19
Apr19

Behind the Scenes in the Archives: Where Do We Start with a New Collection?

Posted by: Jill Chancellor

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The Archives and Special Collections recently received materials from two Boston Globe reporters about their work on reporting various aspects of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (Big Dig). Investigative journalist Sean Murphy and transportation journalist Tom Palmer wrote on the Big Dig throughout the 1990s and 2000s, covering cost overruns, court cases, traffic updates, and more. This new collection  joins a group of other collections already housed at Northeastern documenting the Big Dig.

When collections are donated to the Archives, they have been packed up by the person or organization in whatever kind of box (or other container) that they had available. When the collections arrive at the Archives, we first re-box the materials in acid-free, archival quality boxes to help preserve them. It may not always seem like it at first glance, but there is usually a reasoning behind the way materials are boxed by the donor. Because of this, we make sure to re-box the materials in the same order in which they were originally packed. Once the materials are rehoused we can begin the (often long) process of creating a finding aid for the collection. Step one: conducting a survey.

In order to better understand this new collection and how it fits in with the other Big Dig collections we already have, I conducted a survey on the materials. At 114 boxes, surveying this collection was a bit daunting, but the only thing to do is start at box one.

A portion of the boxes that were able to fit into one photo.

For the survey, I created a spreadsheet in order to make notes of the types of materials in each box as well as any other notes on things that I come across. Wading my way through all of the boxes, I found materials ranging from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on budgets and contract information, various court cases that stemmed from the project, contractor lists, accident reports, community newsletters, publicity materials, maps, and even boxes of artifacts from different construction and excavation sites.

Items donated by Tom Palmer include promotional items like a calendar and chocolate bar wrapper, construction materials like safety net, pipes, and washers, and memorabilia like the paper weight from the Ted Williams Tunnel opening seen on the lower left.

Going through these materials, I learned just how big the Big Dig was. The materials cover not only how this project directly affected the local communities, but also how major this project was for the international engineering and construction fields.

A survey is not an exhaustive list of every single thing in the boxes, but it is a good start. With it we are able to make a summary of the collection, put it in our online Archives catalog, and make it visible to potential researchers. A survey does not replace a detailed finding aid, but it serves as a crucial step in allowing researchers to access relevant materials in a timely manner.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections

10
Apr19

Dean Dan Cohen Authors Atlantic Op-Ed About Obama Library and the Value of Digital Collections

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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Photo of Dan Cohen Dan Cohen, Dean of the University Library, has penned an op-ed for The Atlantic about the value of digital collections, in response to the announcement that the Obama Presidential Library will comprise a digital collection, available online, as well as a physical research center in Chicago.

While some have responded negatively to this news, Cohen, who previously served as the founding executive director of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), argues in his essay that digital collections, which are certainly very familiar to most people in this era of smartphone photos and email, should not be considered somehow lesser than physical collections. He emphasizes that the digital Obama collection will be by its nature much more accessible than the physical libraries of previous presidents, because researchers will not need to travel to Chicago to make use of materials. As a result, the research potential of the Obama Library is likely as vast as the digital collection itself.

Dan Cohen also serves as Northeastern University’s Vice Provost for Information Collaboration and Professor of History.

 

Posted in: Library News

5
Apr19

Favat Collection Name Expanded to Reflect Changing Focus

Posted by: Hillary Corbett

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portrait of Dr. Favat

F. André Favat

In 1977, Northeastern University established an endowed fund to support the Library in the memory of F. André Favat, an associate professor of English education in the Department of Instruction. Dr. Favat had died the previous year at age 38. At the time of his death, Dr. Favat was also director of the National Council of Teachers of English and president of the Massachusetts Council of Teachers of English. The fund is designated for the purchase and preservation of books, primarily children’s literature and books on education.

Dr. Favat’s experience in curriculum development and the teaching of future educators led to the naming of the curriculum center at Northeastern as the Favat Center for Curriculum Materials and Children’s Literature.  This center moved into Snell Library when the building opened in 1990. At a time when teacher education was a popular program of study at Northeastern, the Favat collection was used primarily by student teachers as well as students in a regularly offered children’s literature course. Longtime Library staff also recall parents browsing the collection for their kids, and children from Northeastern’s Call Childcare Center being brought for visits!

However, for some time now, the collection has included a significant number of young adult (YA) titles as well as books for younger readers. As the collection became used less for teaching purposes, we observed that it was being used more by our students, faculty, and staff for recreational reading. YA literature has become extremely popular reading material for adult readers as well as teens, as any Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen fan would tell you. So, we decided to expand the collection name to the Favat Children’s & Young Adult Collection, in order to more accurately convey to our users what kind of books they might find there.

The historical children’s and young adult collection that now makes up a significant portion of the Favat Children’s & Young Adult Collection comes from the original curriculum center. The more current additions to the collection represent the best in children’s and YA literature through collection of the major American award-winning titles as well as a popular YA literature collection strong in fantasy, science fiction and modern young adult literature. The Favat Collection currently contains 10,226 titles—over the past five years, an average of 130 titles per year are added. It is managed by Janet Morrow, our Head of Resource and Discovery Services. Thank you to Janet for providing information about the Favat Collection, past and present, for this post!

Materials in the Favat Collection are located on the third floor of Snell Library. Some new materials may be shelved temporarily in The Hub on the first floor. The Archives and Special Collections also hold the papers of Dr. Favat.

Posted in: Collections, Library News, Read, Listen, Watch

29
Mar19

Commemorating History and Scholarship: Holocaust Awareness Committee’s Archives Now Available Online

Posted by: Debra Mandel

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Note: This post originally appeared on July 30, 2018. We are reposting it today to highlight the official launch of the Holocaust Awareness Committee’s Digital Archive on April 2, 2019, during Northeastern University’s annual Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week.

Commemorating History and Scholarship: Holocaust Awareness Committee’s Digital Archives
Public Launch on April 2, 2019
Raytheon Amphitheater 6:00 PM



The newly launched Holocaust Awareness Committee Archives digital repository site preserves and displays the rich history of Northeastern’s extraordinary commitment to Holocaust awareness and genocide prevention, as well as supports curriculum and research including courses in the Holocaust, Jewish and European history and public history.

Since 1977 Northeastern University has commemorated the Holocaust with a week-long series of events including lectures, performances and survivor talks to explore the history and memory of the Holocaust and to engage with students. Key elements of the Archives includes annual event programs and video recordings for: the Salomon Robert Morton lecture series with international scholars, activists and writers; the Philip N. Backstrom, Jr. Survivor Series of video recordings of 30 Holocaust survivors, [some who came multiple times to engage with members of the Northeastern community]; the Annual Commemoration/President’s Breakfast which includes lectures by Northeastern faculty and noteworthy scholars and Gideon Klein Scholar art, music and dance presentations by talented student awardees and a listing of the Bill Giessen film series titles shown since 1991. Original content for most of these resources resides in the Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections.

In addition, unique online exhibits explore the themes of religious commemoration, genocide awareness and prevention and faculty and student engagement.

This project was completed by Megan Barney, Laurel Leff, Debra Mandel, Kyra Millard and Jennifer Sartori. We are very grateful for the support of Jewish Studies: Lori Lefkovitz, Dov Waxman, and Deborah Levisohn; Northeastern University Libraries Archives and Special Collections: Giordana Mecagni and Molly Brown; the Digital Scholarship Group: Sarah Sweeney, Amanda Rust, and Megan Barney; and The Humanities Center: Ignacio J. Chaparro.

The collection can be accessed here: https://holocaustawarenessarchives.northeastern.edu/ For more information, contact Debra Mandel at d.mandel@northeastern.edu.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Library News

12
Mar19

Honoring East Boston Activist Mary Ellen Welch

Posted by: Molly Brown

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Last week, East Boston activist Mary Ellen Welch passed away. Welch, whose work and legacy are preserved in the Northeastern University Library’s Archives and Special Collections, was a vibrant and prolific activist in East Boston. Her advocacy centered around civil rights, education, environmental issues, open space creation and preservation, social justice, and transportation issues.
Photo of Mary Ellen Welch, a white woman of Irish descent in black and white. She is smiling with her mouth closed and looking straight on into the camera.

Photo by Gilbert E. Friedberg, Boston Globe

Welch’s work founded and affected many facets of East Boston’s neighborhood. Since the 1960s, she advocated for East Boston residents on issues surrounding waterfront development, affordable housing, public schools, and the expansion of the Massachusetts Port Authority’s Logan International Airport. She was a former teacher at Hugh R. O’Donnell Elementary School in East Boston and served on the board of directors for Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), an organization which supports East Boston residents and communities with affordable housing strategies, environmental justice, community planning, leadership development, and economic development opportunities. She is also former head of the Friends of the East Boston Greenway and founding member of the group’s predecessor the East Boston Greenway Council. In addition, Welch worked with Airport Impact Relief, the East Boston Neighborhood Council, and the East Boston Area Planning Action Council. In 2000, Welch was awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Merit Award. whitespace
Photo of Mary Ellen Welch, a white woman, pointing to a spot on what looks to be a neighborhood map. She is in a room with two other men seated watching her presentation.

Photo by Charles Dixon, Boston Globe

Welch’s friend and colleague, James Aloisi, offered a poignant tribute to Welch and her impact in Commonwealth Magazine. A portion is quoted below:
“Mary Ellen’s brand of advocacy was tough and determined but she could open her arms wide and embrace the joy in every moment that she was making a difference. She was a happy warrior in the fight for housing and mobility equity and social justice. In an interview, she summarized her approach to advocacy this way: ‘People who are activists don’t give up. Usually their activism involves something that’s deeply inbred and people are committed to principles of justice that they want to achieve. The joy of creating a better neighborhood is very satisfying. There is a joy in making where you live a happy place, a sustainable place for others.’”
You can find further records of Welch’s determined activism in the East Boston Community News, held at Northeastern’s Archives and digitized and available in Northeastern’s Digital Repository Service. The name “Mary Ellen Welch” shows up in nearly every issue, evidencing her wide array of organizing for social justice and her vital role in East Boston.  Mary Ellen Welch’s papers are housed in the Northeastern University Library’s Archives and Special Collections. You can view the finding aid here. Come visit her collection to continue to activate the gift of her records for future generations.  

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Community Engagement