could no longer be fulfilled. The attorney general’s office responded to the petition by asserting that the library had not shown it had selected the institution best able to enhance the collection and the proposed payment of $2.5 million should be used to maintain the collection and not to support the reading room’s collection, which it said was not worth maintaining. The library and Spitzer’s office entered a stipulation setting a procedure for requesting proposals from the Smithsonian, Cornell University and the American Museum of Natural History, and the payment of $2.5 million, which would be subject to detailed conditions. Cornell and the state historical association agreed to the $2.5 million payment, but the Smithsonian did not; it objected to the stipulation on the ground that it violated the cy pres doctrine and the Smithsonian’s trust interest in the collection (as successor to the Heye Foundation). Justice Green rejected the Smithsonian’s argument that transferring the collection to upstate New York would interfere significantly with its access to the materials. “The [1930] indenture only requires that the books be ‘properly available for use and study’ and does not require any particular degree of geographic proximity,” he said. But the judge agreed that the stipulation’s provision for payment violated the terms of the trust. Since the trust’s assets were separate from the library’s other assets, he said the court could not allow the interests of the reading room to be considered. “All money expended by the eventual transferee must be used for the benefit of the [American Indian] collection,” Green said. He ordered the library to request bids from interested institutions and to maintain the collection within New York state.

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