Archives and Special Collections


Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive – WBUR Oral History Project Announces Lesson Plans

Posted by: Claudia Willett


In the wake of the events that occurred on April 15, 2013 at the 117th Boston Marathon and on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Northeastern University English Professor Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and Assistant Professor Ryan Cordell recognized the obvious need for a space where people could tell and share their stories with each other.  They believed that sharing stories from survivors, families, witnesses, visitors to the city, and everyone around the world touched by the event will speed the healing process, and wanted to create that space as a gift to the community.

Together, they established the Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, a crowd-sourced, digital archive of pictures, videos, stories, and social media related to the Boston Marathon bombing.  Thus far, they have acquired an archive of almost 10,000 items, 3 interactive exhibits, and 3 major collections.


[April 21, 2013, from the Public Submissions collection]

This summer, I contributed to this remarkable endeavor as a Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) graduate summer intern sponsored by the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department and supported by the Project Co-Director James McGrath. In addition to exhibit building and social media, the main task of my internship was to create lesson plans for schoolroom use.

Because children were affected by this crisis as well, the team at Our Marathon thought it would help the healing process for children to use the Our Marathon archives—to remember and share stories in the safety of their own classrooms.  Additionally, it can be difficult for teachers to navigate the complex questions young students ask and a resource like the digital archive can work as a great tool to facilitate age appropriate discussion.

To that end, I helped create a Teaching Resources page for Our Marathon. This page showcases five lesson plans for Kindergarten through Grade 12 that utilize Letters to the City of Boston and The Copley Square Memorial collections,  and the WBUR Oral History Project as the basis for a teaching unit. These lesson plans are designed to demonstrate mastery of grade and subject appropriate Common Core Standards.

Hopefully, these assignments will generate more student submissions to the archive as well as create a platform for an important dialogue amongst students and teachers. I look forward to reading about their experiences in the Our Marathon archives.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, History, Information and Society, Library News and Events, Read, Listen, Watch, Research Online


New History of the South End Highlights Northeastern Archives’ Latino History Collections

Posted by: Andrew Begley


In her new book Legendary Locals of Boston’s South End, historian Hope J. Shannon highlights the role of community group Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (Puerto Rican Tenants in Action) in securing affordable housing for the South End’s Puerto Rican community in the late 1960s.

Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) began in 1967 as a grassroots movement against the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s urban renewal plan, which would have torn down affordable housing units in the South End, replacing them with new housing unaffordable to the existing residents. IBA incorporated in 1968 as the Emergency Tenants Council of Parcel 19, Inc. (ETC) and successfully designed its own housing development plan for a parcel of land in the South End (known as Parcel 19). In 1969, the Boston Housing Authority named ETC sponsor-developer of Parcel 19, and the resulting Villa Victoria housing development would become a model of citizen participation in urban renewal for housing developments across the country.

The records of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción can be found in the Archives and Special Collections Department at Snell Library, just one of a number of collections documenting the history of Boston’s Latino community. The Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción collection’s photographs have been digitized and are available online as part of the Boston’s Latino Community History exhibit on the Archives and Special Collections website.

Residents of Villa Victoria gather together

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Latin American and Caribbean Studies


Research in the Archives: Ashley Brewer

Posted by: Giordana Mecagni


The following is a guest post from Ashley Brewer ’18, a double major in History and English.

Last semester [Fall, 2013], as the final paper for my history course on Dissent in Modern America, I drew up a research proposal on the historic impact of bisexuals on the Gay Rights Movement. I structured this paper around the Bisexual Resource Center collection in Snell Library’s Archives and Special Collections department, partly because of how exhaustive and thorough it was as a source, but also because finding research on the history of the bisexual community was almost impossible. I was surprised to discover that the concept of bisexual erasure extended to the academic community as well; many of the few existing sources were merely self-help guides or scientific studies, with barely a footnote on the subject of the community’s history. Without Northeastern’s Archives, I would not have been able to write my paper at all.

The archive collection itself was received from the Bisexual Resource Center in 2005 and 2007, and consists of 11.5 cubic feet of conference minutes, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, articles, publications, survey results, and, my personal favorite, an extensive scrapbook of the 1993 March on Washington. The documents are not restricted to BRC records but rather cover a wide range of organizations and publications, and one pamphlet in particular details the history of the bisexual community more clearly and concisely than any of the other sources I was able to find. The Archives staff was enthusiastic and extremely helpful, and for future projects I will definitely check there first before venturing over to the Boston Public Library. I cannot begin to express how incredibly essential Snell Library’s Archives and Special Collections department was to my research, and I highly encourage others to take a look and see what they have to offer.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Information and Society, Serendipity


Free Admission to Touch History

Posted by: Michelle Romero


The Annual International Antiquarian Book Fair is coming to Boston this weekend, November 16th-18th, at the Hynes Convention Center.  The 3-day event offers visitors an exciting opportunity to view, handle, and purchase rare books, manuscripts, and collectibles, including a signed photograph by John F. Kennedy, a first edition of The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells (1910), and Miles Davis’ autographed musical manuscript.  The event will also include seminars and panel discussions.

On Sunday, November 18th, all students with a student ID will have free admission.  Be sure to bring your books, free appraisals will be available Sunday from 1-3PM.

For more information, please visit the Book Fair website:

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Cinema Studies, English and American Literature, History, Music


More Co-op Reflections

Posted by: Karly Domsky


Following the first set of Co-op reflections, yesterday, today we present our fellow Library Co-ops, Colin Parmalee, Archives Co-Op, Anthony Gentles, DMDS Co-op, and Kyle Maguire, Library Technology Services Co-op, sharing their Co-op experience over the past semester at the Snell Library as well — Karly


I worked as the co-op student for the archives. I did a variety of work for the archives, mostly working on projects that last anywhere from a few hours to over a week. One of the major projects I worked on involved picking up a new donated collection, which involved going off-site and boxing and labeling the collection. I also worked on sifting through and describing new donations for press releases and for further archiving work. Most of my work involved current collections, going through unlabeled donations and adding descriptions. I learned a significant amount from this work, chiefly the prep work necessary for archiving materials as well as the process by which collections and processed and housed for the archives.

The most unexpected part (which, coincidentally, was also the best part) about working on the various projects was finding tidbits of history among these collections. Going through photo collections I would find recognizable historical figures or letters penned by famous people, which was fascinating. This is also what I’ll remember most, such as stumbling upon pictures of the Patriots from the 1970’s, or Reggie Lewis, or a letter from John F. Kennedy to an alum. Fascinating nuggets of history in the archives. In terms of advice to future co-ops, I would say that this is a great co-op for someone who hopes to work in a library or in a historical/archival position in the future. There’s a lot of great experience here and it’ll really help you going forward.



I began working as a co-op for the Digital Media Design Studio (or DMDS for short) during the first week of January 2012. There were several areas of the job that I were unsure about when I first began working (such as checking out equipment, certain answers for questions patrons had, rules and regulations for the recording room, etc.). However, the answers to these uncertainties all became very familiar after watching my supervisors handle the circumstances for a while.

Once the basics were learned, the job became fairly easy. Nearly all of the students who used the DMDS had similar questions and concerns as other students who came in. There were rarely moments when I asked Jonathan or Thomas for assistance because I did not know the answers myself. It was definitely a great feeling helping these students with their projects. It were as if I was teaching them skills they would have never learned while in the courses related to their specific majors.

Outside of answering questions whenever they would arise, I was also in charge of occasionally teaching workshops. These workshops were basic introductions to the editing software that we offered at the DMDS. Though many students are still unaware that the Library offers workshops for these programs, the students who did come into the DMDS were excited to be introduced to such programs. When workshops were not scheduled, often students would come to me for one-on-one help with these programs (generally for Final Cut Pro).

I was also involved with various media production projects for the Library and DMDS. My first major project involved creating an introduction video for the DMDS. This became a huge learning process for me, as well as the other members of the DMDS (in regards to having a smooth production schedule/process). This video took an unnecessarily longer timespan finish, due to much back-and-forth viewings of the video. After the project was finally complete, the DMDS and other members of the library came together to form a new system for future production projects. This new system was used in another media project I participated in (for the Library and Charlotte campus). The process for this video ran much smoother and efficiently in comparison to the first, proving our new system to be a success. I also created several posters and snippets for the Library/DMDS, which can be seen among the hallways and corridors of the library.

All in all, I would recommend this co-op position to any student who is interested or involved in media work. There is much that can be learned from your peers that work in the DMDS, as well as through your own personal training. The job will provide ample time to enhance your skills in a program you are familiar with, as well as educate you in new areas that may be less familiar.



I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first arrived at the library for my co-op. Never having worked in a library, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised. As I became more involved I began to realize what goes into organizing and maintaining a library, something that I would never have stopped to consider before coming here. I’m sure there will soon be a day where my friends laugh at me as I ramble on about the intricacy of library systems.

The project I’ve been involved with (the Digital Repository Service) is incredibly interesting and fun to work on. I cannot imagine a learning environment more suited to my needs. I was able to work very independently on the project and make design decisions on the fly, guided by the basic requirements for the system given to me by Patrick. This freedom, while initially daunting, required me to teach myself as I discovered new challenges and it really pushed me to expand and improve upon my skill-set.

I’ve greatly expanded upon my knowledge of PHP and JavaScript and I’ve picked up a lot of new knowledge about Linux systems and web servers, an area I had previously steered clear of. Not only did I gain these technical skills but I also improved upon my ability to organize and plan systems. The freedom given to me, along with the scale of the project, really let me practice this, as there were no strict specifications for what we were creating. The fact that I was only here temporarily also contributed to these gains, as I needed to document my work very clearly and create the pieces of the system modularly for future uses and implementations.

To any co-ops that come after me, I’d recommend that you be a fast learner and be able to make decisions independently and intelligently. Because the LTS department is relatively small, you need to be able to fend for yourself to an extent. If you’re up for it, though, it’s an incredible benefit of the position to be able to guide your own learning experience.

I also want to thank everyone here for being so warm and welcoming. Much thanks to Patrick for trusting me to work on his project and for being such a great boss, thanks to the LTS team for being so incredibly easy to work with, and thanks to everyone else I’ve met here for being so kind. It’s really a great work environment and a great community.


Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Digital Media Design Studio (DMDS), Library News and Events