Jill Chancellor

The Real Paper: An Alternative Approach to Real News

With its large college student population, Boston in the 1960s and 70s was fertile ground for the development of alternative newspapers that grew from the counterculture movement. One of these alternative newspapers was Cambridge-based The Real Paper, which was published from 1972 to 1981. Bound volumes of back issues, along with business materials from the paper, were recently donated to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections by former comptroller of The Real Paper Howard Garsh.

Cover image from an issue of The Real PaperOriginally the Cambridge Phoenix (known simply as The Phoenix), The Real Paper was formed in 1972 by the group of staff members left without jobs after the Cambridge Phoenix was sold to Stephen Mindich, owner of the rival alternative newspaper, Boston After Dark. This group of staff built their newspaper so that each employee was an equal shareholder in the company, and the board of directors and editor in chief position were decided on by vote.

Throughout the 1970s The Real Paper continued to publish its weekly newspaper aimed at college students and young adults. Issues of The Real Paper included local news stories on politics and social issues along with major national news. The Real Paper had an extensive arts section reporting on music, movies, and the wide range of concerts, classes, and performances happening in the Boston and Cambridge area.

While The Real Paper ceased publication in 1981, the paper served as a launching pad for many of its writers, including Bruce Springsteen’s manager and producer, Jon Landau; rock biographer Stephen Davis; culinary historian Laura Shapiro; and many others who continued writing at major publications such as Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Boston Globe.

The Real Paper collection, housed in the Library's Archives and Special Collections, includes bound volumes of issues covering all years of publication as well as administrative and financial records pertaining to the creation, selling, and closure of the newspaper. For access to the collection, please contact us at archives@northeastern.edu or visit us in the basement of Snell Library, room 092.

A Bird’s Eye View (and More) of the Big Dig

Map of Boston showing the different sections of road construction. The Central Artery is highlighted in yellow. The Central Artery/Tunnel project, also known as the “Big Dig,” was a mega-project intended to alleviate traffic congestion on the I-93 elevated highway. This was accomplished by building an underground highway that included links to Logan Airport and new bridges crossing the Charles River. We have several collections in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections that document various aspects of this construction from community activism to engineering. The newest of these collections is the John “Jack” M. Quinlan Central Artery/Tunnel Project Photographs.

Quinlan was the Director of Public Affairs for the Big Dig project from 1997-2003. It was his job to update the public on the project’s progress. He sent his staff up in helicopters as often as every two months to document the ever-changing landscape of the Big Dig construction. He then used these aerial photographs—along with additional photographs of other aspects of construction, graphics, and models—to put together presentations. These presentations were given to different audiences like business companies, law firms, and school groups.

Aerial of Logan International Airport with colored overlay showing future Interstate 90 airport traffic routes.  Cross section graphic showing the street level, MBTA transit way, an Northbound Central Artery tunnel.

With over 500 photographs in the collection, these photographs show a wide range of views of the Big Dig, from wide aerials and close up tunnel shots of construction to design graphics and models of construction. All items are digitized and available to view in Northeastern University’s Digital Repository Service.

Underground tunnel with center column separating Interstate 90 and Interstate 93 ramps.  Aerial view of Charles River crossing with partially constructed bridge.

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

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.

[caption id="attachment_275090" align="aligncenter" width="416"] A portion of the boxes that were able to fit into one photo.[/caption]

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.

[caption id="attachment_275085" align="aligncenter" width="455"] 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.[/caption]

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.

Archives and Special Collections Debuts New Finding Aids Directory

Our Archives and Special Collections recently debuted a new site for collection finding aids. Finding aids help researchers locate specific materials in archival collections, so they're an essential part of the archives experience. Staff have been working to ensure a smooth transition from the old method of locating finding aids so researchers are still able to find collections easily.

Archives and Special Collections staff have created subject guides for all our collections, which include both materials related to the history of Northeastern University and manuscript collections that capture the history of social movements, underrepresented communities, and infrastructure in Boston. These special collections cover a wide range of Boston history topics, from African Americans, the Latinx community, and women, to housing justice, education, the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (Big Dig), and more.

When on the Archives Catalog homepage, you can browse through these categories by clicking the Subject Guides link towards the bottom of the page:

Screenshot of Archives Catalog homepage

From the main Subject Guides page, you can choose where you would like to start your search. By clicking on the "Show Subgroups" buttons, you can see all of the different subgroups for each subject guide. So if you wanted to do some research for Black History Month, after clicking to see all the subgroups, you will see the African American subgroup under Manuscripts.

Screenshot of Archives Catalog - Subject Guides page, with African American subject heading highlighted

After clicking on the link, you'll be taken to a page listing all of the special collections related to African American history in Boston:

Screenshot of Archives Catalog page listing all collections related to African American history

Collections are also listed under multiple subject areas to help make them more accessible.

We hope these new subject guides help our researchers find all of the collections that we have to offer in Archives and Special Collections! And as always, if you have any questions or would like to come visit us, feel free to stop by Snell Library Room 092 or email us at archives@northeastern.edu.

Things to look at instead of your computer screen when you need a break

During finals week, it is important to remember to be kind to yourselves and give yourself a break every now and then. If you need a break from studying and from your all the variety of screens you’ve been staring at, come on down to the Archive and Special collections and look at some interesting books and photographs housed in our collections. We are located in the basement of Snell Library, Room 92. We are open Monday-Friday 8:30-5:00 so if you aren’t able to visit us during finals week, we’re always happy to have visitors!
  • Missing the warm spring days and the colorful flowers that accompany them? Take a look through our copy of Select Flower Arrangements of Moribana and Heikwa. This book is bound in green silk printed with branches and has an accordion style opening.
  • Need to see that there is life outside of finals? Our collection of photographs from The Theater Offensive shows colorful play performers and parties from this Boston based queer performance group.
  • If you’re just wanting to look at pretty and colorful pictures of building ornamentation, we have that too! In The Grammar of Ornament you can flip through this large volume exploring the different building designs from all over the world and all in full color.
  • In the mood for some frollicking animals? Come down and look at our copy of Chôjū Giga. These Japanese scrolls date from the 16th century and have been reproduced in a fold-out book. With scenes of frogs, mice, and monkeys, you are sure to forget (even if only for a little while) about the stresses of finals.
  • And speaking of de-stressing, we have another fold out book with Japanese artwork, titled Sesshu’s Long Scroll: A Zen Landscape Journey. This pocket-sized book with a printing from beloved Japanese artist Sesshu and is filled with Japanese landscapes throughout the seasons.
  • If you celebrate Christmas and are wanting to get into the spirit, we’ve got you covered.  You can look through pictures from our Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción records of past Christmas talent shows and events. We also have a beautifully illustrated poem by Sophie Jewett titled The Least of Christmas Carols.
  • Feeling nostalgic? Our collection of Northeastern Yearbooks allow you to go back in time and look into the lives of previous students. Fun Fact: this fall was the 75th anniversary of the first enrollment of women at NU. We have photographs of these women when they first enrolled as well as photographs from their 50th anniversary in 1993. If you’re interested in going even further back, we have a collection of photographs from African American photographer Charles H. Bruce who photographed various scenes around the Boston area in the early 1900s.
  • Traveling over the holidays? Or just wish you were? We have a multiple travel books and maps with illustrations that make you feel like you are there.  We have adventure memoirs from Rockwell Kent from his travels in Alaska as well as the Strait of Magellan in South America. If you’re looking for someplace warm to explore, we have The Golden Octopus: Legends of the South Seas filled with colorful illustrations of the Pacific islands. We also have maps of London and Paris from the 19th and 20th centuries that could help you plan your next trip across the Atlantic. The Paris guide even has a map of all the bus routes! (accuracy not guaranteed).
 
  • And finally, we have pictures of dogs, but not just any dogs. From 1920s-1970s, Northeastern University had its very own husky as a mascot. There were five dogs who were crowned King Husky and attended various events on campus throughout their tenure.
Good luck on finals week and have a wonderful break!