Archives and Special Collections

Archives, Historical Records, Special Collections

Papers of African American Architects Now at Northeastern

If you are like me and think the Southwest Corridor Park is one of the great hidden treasures of Boston, then you should read this article from the Globe about Donald Stull and David Lee, two great African American architects from the 1960’s whose achievements include the design of the Southwest Corridor, along with numerous other buildings in the Roxbury neighborhood. Snell Library’s Archives and Special Collections department has acquired the designs, drawings, and sketches of both men, now in their 60’s and 70’s. The Archives is in the process of applying for a grant that will allow them to hire new staff to sort through the 1,400 tubes and boxes containing Lee and Stull’s documents. Stull and Lee have connections with Northeastern dating back to 1966. Chuck Turner, who was a Northeastern administrator at that time, turned to both men to create the Southwest Corridor and re-vamp the surrounding neighborhood in order to make a better space for the mostly poor residents who lived nearby. The plan to build the park included the renovation of nine Orange Line stops that we all find so convenient today. It came as a welcome alternative to a proposed highway extension that was to be built in the same spot. Both architects empathized with the ideas behind the project because they had grown up poor, though they managed to graduate from the Harvard School of Design. In the Globe article, Stull said, “We were very much active in social change. We wanted people to have the opportunity to create their own destiny.” Today, the Southwest Corridor officially stretches from Dartmouth Street to Forest Hills, though the bulk of it runs through Roxbury. Today, Northeastern is no longer the mostly white commuter school it was in the 60’s, but a racially diverse boarding college located at the heart of the park. Most people, including most Northeastern students, probably do not realize how frequently they use the Southwest Corridor. But with this new acquisition of Stull and Lee’s archives, perhaps the beauty of this part of the city can be acknowledged once again.

Shades of Greatness: The Art of Negro League Baseball

In gallery 360, an travelling art exhibit on the Negro League baseball teams of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s is currently on display. The display, titled “Shades of Greatness,” is a combination of oils, mixed media, photography and sculpture. The works highlight the importance of the Negro Leagues in African American culture. This exhibit may be considered a larger extension of the small display that can be seen on the first floor of the library. (See the blog post on that display here). The exhibit has been up since May 17th and will close on July 23rd. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm. If you would like to schedule a group tour with LSCC, please contact or call 617-373-5845.

About The Arthur S. Goldberg Art Collection

The Arthur S. Goldberg art collection lives on the fourth floor. I am not an art critic. But I still found a few things to appreciate in this collection. What struck me about the artworks in general was not so much the  diversity of style and subject matter, but they way in which they utilized, echoed and sometimes paid direct homage to artists and artistic styles throughout history. Below I will write about two that I particularly liked. Take DeWitt Hardy’s Woman and Chair.  This painting oddly depicts a woman sitting on the floor beside a wooden chair, rather than in it. This deliberate non-conformity to the standards of portraiture is interesting  because it suggests that portraits can possibly be of two things at once, or draw relationships between objects first and people second, rather than the other way around. Purely in terms of subject, the painting can be seen as being about the ideal non-conformist; this pale, thin, spacey-looking woman smoking a cigarette, refusing to sit in the chair inches away from her, or to look beautiful for her portrait. This subject matter along makes the painting DeWitt’s own, but the first– an perhaps most superficial– thing that I thought of when looking at the painting, was the work of Andrew Wyeth. I guarantee everybody that they have seen an Andrew Wyeth painting; Christine’s World, of a girl lying in the middle of a wheat field, gazing at a farmhouse, is his most famous. With its faded colors and lines that emphasize sketching, as well as the subject of a girl, I feel Hardy was consciously influenced by Wyeth in this piece. Another painting with its foot firmly in the history of American painting styles is Robert Cottingham’s series of Barrera- Rosa’s. Each of the three paintings is a nearly photographic (just what Goldberg was looking for, apparently) reproduction of a city block of stores, including a restaurant called Barrera Rosa’s. The first painting, on the left, is a black and white sketch of the scene, giving the impression of a photograph from the late 19th or early 20th century. The second is a sketch of the same scene in brown tones, giving the impression of a negative image. The third and final scene is in color, and suddenly both the scene looks stunningly modern; this “photograph” could have been taken yesterday. In fact, not a single object has changed, and there are only two objects that suggest this could not have  been envisioned prior to the 1990’s; a digital crosswalk signal and a store advertising a payphone outside. The intention, though, is to give an impression of progressing through both photographic history and real history, even though neither history exists in the context of Cottingham’s work. It is a clever trick to play, and  in its repetition and deceptive blandness reminds me of Andy Warhol’s various art experiments. But I’ll take this one over anything he created. (Robert Cottingham’s Barrera-Rosa) These works and many others can be found on the fourth floor of the library. It is my hope that Arthur Goldberg someday donates more works; his collection is impressive and a pleasure to have here.

Oral Histories of Lower Roxbury Community Members Available for Research

Oral histories recorded under the auspices of Northeastern’s Lower Roxbury Black History Project are now open for research. The Lower Roxbury Black History Project evolved from a meeting on November 9, 2006 between Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun and members of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Massachusetts to discuss possible collaborations between Northeastern and Lower Roxbury clergy. During the meeting, Reverend Michael E. Haynes suggested the University create a history of the African American community in Lower Roxbury, so President Aoun appointed Joseph D. Warren, who was at that time Special Assistant to the Director of Government Relations and Community Affairs, to oversee the Lower Roxbury Black History Project. Warren’s advisory board consisted of Rev. Michael E. Haynes, formerly of Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church, Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing, Northeastern University Archivist Joan D. Krizack, and Northeastern University history professors William M. Fowler Jr., Gerald H. Herman, and Robert L. Hall, and Northeastern Vice President for Public Affairs Robert P. Gittens. In November 2007, Warren hired Lolita Parker Jr., a photographer and documentary film researcher, to collect oral histories of Roxbury community members. From 2007-2009 with the assistance of her son, London Parker-McWorter, Parker spoke with over 40 residents of Roxbury. The 758.28 gigabytes of digital files and .90 cubic feet of records date from 2007-2009.  The collection contains video and audio oral histories of African American clergy, educators, businessmen, politicians, community activists, former military men, laborers, and citizens of Lower Roxbury. Interviewees discussed their families, childhoods, and geographic areas in Roxbury, including Roxbury Crossing, Sawyer Street, and Haskins Street, from the early to mid-20th century. Records include audio (.aiff / .mp3 / .wma); video (.avi / .mov / iMovieProject / MiniDVs); partial, edited, and unedited transcripts of interviews; scans; and photographs. A guide to the collection is available here. The Lower Roxbury Black History Project collection is open for research Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., in the Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, 92 Snell Library, Boston, Massachusetts. For a list of all the Department’s special collections, see this link. Adelaide Cromwell, noted Sociology Professor and the first African American instructor at New York’s Hunter College, during oral history interview, 2 April 2009.   For more information, please contact Joan Krizack, University Archivist and Head, Special Collections, at or 617-373-8318.

Why Should I Go Looking in IRis?

"Tires to Fit," by Flickr user Bob Aubuchon

If I was applying to go to college, and was hearing over and over about how important research is at major universities, I might wonder what exactly that means. Research can be something of an abstraction to a high school student—most of the social and lab science taught in classes is done straight out of textbooks, two or three times removed from the original research that they’re based on. Northeastern has great opportunities for grad and undergrad students to be involved in research, with faculty and independently. IRis contains research done here at NU, and can show a prospective student both what she or he could be working on, and the kinds of research that are being done on campus that make NU unique. For example, I’ve gone through just now and seen a capstone project in mechanical engineering about turning tires into fuel. This seems like a really interesting project: the method is laid out for breaking down old tires, pulverising them into particles, and the economic model for generating fuel this way. IRis is free and open to the public, and is therefore a great way for the university to show off to prospective students. It can also be appealing to new students to see how their work could be published and permanently archived.