Archives and Special Collections

Archives, Historical Records, Special Collections

New Look for Library Website

Here at Snell Library we’re about to launch a redesigned home page! A library committee did surveys and testing with NU faculty, students, and staff, with the goal of making the site more user-friendly. On the new version you’ll find:
  • Front-and-center research tools
  • Streamlined, easier-to-use visual design
  • Quick access to course reserves, interlibrary loan, and other frequently-used services
  • A Multi-Search box, right on the front page, that lets you search multiple databases at once
We tried to make our research tools the central focus of the site — you should be able to locate ejournals and databases easily, as well as popular services. You’ll also find easy access to research guides, developed by our subject librarians, to help you find the most important resources in your academic discipline. You’ll still find up-to-date library news and info on our events, and we’ve added links to this blog and our Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube sites. We thank everyone who has provided feedback so far, and we’d love to hear from more of you. Go to our page at to see a sneak preview, try out the new site, and offer your comments!

Erasing the tape

Buzz Aldrin on the moon Yes, Rebecca, I remember it! I was a little tyke at the time, but my parents woke me up and put me in front of the TV to see Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. They knew it was historic, Armstrong knew it was historic, the TV broadcasters knew it was historic. So you would think someone at NASA would have thought to put a sticky note or “Don’t erase this” in red marker on that moon landing videotape, right? But, apparently…not. So the original video of the moon landing, according to NASA, was probably taped over in the 1970s. Fast forward to the 40-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and sure enough, NASA has spent over $200,000 restoring and “enhancing” television video copies of the moon landing with the help of a Hollywood film company. On the plus side, apparently the picture quality is better than the TV. You can compare them on the NASA web site. I’ve been thinking about the whole cost-benefit of preservation in the context of our Archives and Special Collections department, which is preserving and digitizing NU’s history and local Boston history, too, hopefully more diligently than NASA! After all, does anyone here have 200 grand to spend restoring our stuff?

Joan Krizack appointed to the Massachusetts Archives Advisory Commission

We’re very please to announce that Joan Krizack, University Archivist and Head, Special Collections for Northeastern University Libraries, was appointed by Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin, to the Massachusetts Archives Advisory Commission.   The Archives Advisory Commission was established in the mid 1970’s as the central advisory body for historical records planning for the state.  The Commission is mandated to advise the Secretary on archival matters and establish, with the Archivist of the Commonwealth, a comprehensive statewide documentary preservation plan. Acting as the central advisory body for historical records planning, the Archives Advisory Commission served as the model for the National Archives when it established a State Historical Records Advisory Board in every state. They have a number of online exhibits, and from one entitled Le Grande Derangement, I learned that in 1755 10,000 French Canadians were exiled from Nova Scotia, and 1,000 of them ended up as refugees in Massachusetts. As these ‘Acadians’ did not pledge allegiance to the British Crown, they were compelled to remain until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.  At that time most tried to relocate to other French regions where they shared a language and religion-France, Quebec and Haiti, along with Louisiana.  It’s an interesting interment history that I knew nothing about until discovering the exhibit.  Apparently, Longfellow also wrote a related poem titled Evangeline, about lovers separated during the conflict, that later served as the basis for a movie starring Dolores del Rio!

Images and belonging

I was fascinated to read in this morning’s Boston Globe that a new and compelling image of Phineas Gage has recently been uncovered.  Gage is the famous 19th century Vermonter who was shot through the head with a piece of iron in an industrial accident, and survived–but with his personality completely changed. He became the subject of one of the most famous medical cases in history, illustrating the functions of different parts of the human brain. The photo was identified because the owner scanned it and posted it on Flickr.  What a great example of how content on the open web takes on a life of its own, and becomes something entirely different from what we thought, something that no longer belongs to us alone. In this case, the owner of the photo (it’s actually a daguerreotype) originally thought it depicted a 19th century sailor with a harpoon.  But a Flickr viewer recognized it as something else.  High resolution scanning and zooming confirmed that the man is indeed Gage   Now the daguerreotype is no longer just a curio belonging to a collector, but an cultural artifact that belongs all of us. I wonder what our viewers will uncover from the images published in the NU library’s Archives and Special Collections.  Are there Phineas Gages in our digital collections, waiting for you to discover them?

Joan Krizack named Fellow of Massachusetts Historical Society

Joan Krizack
From an announcement today by Acting Dean of Libraries Will Wakeling: I am excited to be able to tell you all of a great honor which has been bestowed on one of our colleagues and co-workers. Joan Krizack, University Archivist and Head, Special Collections Dept., has been elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The Fellows, elected by their peers, comprise ” a special body of those who have excelled in preserving and making available the history of our state.” Congratulations to Joan for this eminent recognition of her distinguished and continuing contribution. (image courtesy of Society of American Archivists)