Archives and Special Collections


Boston Public School Desegregation project commences

Posted by: Giordana Mecagni


Freedom SchoolThe 2014-2015 school year marked the 40th anniversary of Boston Public School (BPS)’s court-ordered school desegregation.  To commemorate this event, BPS is building a multi-grade curricular unit for students to study the city’s school desegregation and “busing” crisis.  Before this unit was created, students learned about integration efforts only through the case study of Little Rock, AK.  Neglecting to address, understand, and own Boston’s own civil rights struggles perpetuates the notion that the Civil Rights Movement targeted injustice and segregation only in the South, when in truth, Boston’s struggles were equally important and difficult.

To assist this effort, Northeastern’s University Archives and Special Collections is coordinating a multi-archive scanning project whose goal is to make available archival material that relates to what how and why busing happened in Boston, as well as the after effects it had on the community.  The goal is to create a digital library of material that can be widely disseminated for both curricular and scholarly use.

This effort has been made possible by a gift from the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), whose leadership has been essential to this project.

This School Desegregation and ”Busing”  Digital Library is a lightweight, nimble project that attempts to lay the technical and descriptive groundwork for cross-institutional collaboration through the technical infrastructure of the DPLA and Digital Commonwealth.  It also serves as the kernel of what all hope becomes a long-standing collaboration between BPS and local archives.   In an ideal world, all 57,000 BPS students visit an archive during their K-12 years.  Realistically, digitizing this material allows teachers unfettered access to a deep pool of primary source material which can inspire students to learn more about the history of their own city and become emerging leaders.

The BLC members initiating this effort are University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, The State Library of Massachusetts’ Special Collections, and Boston College’s John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections.  Additional archival partners include The Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University and the Boston City Archives.

Partner institutions are scanning material that illuminate the complexity of state- and city-wide politics, community activism and advocacy, and all parties’ reactions to national and local legislation.  The time frame covered originates with the Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954), works through the Civil Rights Act (1964), into and past the Morgan v. Hennigan case (1974), and the resulting citywide unrest.  The collection aims to illustrate the reaction of politicians, school staff and administrators, parents and community members to desegregation by busing.

To watch the growing collection of items that is Northeastern’s contribution to this effort, please visit the University’s Digital Repository.


Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Collections, Serendipity


Professor of History Gerry Herman Retires After 50 Years at Northeastern

Posted by: Andrew Begley


Just try to name a University committee that Gerry Herman hasn’t been involved with over the past half-century. Handbooks and contracts? He reviewed them. Strategic Plans? He helped plan them. Technology and distance learning initiatives? He championed them.

Herman first called Northeastern home as a graduate student in 1965. Since then, he has been on the cutting edge of  incorporating media into the  study and teaching of history. He taught courses on topics ranging from Western and World History to the History of Flight and Space Travel. Herman has given new meaning to the term “University Service,” serving as University Copyright Officer (1988-2012), Special Assistant to the Provost (1979-1987), and Special Assistant to University Counsel (1987-2012) in addition to chairing a host of committees and task forces. Herman has also been integral to the success of Holocaust Remembrance Week, serving on the Holocaust Awareness Committee from 1983-2013. Professor Herman retired from the University on July 1, 2015, but his impact will surely be felt for many years to come.

Herman’s professional papers and records (the Gerald H. Herman Papers) are preserved in the Archives and Special Collections Department in Snell Library.


Herman teaching an honors seminar in 1984.

Professor Herman in 1975.

Herman and President Richard Freeland at the inaugural NUTV broadcast, April 1997.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, History, Serendipity


The Theater Offensive: 25 Years of Gay Theater, Bold Pride, Conscious Intersectionality, and #BlackLivesMatter

Posted by: Kieran McGhee


Northeastern’s Special Collections and Archives preserves The Theater Offensive Records, a prominent gay theater troupe that has long been a defining presence with the Boston gay community. Founded by Abe Rybeck in 1989, the Theater Offensive boasts that they are “Twenty-Five Years BOLD” this year. From  the OUT on the Edge festival, to championing AIDS Awareness in the Fenway in the early 1990’s, to the queer cabaret band, Adult Children of Heterosexuals, the Theater Offensive celebrates their fearlessness and has never shied from political activism and social justice, making this collection wholly unique and incredibly modern – even with its quarter century time stamp.

                   Political stickers from the late 1980’s, from the United Fruit Company Series.

This collection offers a backstage look at what it takes to run a gay theater troupe in Boston. This includes not only the fights for funding, but the overwhelming social justice obligation of being a member of such a massive and vocal community. For over twenty years, the Theater Offensive has taken that responsibility in stride, which is showcased in this collection’s festival posters, photographs, strategic planning for outreach, and demand for community presence.

Posters for plays depicting black gay life, from the Other Festivals and Production Series

People of color, especially people of color within the LGBTQA community, deserve and need to have their stories told. The Theater Offensive collection showcases how they have been boldly telling these stories for years and makes one realize how we are only just now starting to listen.

As this collection reflects, the Theater Offensive will continue with the message they have chanted, sung, and marched for since 1989: #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackGayLivesMatter, #BlackTransLivesMatter as they did proudly at Boston’s Annual Gay Pride Parade in June, 2015.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections


Lawsuit Against the MBTA for Unlawful Censorship of Condom Campaign Ads

Posted by: Claudia Willett


Did you know that in 1994, the AIDS Action Committee sued the MBTA for unlawful censorship of a subway campaign featuring the use of condoms?  Seems hard to believe, but you can read all about it in our Archives and Special Collections, which has received a donation of new material from former AIDS Action Committee Director Thomas McNaught (1991-1996).

This donation adds to the existing AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts Records in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

While processing the new materials I noticed the photo of Captain B. Careful on the Boston Common. It stood out  for a few reasons. His sheer ingenuity for costume design. The huge smile on his face even though it was noticeably cold outside.

Captain B. Careful, Condom Campaign. AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc. (M61, Box 42, Folder 14.)

Less tangibly his image stood out to me because he symbolizes a continuity in Boston’s legacy of advocating for the power of knowledge and striving toward equal rights and opportunity for all. 

In 1992,  AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC)  introduced New England’s first public service television AIDS prevention campaign directed at gay men.

They also launched the United States’ first statewide transit campaign for AIDS awareness by placing condom posters on 437 buses throughout Massachusetts ultimately leading to a legal battle with the MBTA.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • photographs and press
  • outreach material regarding the condom campaign
  • materials on the AAC’s education and prevention campaigns
  • documentation regarding the AAC’s lawsuit against the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) for unlawful censorship of a subway campaign featuring the use of condoms in 1994

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Information and Society, Staff Interests


Meet the Inaugural DRS Pilot Projects

Posted by: Amanda Rust



The Library’s Digital Scholarship Group is excited to announce projects chosen for the 2015 DRS Project Toolkit Pilot program. In this Pilot program, we work with selected digital projects at Northeastern to develop new tools for online scholarship. Projects will store and preserve their digital content in Northeastern’s next generation Digital Repository Service (learn more about the DRS here). Projects can then use platforms like WordPress and Omeka to curate and display this work in an engaging and accessible manner on the web. The Digital Scholarship Group received impressive proposals from a wide range of Northeastern’s colleges and departments, and are looking forward to working with the following three proposals for 2015-2016:

  • Debra Mandel (Libraries) will showcase the exciting work Northeastern students have created in Snell Library’s Digital Media Commons and Studios. A collaborative facility with state-of-the-art audio and video technology and support, the Digital Media Commons has helped students at Northeastern record music, create animated films, and produce a range of high-quality creative projects. The Digital Scholarship Group will help Digital Media Commons staff celebrate and preserve this work.
  • Giordana Mecagni (Archives and Special Collections) will create digital exhibits about the Boston Public Schools Desegregation, a process which began in the fall of 1974. The Digital Scholarship Group will help Northeastern’s Archives and Special Collections make digital records of this important event in the history of Boston more widely accessible and visible. In addition to Archives and Special Collections, an interdisciplinary coalition of students, faculty members, and archivists from the Northeastern community will participate in this project.
  • Jenny Sartori (Jewish Studies) and the University’s Holocaust Awareness Committee will create a publicly-accessible archive of Northeastern’s Holocaust Awareness Week programming. For more than thirty years, these events have reflected Northeastern’s commitment to Holocaust awareness and genocide prevention. This will be an important educational resource that highlights the digital records of survivor testimonies, distinguished lectures, and roundtable discussions, as well as the history of the Holocaust Awareness Committee itself.

These projects join three other new DSG initiatives from earlier in Spring 2015:

  • a web presence for content from the Library’s Arader Galleries collection (and the creation of new signage that directs viewers of the physical prints to this online collection)
  • the addition of Stephen Sadow’s collection of interviews with Latin American artists and writers to the DRS
  • the migration of the Catskill Institute materials from their current home at Brown University to the DRS (and a new website at Northeastern)

The Digital Scholarship Group also continues to support the ongoing work of the Women Writers Project; Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive; The Early Caribbean Digital Archive; Viral Texts; Digital Humanities Quarterly; and TAPAS. For more information on projects supported by the Digital Scholarship Group, please visit our Projects page.

If you’d like to contact the Digital Scholarship Group, please email us: We are also on Twitter: @NU_DSG.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Data Curation, Library News and Events, Scholarly Communications