Archives and Special Collections


BPS Desegregation Project: Busing and Beyond: Creating a Holistic Approach to Undergraduate Teaching and Learning with Archival Collections

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 Schools’ (BPS) Desegregation history.

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Maokley pictureProject Overview

Suffolk University faculty, archivists, and librarians formed a collaborative team in 2015 to develop and disseminate open educational resources (OERS) based on the research collections held by Suffolk University.  Archivists and librarians provided reference assistance, bibliographic instruction, research guides, technological support, and digitization services. The curricula were designed to develop students’ information literacy skills and allow them to take advantage of – and navigate the challenges of — a complex and sometimes overwhelming information landscape. In the next phase of the project, the team will develop and test additional OERs, evaluate the effects of student and faculty engagement with OERs, and create guidelines and recommendations for further OER use, expansion, and development at Suffolk and beyond.

Sample OERS (Open Educational Resources)

Using historical documents from Congressman Joe Moakley’s papers related to court-ordered busing in Boston,  Professor Reeve created a variety of assignments and classroom exercises for her undergraduate history methods course, “Gateway to the Past: The Historian’s Practice.” Supplemented by lectures, readings, and discussion, Reeve used the assignments sequentially to ensure that students mastered historical thinking skills and then directly applied them to a capstone project. (See the course’s developmental sequence chart below.)

  • What History Matters, and Who Decides? Introduction to Archival Research: students examined course catalogs at the Archives to document and explain changes in the history curriculum over time (.pdf)
  • Document Analysis Assignment: students analyzed a historical news clipping (.pdf)
  • Mapping Data: Creating and Interpreting Historical Maps: students studied population change over time in Boston and its effects on the school desegregation debates (.pdf)
  • Digital Exhibit Project: capstone project in which students developed and narrated a historical argument on the OMEKA exhibit platform, example Boston Massacre Exhibit
  • HST 200 LibGuide: compilation of relevant research resources (link)

Why OERs?

The team wanted to create open source tools that would be available for use or re-use by instructors within –and external to– Suffolk University. Ideally, the assignments could be adapted for use by faculty in other fields.

Some of the benefits of creating and using OERS:

  • Fosters innovations in teaching and learning, many of which are more collaborative & participatory;
  • Reduces overall cost of books and materials for students;
  • Provides access to education for students who otherwise could not afford or access learning materials.

Incorporating primary sources in the developmental instruction of historical literacy

Overview: The following charts illustrate the process of integrating primary sources into an undergraduate-level historical methods course. The overall goal is to teach and engage students in the “procedural and cognitive action relevant to the use of primary sources” so that they develop a predisposition to inquiry and can frame and “solve historical problems and elaborate their own narrative.”[1]  Foundational to the design and delivery of the course is the idea that students seeking to investigate and explain the past must be historically and information literate. Thus HST 200 integrates the instruction of competencies listed in charts 1 and 2.

[1] Stéphanie Demers, David Lefrançois, and Marc-André Ethier, “Understanding agency and developing historical thinking through labour history in elementary school: A local history learning experience,” Historical Encounters. Open Access Journal. article/ download/42/30. Accessed March 11, 2016, 36.





–This post was written by Professor Pat Reeve, History Department and Julia Howington, Director, Moakley Archive and Institute, Suffolk University,




[1] Historical Thinking Project. Accessed December 31, 2014.

[2] Association of College and Research Libraries, “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” (May 26, 2015) acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency. Accessed March 1, 2016.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Collections, Serendipity


BPS Desegregation Project: Pedagogical Exhibits

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 Schools’ (BPS) Desegregation history.

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BPS Desegregation Project would like to highlight two wonderful exhibits built by students from Desegregation related collections.

Screen Shot of Stark and Subtle Divisions exhibit

Screen Shot of Stark and Subtle Divisions exhibit

Stark & Subtle Divisions: A Collaborative History of Segregation in Boston

Created by graduate students in the History and American Studies departments at UMass Boston, this site showcases letters, photographs, legal documents, artifacts, and interviews that explore de facto segregation in Boston and the federally-mandated desegregation of Boston Public Schools. Students unearthed materials from various collections in separate Boston archives, selected a representative sampling, and presented them here, together, in new collaborative context.



Screen shot of Boston Before Bussing Exhibit

Screen shot of Boston Before Bussing Exhibit

Boston Before Busing

Activism for educational civil rights in Boston began well before 1974, when the “Garrity” decision mandated busing to fix de facto segregation in Boston schools. This exhibit introduces key people, groups, and events in Boston from 1964–1974, describing the community effort that led to the desegregation decision that still affect s Boston today.

This not a complete portrait—many narratives, including Latino and Chinese voices, are lacking. All exhibit materials are from the Northeastern Archives and Special Collections, supplemented by research at the Suffolk, UMass Boston, and Harvard Schlesinger Library Archives.

Common historical narrative has painted the busing crisis in Boston in the mid-1970s as an inevitable but spontaneous change in Northern race relations. After exploring this exhibit, think about whether that’s a true portrait of events.

This exhibit was created for Martha Pearson’s public history fieldwork for HIST 4901/4902 at Northeastern University in collaboration with adviser William Fowler.

— Giordana Mecagni is Head of Special Collections and University Archivist at Northeastern University

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Collections, Serendipity


BPS Desegregation Project: Using metadata to support collaborative collections

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. This post explains the technical underpinnings of the BPS Desegregation Project’s collaborative collection.

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Subject headings

The simplest way to collocate our materials in a shared portal like Digital Commonwealth or DPLA is to consistently apply an agreed upon subject heading. There are numerous Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and Thesaurus of Graphic Materials (TGM) topical terms that could be applied to desegregation materials, including:

  • Busing for school integration [LCSH]
  • Busing (School integration) [TGM]
  • Segregation in education [LCSH]
  • School integration [LCSH and TGM]
  • Segregation [LCSH and TGM]

Working in a vacuum, one institution could decide to apply the term “Segregation in education” to all desegregation materials, while another could decide to apply “School integration,” making it more difficult to connect these materials in a shared system. As a collaborative, we chose to apply “Segregation in education — Massachusetts — Boston — History” as an umbrella heading that can be used to collocate items related to desegregation and busing across institutions.

Recognizing that relying on a single subject heading may be too simplistic an approach for some collaborative collections, we’re also planning to explore the possibility of creating a DPLA App that would allow us to pull together a result set that combines multiple subject terms, which DPLA’s search functionality does not currently support.

Locally controlled list of names

Participating libraries agreed to apply name authorities from LCNAF whenever possible; however, many of the key local players in the desegregation movement do not have authority files with the Library of Congress. To ensure that we are expressing these names consistently, we created a shared document where we can list new non-LCNAF names used in our digital collections as they come up. In these cases, names are formed according to RDA rules.

Geographic data

Desegregation in the city of Boston is a particularly place-oriented topic; the issues, experiences, and reactions to busing differed greatly from one neighborhood to another. For this reason, we felt that adding geographic information, at least at the neighborhood-level, would be an especially valuable enhancement to our metadata records. We chose to express geographic data using TGN codes because it easily allowed us to apply values at the neighborhood level that would be automatically displayed in a linked, hierarchical form in Digital Commonwealth.

For example, applying the TGN code for the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston (7015008) to this record results in the following linked, hierarchical display on the user end:

Places:  Massachusetts > Suffolk (county) > Boston > West Roxbury

This geographic data will also allow users to visually explore items plotted on a map.
— Written by Jessica Sedgwick, Metadata Project Manager at the Boston Library Consortium

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Serendipity


Congratulations to the 2016 Hockey East Men’s Champions, our Northeastern Huskies!

Posted by: Daniel Lavoie


On Saturday night the Northeastern Huskies, led by head coach and alum Jim Madigan, won the Hockey East Championship by beating the UMass Lowell River Hawks in a 3-2 thriller at TD Garden.  The winning goal was scored on a 3rd period power play by junior forward Zach Aston-Reese.  Sophomore forward Nolan Stevens and freshman forward Adam Gaudette contributed the other two Husky goals.

The win ended a 28-year drought since the Northeastern men’s last Hockey East Championship in 1988, when they beat the Maine Black Bears 4-3.  That year Northeastern goaltender Bruce Racine was named the tournament’s MVP.  Racine and head coach Ferny Flaman were later inducted into the NU Athletics Varsity Club Hall of Fame (2001 and 1989, respectively).  One of the assistant coaches for that championship team?  Jim Madigan!

1988 MVP_lo

MVP Bruce Racine makes the save for the 1988 Hockey East Men’s Champions!

The current season marks 87 years of hockey at Northeastern.  The Huskies have been playing in Matthews Arena since their inaugural 1929-1930 season.  At that time the arena was known as Boston Arena, and also served as home ice for other Hockey East teams Boston College and Boston University.  In fact, until the year before the Boston Arena had been home to the Boston Bruins, whose current home, TD Garden, is the site of Saturday’s triumph.


Northeastern’s first hockey team (1929-1930 season), led by coach H. Nelson Raymond.

Now on to the NCAA’s Final 16, where we play No. 1 North Dakota (30-6-4) on March 25!

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections


The Boston Phoenix: St. Patrick’s Day, Busing, and a Divided City

Posted by: Daniel Lavoie


For many, St. Patrick’s Day is undoubtedly one of the most important dates in the Boston calendar, highlighted by the annual South Boston parade. But in 1974, St. Patrick’s Day occurred at the beginning of the Boston busing crisis, a controversial solution to court-ordered citywide school desegregation. From 1971-1976, The Boston Phoenix covered the crisis with over 70 in depth articles. On March 26, Phoenix journalist Michael Ryan penned “Where was everybody on St. Patrick’s Day?” addressing the conspicuous absence of politicians at parties and the parade.




At the center was State Senator William “Billy” Bulger’s, brother of mob boss Whitey Bulger, cancellation of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day party at Dorgan’s restaurant in South Boston. Bulger canceled “to draw attention to his contention that South Boston would be irreparably damaged as a neighborhood, its cohesion destroyed and its spirit shattered, if the forced busing plan for school integration were to go into effect as scheduled for September.” Instead, he held an open house after the parade which was only attended by one political figure, Father Sean McManus.

In response, State Representative Royal Bolling held his own party, “Roxbury’s Salute to St. Patrick’s Day.” Bolling, unlike Bulger, was a supporter of the court-ordered desegregation as author of the Racial Imbalance Act of 1965. He also secured funding for METCO (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) which assisted with school desegregation. However, his party also garnered very little attendance from politicians.

Were the politicians at the South Boston parade, which normally drew 200,000 spectators annually in the 1970s? Yes, and no. Billy Bulger attended before his party. Mayor Kevin White, who in 1967 ran a tough campaign against anti-desegregation Boston School Committee member Louise Day Hicks, decided at the last minute to attend the parade. More importantly, Hicks—by then a Boston City Council member—and fellow member Albert Leo “Dapper” O’Neil, both ardently anti-busing, were in attendance and received cheers from the crowd. The busing crisis clearly had divided the city. The Phoenix’s Ryan concluded that “the political leadership of the state, so conspicuous on the busing issue, had done it again.”

The Boston Phoenix Collection and METCO records can be viewed at Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections. In addition, Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections is coordinating a multi-archive scanning project whose goal is to make available archival material that relates to how and why busing happened in Boston, as well as the after effects it had on the community. The project announcement is available on Snell Snippets.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections