In the United States, thousands of people have faced the death penalty and ultimately been executed.
In an effort to understand and learn from the history of capital punishment in this country, UAlbany has collected thousands of documents tracing hundreds of years.
“We believe we are the only national repository on materials on the death penalty of this size," said Jodie Boyle, supervisory archivist at UAlbany libraries.
Centuries worth of documents on capital punishment in the United States, from the first person to be electrocuted to the youngest, to the case of Georgy Stinney, are packed inside box after box on the third floor of UAlbany's Science Library.
“[Stinney] was 14 years old, and it was a case in South Carolina in 1944," Boyle said. “For the sheer scope and depth of the material, we are unique.”
At the helm of the one of a kind collection is School of Criminal Justice Professor James Acker.
“As a criminal defense lawyer, I was always concerned with overreaches of government power," Acker said.
It was in the 1990’s when Acker teamed up with archivists at the University Libraries to launch the school’s National Death Penalty Archive.
“What we want is a historical record that represents the complexity of the issue," Acker said.
And it is complex. Take New York for instance, which no longer enforces the death penalty but still ranks at the top for most executions.
“New York actually has executed more people historically than any other state in the country, except Virginia," Acker said.
Acker says the popularity of the death penalty has waxed and waned over time.
In just a few months, those patterns and movements dating back to the 1600s, will be readily accessibly to anyone.
“It's been a multi-year effort to digitize a good portion of this collection," Boyle said.
Thousands and thousands of these documents are expected to be available online by July.
“And that'll be a tremendous boom to researchers and anybody else interested in taking advantage of the records," Acker said.