Archives and Special Collections

Archives, Historical Records, Special Collections

Ready to Research: Newly Processed Collections Asian American Resource Workshop and the Fenway Alliance

Black and white image of people marching and holding signs
Demonstration against the construction of the DD Ramp into Chinatown, circa 1997, photographer Anne Marie Booth. Asian American Resource Workshop records, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

Introducing the Asian American Resource Workshop Finding Aid
Contributed by Dominique Medal

The Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW) was founded in 1979 as one of Boston’s first pan-Asian organizations. AARW expanded from an initial focus on cultural and educational programming to addressing social and economic justice issues facing the Asian American community, including violence against Asian Americans and urban renewal and development in Chinatown.

Two women painting a mural
Two women painting a mural of faces, circa 1990, photographer unknown. Asian American Resource Workshop records, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

The records held by the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections date from 1979 to 2012 and document AARW’s activities through administrative records, photographs, reports, documentaries, promotional materials, and subject files.

The collection focuses on AARW programs, including Asian and Pacific American Heritage Week, the Boston Asian American Film Festival, the Civil Rights Capacity Building Project, the SafetyNet Violence Prevention Project, and the Sticky Rice Project.

To learn more about the Asian American Resource Workshop records, explore the finding aid and digitized content from the collection in the Digital Repository Service.

Introducing the Fenway Alliance Finding Aid
Contributed by Irene Gates

The Fenway Alliance is a consortium of Fenway neighborhood cultural organizations and educational institutions (including Northeastern University). It was first founded in 1977 as The Boston Plan. The consortium addresses areas of shared concern that range from security and parking to physical improvements of the neighborhood.

The records date from the 1970s to the 2010s and document the administrative records, plans, reports, photographs, and subject files. A recent donation by the organization’s Director of Planning from the late 1970s to the 1990s includes photographic slides such as the one featured here.

A body of water with lush trees and grass behind it. A stone bridge is visible in the distance
Back Bay Fens, July 1988, photographer unknown. Fenway Alliance records, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

Collection topics include Fenway area transportation, housing, demographics, physical landscape, historic preservation, and cultural programming. Some major projects undertaken by the Fenway Alliance in the past include the Avenue of the Arts designation, the Fenway Cultural District designation, and the Muddy River restoration.

To learn more about the Fenway Alliance records, explore the finding aid.

Sourcery Request Button is Live for Archives & Special Collections

Sourcery logo

For the past several years, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections has partnered with the University of Connecticut’s Greenhouse Studios to test and pilot Sourcery. Sourcery is a platform that aims to remotely connect researchers with primary sources at a variety of cultural heritage institutions through scan requests. With this mission, the Sourcery team hopes to provide broader access to archival materials for any researcher anywhere.

Icon of the Sourcery button

The newest development for this project is a Sourcery button that can be found in the archives’ finding aid catalog, ArchivesSpace. When users view a specific collection’s finding aid, the Sourcery button will appear. Clicking it will generate a citation of the collection’s series or folder currently being viewed and bring the user directly to Sourcery to make a request for a specific file from the institution where the collection is located.

To use Sourcery for archival research, create an account at the Sourcery app website. Once registered, requests can be made directly from the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections’ finding aid catalog via the purple Sourcery button in the upper right corner of the page.

A tip for researchers: The more specific, the better! While the Sourcery button appears the moment you open a collection’s finding aid, try navigating within the finding aid’s organization to provide a more granular citation. Making requests for specific items within a collection by going to that item’s (or file’s) page will greatly help archives staff fulfill requests in a timely manner.

Screenshot of Sourcery in action

As the archives continues to prepare for a full opening, staff are looking forward to assisting researchers on any platform!

For more information about Sourcery’s progress, visit their substack blog.

Governor Dukakis and Boston’s 4-Day-Long Valentine’s Celebration

A square black and white valentine featuring Michael Dukakis' face in the middle of a heart of flowers with other flowers in the background
This Duka-KISS is for you

When you look in the Boston Globe Library Collection folder labeled “Valentines,” you might be surprised to find a photo of a Valentine whose central feature is former Governor Michael Dukakis. The reason the Globe had this Dukakis Valentine from 1978? In 1978, Valentine’s Day was four days long.

The year of 1978 is infamous in Boston history due primarily to a blizzard bringing over 27 inches of snow on February 6. With a week-long driving ban imposed by Governor Dukakis, along with families and businesses navigating the damage of the blizzard, the incredible amount of snow over such a short period of time deeply impacted and impeded the city economically and socially. This all happened leading up to Valentine’s Day, worrying businesses who heavily relied on the holiday’s sales of flowers, cards, and candies. Governor Dukakis had a creative solution.

In a February 1978 State House Press Conference, Dukakis said that “for spiritual as well as economic reasons,” the Valentine’s Day holiday would not only be observed on Tuesday, February 14th, but also February 15th, 16th, and 17th, and it would culminate with a Valentine’s party on Friday afternoon at the State House.

Thanks to Dukakis’ Valentine’s decree, sweethearts across Boston had ample time to secure flowers and chocolates for their loved ones, and stores furnishing those gifts wouldn’t be stuck with an abundance of Valentine’s stock.

The Boston Globe printed this Valentine dedicated to Dukakis in their February 14, 1978, paper, beginning their documentation of Valentine’s observances throughout the four-day-long celebration.

Gina Nortonsmith Discusses Work with CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive in NEA Newsletter Article

Gina Nortonsmith, a smiling woman with short hair and glasses
Gina Nortonsmith

Northeastern University African American History Archivist Gina Nortonsmith had an extensive article published in the January 2024 issues of the New England Archivists Newsletter, discussing her work with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project’s Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive.

Nortonsmith was originally hired as a Project Archivist for the CRRJ, tasked with compiling anti-Black homicide case records from the Jim Crow era into a collection to allow for accessibility and trend study by researchers. In the article, she discusses her work and the overarching goals of both representing the work of the CRRJ while also maintaining “the dignity and respect for victims and their families.”

To do this, Nortonsmith and the rest of the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive team centralized the victims’ lives and stories, not just the crime that was committed against them. In her article, she discusses approaching each record as referring to a real person and not an abstract notion. Often that included discovering and using victims’ real names, instead of alternate names or misspellings that are common in the records.

“We wanted to build an archive which illuminated CRRJ’s work and that led us to put the victim and their story foremost in arrangement, description, and access,” Nortonsmith wrote.

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archives contains investigative records from federal and local entities as well as records from advocacy groups and letters from family and community members advocating for justice. They also included death certificates, newspaper articles, photos, and more. Taken together, these records provide a complete story of the prevalence of anti-Black violence and murder in the Jim Crow South from 1930-1954 and the failures of the justice system to solve these crimes and punish the perpetrators.

As archivists, Nortonsmith and her team made sure these records were catalogued and organized in a way that included and highlighted all parts of the victims’ life and story. Working with such subject matter was difficult, but “knowing that we were helping to bring these stories forward once again went a long way toward keeping us moving forward,” Nortonsmith wrote.

The January issue of the New England Archivists Newsletter is currently available for subscription-holders. Past issues are freely available on their website.

Box By Box: Inside Archival Processing of the Stull & Lee Records

Since October, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections processing assistants have been inventorying the records of Stull & Lee, a Boston-based architectural and urban design firm founded by Donald Stull in 1966. The firm is still active today, under the leadership of David Lee. The records held by Northeastern date from the 1960s to the early 2000s, spanning over 400 boxes and 700 tubes, and they document hundreds of projects, including the Southwest Corridor, Ruggles Station, and Roxbury Community College. Meet our processing assistants as they go through the collection, box by box.

A collage of images of the Stull & Lee collection, including boxes of documents, blueprints, and an image of two men posing in front of a building
A peek inside the Stull & Lee collection


A smiling man wearing glasses and a gray hoodie holds a disposable camera while standing in front of an archival box

I’m Samuel Edwards (he/him). I just completed my Master of Arts degree in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management at Simmons University, and I have a Bachelor of Arts in History and Playwriting from Hampshire College in western Massachusetts. Some of my interests in archives include the history of social movements, LGBTQ+ history, local history, and anti-racist archival work. Outside of my archival work, I enjoy creative writing, theater, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends.

Working on the Stull & Lee records has been an enlightening experience. I didn’t have a lot of familiarity with architecture or architectural records prior to working on this collection, but it’s fascinating to realize how much goes into creating just one building. You don’t just have the architects, but also electricians, plumbers, and other trades that help create the building. I have a newfound appreciation for buildings that previously just blended into the background, especially the buildings I walk by daily on my way to Northeastern which were designed by Stull & Lee, such as Ruggles Station.


A smiling woman with glasses and a red shirt pulls a box from a shelf

I’m Julia Lee (she/her). I recently graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theatre, and my final co-op was as a digital assistant for the Massachusetts Archives. My archival interests include early American history, including the Revolutionary War, Asian-American history, and the history of Boston.

For me, working with the Stull & Lee records started with inventorying boxes of files belonging to several architects, including the firm’s namesakes Donald Stull and David Lee. It turns out that the two men had quite distinct organizational styles. While several of Lee’s folders included colorful titles patterned after the T’s Orange Line signs, Stull favored concise alphabetization for his files. I’ve enjoyed the greater understanding I’ve gained of Boston’s architecture, transit, and public works through working with the collection, especially about the area around Northeastern, where I’ve lived for over four years now. This is my second time working in an archive, and it has served to solidify my goal of obtaining a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science in the coming years.


A smiling man sits at a table with a laptop and a stack of documents, surrounded by archival boxes

I’m Aleks Renerts (he/him). I am a current graduate student at Simmons University in the dual Master of Arts degree program in History and Library and Information Science, with a concentration in Archives Management. My academic background is in history, with a focus on the Hispanic world and histories of class, gender, and colonialism. I received my Bachelor of Arts in History from McGill University, and have since partially redirected my focus to archives and archival research.

Something I’ve found interesting in the Stull & Lee records is the massive degree of collaboration that every architectural project depends on. Memos, notes, letters, logs, and drawings are sent back and forth with revisions, showing the complex process that goes into completing a project. There’s an incredible level of detail for all the parts of a completed structure, from steel framing and floor tiles to the mechanics of a door lock. Working on Stull & Lee has given me an appreciation of just how much detailed work goes into every part of constructing a building.