Giordana Mecagni

Neighborhood Matters, Spring 2018

Neighborhood Matters' Spring 2018 will focus on transportation in Boston. We will discuss how transportation has changed the fabric of the city by focusing on several key flashpoints: “I-695,” a highway rejected by community activists in the 1970s; the “Big Dig”, one of the nation’s largest infrastructure projects ever completed (1980s-1990s); and the "Silver Line,” (Phase 1 2000s) including current plans for expansion and improvement.
All events are free and open to the public, lunch will be served.  

2/3: Equal or Better: The Story of The Silver Line

12 PM, Snell Library, Room 90 (Film runtime 53 minutes) Featuring Special Guests Kris Carter and Scott Hamwey In 1987 the Washington Street Elevated train was torn down and the Washington Street corridor to Dudley Square was left without rapid transit for the first time since 1901. Equal or Better follows the story of a misstated promise to three Boston communities and the issues of equality still present in our country’s transportation priorities. Scott Hamwey leads the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Transit Planning team and oversaw the planning phase of the Silver Line Gateway Project. The Silver Line Gateway Project encompasses four new bus stations and connects Chelsea and East Boston (via the Blue Line’s Airport Station) with the Red Line’s South Station and the Seaport District. Kris Carter is the Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. He is a non-practicing engineer, an optimistic urban planner, and a self-taught filmmaker. He has a not so secret love for Boston (his adopted home) and working through challenging human-centered urban problems. Kris has been nationally recognized by the APA for his blending of storytelling and urban planning and the Federal Labs Consortium for his innovation in transportation work.

3/15: People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making

12PM Snell Library, Room 422 (Book talk) A book talk featuring special guest Karilyn Crockett, who is the author of People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making. Dr. Crockett is director of Economic Policy & Research for the City of Boston. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University. Linking archival research, (including in Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections), ethnographic fieldwork, and oral history, Karilyn Crockett in People before Highways offers ground-level analysis of the social, political, and environmental significance of a local anti-highway protest and its lasting national implications. The story of how an unlikely multiracial coalition of urban and suburban residents, planners, and activists emerged to stop an interstate highway is one full of suspenseful twists and surprises, including for the actors themselves.

4/3: Great Projects: The Building of America ‘The Big Dig'” (WGBH, 2003)

12PM Snell Library, Room 90 (Film runtime 56 minutes) Featuring Special Guest Fred Salvucci, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation. In the post World War II years, urban highways divided neighborhoods; nothing stood in the way of their construction. In Boston, the Central Artery cut through downtown Boston and the city was left with an ugly green monster, an elevated highway in the heart of its historic and business districts. By the 1970s, city planners wanted to tear it down but the existing highway was so vital to the city’s transportation that closing it down for any length of time was unfeasible. The solution to this dilemma became known as the Big Dig. A local engineer named Fred Salvucci, (whose own grandmother had been displaced by the Mass Pike years earlier), championed a complex plan that resulted in a transportation renaissance in Boston and a renewal of much of the city’s infrastructure.

 About Neighborhood Matters

Neighborhood Matters is a lunchtime series that celebrates the ways in which community groups have shaped the neighborhoods surrounding the Northeastern campus. This series is curated by Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections with the assistance of Library Communications and Events. Neighborhood Matters is co-sponsored by Northeastern University City and Community Affairs and Northeastern University Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Archives and Special Collections at Northeastern University Libraries The Archives and Special Collections at Northeastern University Libraries houses and carefully curates a diverse collection of historical records relating to Boston’s fight for social justice; preserving the history of Boston’s social movements, including civil & political rights, immigrants rights, homelessness and urban and environmental justice. They focus on the history of Boston’s African American, Asian American, LGBTQ, Latino and other communities, as well as Boston’s public infrastructure, neighborhoods, and natural environments. The primary source materials they collect and make available are used by the community members, students, faculty, scholars, journalists, and others from across the world as evidence on which histories are built. An understanding of the past can help inspire the next generation of leaders to fight for economic, political, and social rights.

Boston Public Schools collection project complete

The following is a series written by archivists, academics, activists, and educators making available primary source material, providing pedagogical support, and furthering the understanding of Boston Public School’s Desegregation history. The beginning of a multi-archival scanning project that would result in the Boston Public Schools Desegregation Collection occurred in 2014 after a collaboration with the Boston Public Schools on school desegregation curricula. Now, in 2018, six archives’ materials totaling in over 4,500 items have been unified through an effort of selection, scanning, and cataloging. As of February 1, the collection is now available for public research through a portal created by the Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections: https://bpsdesegregation.library.northeastern.edu. The portal includes guides on how to use the collection, materials for educators, and other resources including timelines, exhibits, and links to other school desegregation collections. You are invited you to explore the collection as you see fit, by browsing materials contextualized through the portal or by searching using the Digital Public Library of America widget on the home page. Materials narrating the experiences of students, teachers, parents, and other community members in the midst of school desegregation in Boston await you. This project was made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, Boston College Libraries, the Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University, the Boston City Archives, and the National Archives and Records Administration in Boston and the support of Digital Commonwealth and the Digital Public Library of America. Along with collaborative partnerships, this project received financial and administrative support from the Boston Library Consortium.

Dragon Prayer Book Featured on News @ Northeastern

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="364"] Photo cour­tesy of the North­east Doc­u­ment
Con­ser­va­tion Center[/caption]

Rare book from Northeastern archives selected for ‘illuminated manuscripts’ display November 15, 2016 by Thea Singer

A palm-​​size 15th-​​century book from Northeastern’s archives at Snell Library was selected to be part of the multi-​​venue exhibit “Beyond Words: Illu­mi­nated Man­u­scripts in Boston Col­lec­tions.” Described by its cura­tors as “the largest exhibit of pre-​​1600 man­u­scripts ever mounted in North America,” “Beyond Words” fea­tures more than 260 items span­ning the 9th to the 17th cen­turies donated by 19 Boston-​​area libraries and museums.

Northeastern’s con­tri­bu­tion is a Dominican Prayer Book of more than 500 pages, with text in Latin hand­written in the Gothic book­hand style. It has just a single illustration—a grotesque inside a large blue “R” on the first page—but red and blue text is sprin­kled throughout. The dec­o­ra­tions are what char­ac­terize it as “illu­mi­nated.” The man­u­script includes com­po­nents of a Book of Hours, prayers that were to be said at spec­i­fied hours of the day, and the prayer cycle Office of the Dead, among other devotions. Tiny tabs extending from the edges of cer­tain pages indi­cate where par­tic­ular sec­tions begin. [Read the Full Article]

New and improved! Portal to Latino/a collections

betances1999

Announcing the Archives and Special Collections new portal to Boston's latino/a history, http://latinohistory.library.northeastern.edu/!

Boston's Latino/a Community History Collection contains images, documents, and posters selected from the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción records and the La Alianza Hispana records held in the Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department. The documents scanned from the collection include organizational charts and histories, committee and taskforce meeting minutes, fact sheets, by-laws, articles of incorporation, annual reports, program descriptions and brochures, newsletters, and organizational reports. The records available in this online collection document public policy formation, community relations, affordable housing, urban planning and housing rehabilitation, cultural and educational programming, violence prevention, and minority rights during the last decades of the 20th century.

The collection was originally scanned and made available in 2009 by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services but has since been completely overhauled.  Each item was given additional item-level metadata allowing users to dig deeper into the collection.  The searching and browsing interfaces were rebuilt using the Library's Digital Scholarship Group's CERES: Exhibit Toolkit, giving users immediate and searchable access to the collection.  CERES is a user-friendly platform with which faculty, staff, and student scholars at Northeastern University are building WordPress exhibits incorporating curated digital objects.

To learn more about the Digital Scholarship Group and CERES, go to http://dsg.neu.edu/the-drs-project-toolkit-is-now-ceres-exhibit-toolkit/

BPS Desegregation Project: Q+A with Marilyn Morgan and Omeka.net

The following is a series written by archivists, academics, activists, and educators making available primary source material, providing pedagogical support, and furthering the understanding of Boston Public School’s Desegregation history. View all posts This Q and A was reprinted from  http://info.omeka.net/2016/03/site-highlight-stark-and-subtle-divisions/  with permission Dr Morgan seated at a desk holding a vintage swimsuit.Archivist, historian, educator, and baker of all things chocolate, Marilyn Morgan (@mare_morgan), investigates—and encourages students to explore—social trends, cultural stereotypes, and discrimination throughout American history. Her class site, Stark & Subtle Divisions: A Collaborative History of Segregation in Boston, showcases letters, photographs, legal documents, artifacts, and interviews that explore the federally-mandated desegregation of Boston public schools. Unearthing materials from various Boston-area archives, students selected a representative sampling and used Omeka.net to present them together in new collaborative context. The site runs on an Omeka.net Platinum plan

1. Briefly explain how you came to the project.

Last year, I became the Director of the Archives Program (History MA) at UMass Boston and created a new course “Transforming Archives and History in a Digital Age.” My goals for this course involved having students: conduct primary research in local collections, select and scan materials, create metadata for digitized items, build a collaborative digital archive, develop subject-area expertise, and design an online exhibit. Because I teach history and archives, I focused the class on a historical topic—the desegregation of Boston Public Schools (BPS). Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the federally-mandated integration of BPS; various separate archives in the area hold collections that document that complex history. As I was developing my course, Giordana Mecagni, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Northeastern University initiated a comprehensive cross-institutional scanning project to make archival materials related to the desegregation of BPS available in a large digital library. Boston Library Consortium funded the project that is supported by the technical infrastructure of the DPLA and Digital Commonwealth. This year, work my students are completing for their Omeka site—scanning and creating metadata for Boston City Archives—is feeding into the larger BLC initiative.

2. Why did you decide to build on Omeka.net, as opposed to a standalone Omeka site or some other platform?

Omeka provides a wonderful teaching tool for archivists and historians. It gives students hands-on experience implementing archival theory; it permits them to showcase historical research; and, ultimately, it enables them to create digital history for a public audience. Before I created my course, I searched for platforms that would meet my teaching goals. I wanted students to learn technical skills and acquire hands-on experience implementing practices used by digital archivists. But I also wanted students to immerse themselves in scholarly historical research and to create engaging and educational exhibits for a general audience. There aren’t many platforms that allow one to accomplish all of that. While other exhibit-building platforms exist, Omeka allows students to create a digital archive from start to finish. This entails selecting and scanning documents then creating metadata for digitized images. That back-end work teaches essential technical skills that aspiring archivists and digital historians need to hone. Equally important, when constructing Omeka exhibits, students must think critically about the items collectively and weave together narratives that form cohesive exhibits. To be honest, circumstances beyond my control affected my decision to use Omeka.net instead of creating a standalone site. My university did not have the technical infrastructure to support the standalone Omeka site. With Omeka.net there’s no need to have IT support or server space. I was pleased to discover that Omeka.net doesn’t limit one’s creativity in building a site.

3. What piece of advice would you offer to someone planning to use Omeka.net with a class of graduate students?

Build in plenty of time to learn and experiment, don’t be afraid to take risks, collaborate, and don’t get discouraged! When I decided to use Omeka.net in my course, I had absolutely zero experience using the platform. I confessed to my students in the first class that I had no idea if we’d be able to build the robust site we envisioned; but, even if we failed, we would have learned a great deal. I encouraged them not to obsess over individual grades and to approach this as a truly collaborative project—by the nature of the project, either we all succeeded or we all failed, to some degree. Collaboration proved key to building a successful site in many ways. I’d advise anyone beginning to teach with Omeka to identify local resources—both people and collections at local archives or libraries—that you can incorporate into your site’s construction. When beginning this project, I blindly reached out to Marta Crilly, Archivist for Reference and Outreach at Boston City Archives—I knew they housed ample material related to our topic. Over the past year and a half, Marta and I developed a mutually beneficial collaboration. I reached out to librarians, archivists, an audio engineer, and even a copyright attorney, at local institutions; the input of each helped me to create a robust site.

4. How did using Omeka change your and/or your students’ thinking about the content?

Our project’s topic—de facto segregation and the federally-mandated desegregation of Boston Public Schools—provoked deep controversy in Boston. In the mid-1970s, the issue of desegregation provoked violent confrontations and pitted white neighborhood against black neighborhood. Over forty years later, the topic continues to ignite heated reactions locally. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was learning that the heated reactions to desegregation of Boston Public Schools reached far beyond Boston. Using Omeka’s map tool, students could demonstrate that individuals from around the nation and the globe watched the media report on this issue. In the sampling of letters students selected, they discussed letters sent from as far away as Mexico, Germany, and Australia. Using Omeka, I realized quickly that creating an interactive digital exhibit on this controversial topic posed unique challenges that writing a traditional paper did not. If we proceeded incorrectly, instead of educating, we could provoke anger or alienate. Many complex circumstances surrounded the intense reactions to desegregation including racism, class disparity, ethnic antagonism, political maneuverings, and contests for authority between local, state and federal agencies. As students dug into the archives and shaped exhibits in Omeka, we learned that race alone could not predict whether one supported or opposed desegregation of BPS. For instance, violent opposition to the decision to desegregate schools didn’t necessarily indicate opposition to school integration. Some citizens (black and white) championed school integration but vehemently protested the plan’s implementation—“forced busing” of their young children to schools far away from their neighborhoods. Omeka helps us to convey the complexity of this emotionally-charged issue by showcasing the documents individually and allowing us to group them collectively to tell a narrative. In this way, exhibits can capture the raw fears, violence, and racist behaviors alongside of the hopefulness, compassion, and peaceful approaches.

5. What is one of your favorite items from the site to share (when talking about it)?

Letters written by third and sixth grade students to Mayor Kevin H. White constitute my favorite group of items. Some of the young letter-writers expressed fears while others boldly proposed no nviolent solutions to school integration. While it’s difficult to pick one favorite, the letter below stands within my top three. Writing on colorful stationary, the eleven-year-old student poignantly pleads that the mayor bus the teachers, not the students, “then maybe there wouldn’t be anymore stabbings and fights.”starksubtle2         The letter below, written by a third-grade student, writes “this is what I want” above a crayon drawing of a white child and a black child shaking hands. starksubtle3 Omeka makes it possible to view the handwritten letters—complete with misspellings and mistakes—and freehand drawings that children used to convey sentiments more clearly than words. These personal details add immeasurably to the content of the letters. They also convey the extent to which concerns about desegregation of BPS permeated the physical and emotional well-being of many Boston’s residents—even children.

6. What is the benefit to using Omeka as a teaching tool?

Traditional research papers function as a dialogue between student and professor; creating a project in Omeka expands the discourse and fosters a collaborative working environment. The tasks of learning new technology, conducting historical research, applying archival theory, acquiring subject-area expertise, clearing permissions, and presenting findings in a public forum can be overwhelming when undertaken by one individual. As a result, when using Omeka, students quickly learn to actively collaborate with one another, sharing discoveries that might benefit a classmate’s exhibit or teaching technical tips. I’m so pleased that my decision to teach with Omeka allows graduate students to simultaneously learn new skills, apply theory to practice, and contribute to public education in a practical way.