Archives and Special Collections

Archives, Historical Records, Special Collections

Archives and Special Collections joins New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC)

Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections, housed in Snell Library, has joined the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC). The NERFC is a collaboration of 30 cultural institutions and repositories across New England whose collections reflect the long and diverse history of the region.

The Archives and Special Collections will host stipended two-week residencies for NERFC fellows starting in 2020. Their research will make use of the University’s unique resources on Boston’s history of social justice activism, neighborhoods and public infrastructure, as well as records from individuals and organizations part of the city’s African American, Asian American, LGBTQA, Latinx and other communities.

The consortium’s fellowship program is designed to promote research across a variety of institutions and metropolitan areas in New England. To that end, the NERFC grants two dozen awards every year. Fellows receive a stipend of $5,000 with the requirement that they conduct their research in at least three of the participating institutions for periods of two weeks each.

The diverse group of institutions in the NERFC offer research opportunities in collections that span the region’s time period, from pre–European contact to the present day. Past awards have funded research on a wide array of topics conducted by scholars and independent researchers from across the US.

The Archives and Special Collections encourages researchers in the Northeastern community and beyond to apply to NERFC’s fellowship program by the February 1, 2020 deadline.

To learn more about the application requirements and other participating institutions, please visit the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium website.

Queer (In)Time: Student Curated Exhibit Using Archives and Special Collections Opens

On October 1, in celebration of “OUTTober” on Northeastern’s campus, an exhibit made in collaboration with the LGBTQA Resource Center and the Archives and Special Collections will open in the Center for Intercultural Engagement at 5:00pm.

The exhibit, titled “Queer (In)Time,” explores the array of Boston LGBTQA history housed in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections. Student curators, Jess Bardio and Nate Brown, who also work at the LGBTQA Resource Center, selected material for display focusing on four themes: Northeastern University LGBTQA Organizations, AIDS Activism in Boston, Existing LGBTQA organizations in Boston, and Intersectionality in Boston LGBTQA history.

Jess Bardio, who curated the AIDS Activism and Northeastern University LGBTQA Organizations portions of the exhibit, reflected on her curation:

"As an engineering student, I don't often get to work on projects relating to history or culture. Getting the opportunity to go through Snell Library's archives and experience Boston's queer history for myself was really inspiring, and getting to curate an exhibit that I get to share with my community feels really powerful.

This work came at an especially important time in my life—this weekend I attended the Out for Undergrad Engineering conference. Having the time and space to reflect on the progress made by the queer community really helped me put this weekend in perspective and make the most of my time with fellow 'engiqueers'!"

[caption id="attachment_275277" align="alignnone" width="232"] “Ally Card” business card handed out by Northeastern University Bisexual, Lesbian, and Gay Alliance for the Ally Project (1998)[/caption]

Nate Brown, who curated the Existing LGBTQA Organizations and Intersectionality in Boston LGBTQA portions of the exhibit reflected on their work:

"I felt responsible to use this source material carefully, to present the past without erasing anyone's contributions to it, in order to tell a story that could resonate with all queer people and not just the most visible. I spent a lot of time wondering about the people who wrote the articles or were pictured in the photos, and where they had gone since then, or if they were even still around today.

It struck me that the queer community in Boston and across the country used to be much tighter knit and more communal, and over the years (through the AIDS crisis, gentrification, lopsided social acceptance) we've grown apart. It's my hope that examining the past can help us grow back together in the future, and promote a sense of unity and responsibility to lift each other up."

[caption id="attachment_275281" align="alignnone" width="236"] Mass Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus flyer regarding gay & lesbian civil rights bill, 1989[/caption]

Come to the Center for Intercultural Engagement on October 1 at 5pm to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. Find more about the event on the LGBTQA Resource Center site. The exhibit was generously funded through a grant from the Northeastern Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

Learn more about our LGBTQA Special Collections by visiting lgbtqahistory.library.northeastern.edu.

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.

Getting to Know the Boston Globe Library Collection: Inside the Box

The Boston Globe Library Collection has significantly expanded the Northeastern University Library's Boston-focused social justice and community collections in its Archives and Special Collections. 4,376 boxes comprise over a million photographs, over five million negatives of unprinted photographs, and 119 years of newspaper clippings from the Globe, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, and other area and national newspapers. Today, this vast collection of visual and textual resources is open to all researchers, whose interests may range widely—from Red Sox scores and legislative debates to Melnea Cass’s relentless pursuit of racial and economic justice.

The collection of the Boston Globe Library is broken down into four parts: Newspaper Clippings, Microfilm, Print Photographs, and Negative Photographs. While researchers can access each part individually, all components of the collection can complement the different approaches to a research question. For instance, those interested in the history of school desegregation can use the print photographs study to how the first day of bussing was covered visually in the Boston Globe; the negatives to see all of the shots the photographers took, including the ones that were published; and the newspaper clippings to research the range of reporting on Boston Public Schools, desegregation, and the Boston School Committee.

Front and back of a photograph from the Print Photographs collection:

Researching with our Special Collections and the Boston Globe Library collection in tandem will enrich any telling of the history of Boston. In a series of upcoming posts we’ll share the many ways that research and rich experiential learning can be accomplished using the Boston Globe Library Collection. To find out more in the meantime, visit the finding aid here.

If you have any questions or would like to begin researching in the Boston Globe Library Collection please contact us at archives@northeastern.edu or 617-373-2351.

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.