Archival Collections in the Classroom: A Conversation with CAMD’s Kara Braciale

Posted by: Regina Pagani


Last semester, students in Professor Kara Braciale’s “5D Experience/Drawing” class did a deep dive in the University’s archival collections, specifically exploring artifacts, stories, and documents related to the culture and history of the neighborhoods surrounding Northeastern University.

Students began their introduction to these archival materials by listening to oral histories from the Lower Roxbury Black History Project. After listening to the oral histories, each student was asked to identify an area of interest — a person, place, a theme — on which they would conduct further research and eventually develop a digital exhibition.

Connecting students to these archival collections provided them an opportunity to engage with varied primary sources and historical objects, to connect with their larger Boston community through place-based learning, and to create projects that are meaningful and accessible to both the Northeastern community and its neighbors.

I had a conversation with Kara Braciale about her experience with collaborating with the library and archives for this project, and about her decision to use Northeastern’s archival collections as a central resource in her course.  

Can you give us a little background on your course and about how this project came to be?

5D Fundamentals Experience/Drawing is a foundational course in Art + Design that considers experience, interaction, behavior and context through a lens of cultural production. For the past few semesters I have incorporated Service-Learning – the classes do project-based work that fills a need for our community partner (in this case Northeastern Crossing) while reinforcing connections to our course content. In my discussions with Derek Lumpkins (Director of Neighborhood Partnerships and Programs) and Marissa Luse (Campus Engagement Coordinator) at Northeastern Crossing, they were interested in projects relating to the Lower Roxbury Black History Project. Since the Lower Roxbury Black History Project is an online archive and the final project of 5D is screen-based, the idea of student designed websites connected to that archive coalesced from our conversations.

Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts: A Retrospective (1950-1985) by Samantha Borri, E/AMD’19, and Melina Paulli, AMD’19

Can you tell me a little more about your course’s project? What were your expectations around the web project?

The assignment evolved over the course of the semester since the content of the Lower Roxbury Black History Project was new to both me and to the students. We knew that we would be making websites and that they would come out of research relating to that archive but beyond that we didn’t know the shape of them. Our orientation in the archives with you, Regina, and Giordana Mecagni helped crystallize our process. After we learned how to navigate the physical collections, students went back into the Lower Roxbury Black History Project and listened to the histories and shared summaries and moments of interest with each other. Some students realized that they wanted to pursue what initially interested them during our orientation where we looked at the United South End Settlements records. Because Northeastern Crossing connects to all of the neighborhoods that surround Northeastern, it felt like fair game. Using the Lower Roxbury Black History Project as a model, our goal was to surface documents and materials relating to local people and institutions thereby increasing access to local histories.

Dana Chandler by Kevin Cannon and Greg Hackel-Johnson, AMD’19

What learning objectives were you hoping students would accomplish by the end of the project? Do you feel students achieved those objectives?

Students were tasked with researching and producing a screen-based experience that situated archival material in the context of the Northeastern Crossing website (their final home). This demanded a sustained research effort in the Archives as well as particular knowledge of our partner organization which students gained through firsthand experience of its programming as well through conversation and interaction with the staff. In 5D, students are pressed to be very specific about audience and context and the layering of spaces engaged in this project: web/virtual; archival/historic; local/community provided a fertile, if complex, environment in which to develop their work.

In a very concrete sense I wanted students to consider translating the physical materials found in the archives into a compelling experience on a screen. I also wanted them to consider the final home of their small websites as a framing device: who will be using their site and to what end? How is the purpose of their site influenced by the context in which it will be placed? From a skills-based perspective I wanted them to be able to design, construct and deploy a simple html/css based website. And finally I wanted them to have the experience of identifying and researching a subject that interested them personally.

One of the most gratifying aspects of the project development was seeing how deeply students were willing to dive into areas that fascinated them. Listening to interviews in the Lower Roxbury Black History project might have gotten them thinking about the art scene in Roxbury which led them to discover particular artists or ask questions about art education based on what they encountered in the archives. Some students were led to ask questions about the origins of organizations that are still active or about the built environment of our neighborhood. Every person or partnership produced a site that achieved the fundamental objectives for the project. More than that, students were able to uncover materials that otherwise live out of view and situate them as part of a local history. In the critique, we had an amazing moment where Derek Lumpkins was able to point to a picture of a young girl in a dance class in the 1950’s who still lives in Roxbury!

Consideration & Community Planning Techniques in Lower Roxbury 1970-2000 by Ralph Perricelli, AMD’18

Do you have any comments you’d like to add about what it’s like collaborating with the library & archives for teaching and learning?

Working with the staff of Archives and Special Collections was a highlight of my semester. The depth of expertise and facility and thoughtfulness with which it is shared by the staff is such a wonderful resource. Certainly these projects would never have happened without the aid of Regina and Giordana! I can see the value of orientation in the Archives for students in any discipline.


Explore a few of the students’ website projects below:

Consideration & Community Planning Techniques in Lower Roxbury 1970-2000 by Ralph Perricelli, AMD’18

Dana Chandler by Kevin Cannon and Greg Hackel-Johnson, AMD’19

Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts: A Retrospective (1950-1985) by Samantha Borri, E/AMD’19, and Melina Paulli, AMD’19

“WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED FROM PARCEL 19”: The Story of Villa Victoria by Nick Salerno, E’18


Interested in integrating Northeastern’s archives and special collections into your course? Fill out the library session form to request an archives workshop for your students or contact your subject librarian to discuss how to build an assignment based on the Archive’s primary source materials.


Posted in: Serendipity


Boston Public Schools collection project complete

Posted by: Giordana Mecagni


The following is a series written by archivists, academics, activists, and educators making available primary source material, providing pedagogical support, and furthering the understanding of Boston Public School’s Desegregation history.

The beginning of a multi-archival scanning project that would result in the Boston Public Schools Desegregation Collection occurred in 2014 after a collaboration with the Boston Public Schools on school desegregation curricula. Now, in 2018, six archives’ materials totaling in over 4,500 items have been unified through an effort of selection, scanning, and cataloging.

As of February 1, the collection is now available for public research through a portal created by the Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections: The portal includes guides on how to use the collection, materials for educators, and other resources including timelines, exhibits, and links to other school desegregation collections.

You are invited you to explore the collection as you see fit, by browsing materials contextualized through the portal or by searching using the Digital Public Library of America widget on the home page. Materials narrating the experiences of students, teachers, parents, and other community members in the midst of school desegregation in Boston await you.

This project was made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, Boston College Libraries, the Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University, the Boston City Archives, and the National Archives and Records Administration in Boston and the support of Digital Commonwealth and the Digital Public Library of America. Along with collaborative partnerships, this project received financial and administrative support from the Boston Library Consortium.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Serendipity


Rock Your Audio Engineering Skills in the Recording Studios in Four Steps

Posted by: Debra Mandel


Learn audio engineering basics from the experts. Workshops are small, friendly and no previous experience is necessary.

Register today!  Sessions meet @ 12-1pm and 6-7pm. 

Learn the roles of an engineer January 31

Learn about signal flow and microphones February 7

Learn how to use Pro Tools editing software February 14

Record a session and communicate with musicians February 21






These sessions meet in the Recording Studios, 210 Snell Library. The February 14th session meets in 422 Snell Library.

For more info., contact Thomas Bary at or call 617-373-2465.



Posted in: Serendipity


5 Essential Things you Need to Know About Snell Library: Spring 2018

Posted by: Jon Reed


Welcome back Huskies! We hope that your semester is off to a great start. Our staff at Snell Library wanted to jog your memory about five essential things to know about Snell Library in Spring 2018:

1. Get a jump start on your coursework by talking to your subject specialist. We have a specialist for everything you could need help with, from architecture to engineering, even 3D printing and video production. If you can’t stop into the library you can always search our FAQ or reach us 24/7.

2. We’re working to keep your library clean.  24/7 study can be a messy business, that’s why we worked with our partners at ABM to establish a nightly cleaning schedule for Club Snell.  Tuesday through Friday, each floor gets a whole night dedicated to cleaning.

3. You can now find textbooks easier than ever. Your professor can put your textbooks on reserve in the library. To find out if they did search on the library homepage or ask your professor.

4. Want to learn how to cite your sources like a pro? Beautifully visualize your data? Record the next Grammy-winning album? You can do that and more through our workshops. Keep an eye on our calendar for workshops, film screenings, and fun activities.

5. Ever forget you husky card but still want to get into the Library?  Too busy to commit your HuskyID to memory?  Well we installed a hand scanner just for you!  Register with Student Services to take advantage of this exciting pilot program.


Posted in: Serendipity


Finals Week 2017: You Got This

Posted by: Jon Reed


Finals: every college student’s favorite time of year. Your friends at Snell Library know that it is an incredibly stressful time. That’s why we’ve got some Finals Week activities for you at Snell.

Firstly, we’ll have a coloring table beginning on Reading Day and all through finals week set up in the first floor lobby. Coloring is a fantastic, proven way to reduce stress and focus on something other than college. 

Also on Reading Day, we’ll have massage chairs with professional masseuses as well as energy filled snacks to hand out from 12-4 PM. A big thanks to Fit University for making this happen. Feeling stressed about last minute citations, bibliographies, or research? We’ll have a Citation and Walk-In Research Clinic from 4-6 PM in the lobby on Reading Day for any last minute help you may need.

Throughout all of Finals Week, be on the lookout for goodie bag giveaways, free coffee study breaks, and positive sentiments from library staff. From all of us here at Snell Library, we wish you the best of luck on your finals!

Posted in: Serendipity