Archives and Special Collections


Spotlight: Two Newspapers, Two Exposés

Posted by: Daniel Lavoie


The 2015 film Spotlight recently won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Picture and earned six Oscar nominations. The film follows the Boston Globe’s investigation and reporting of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal under Cardinal Bernard Law. The coverage began on January 6, 2002 and is widely credited with helping to uncover the depth of the scandal throughout the U.S. The Globe was awarded a Pulitzer for their reporting on the subject in 2003.

But did you know that the story first broke in the Boston Phoenix almost a year earlier?

Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections is the new home of the Boston Phoenix Collection, which contains over 30 articles and editorials covering the scandal. In particular, the collection includes Kristen Lombardi’s ground-breaking article “Cardinal Sin,” the evocative cover story of the March 23, 2001 issue.



Lombardi’s “Cardinal Sin” investigated the 25-plaintiff civil lawsuit against Father John Geoghan of the Boston Archdiocese, which additionally named Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston’s archbishop, as a defendant. The article uncovered Geoghan’s history of sexual abuse, his failed treatments, and his numerous reassignments by the Church in an attempt to hide the truth. In addition—through interviews with victims and an insightful evaluation of past abuse cases—Lombardi illustrated that the Church preferred to settle out of court and reassign those accused, offering no real solutions or justice. The Phoenix and Lombardi continued coverage of Cardinal Law and the sex abuse scandal through 2003. A bibliography and links to the articles are located in the Boston Phoenix Collection website archives.

In publication from 1965 to 2013, the Phoenix remains an invaluable source of reporting on major Boston subjects—from school desegregation to LGBTQ issues to Occupy Boston—shining a light on the most controversial of topics. The paper has received multiple awards in journalism from the New England Press Association, the Penny-Missouri Newspaper Awards, and the American Bar Association Gavel Awards.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections


There’s a Starman Waiting in the Archives: David Bowie dies at age 69

Posted by: Kieran McGhee


When news of David Bowie’s untimely death went public on the morning of January 11, 2016, artists ranging from Madonna to Iggy Pop to Guillermo del Toro made statements of sadness and disbelief concerning the passing of Major Tom. Sleater-Kinney guitarist and Portlandia actress Carrie Brownstein encapsulated it best when she tweeted: “It feels like we lost something elemental, as if an entire color is gone.”

The Boston Phoenix Collection in Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections contains reviews, photographs, and articles documenting David Bowie’s artistry, ranging from his music and film careers to his political prowess, even his opinion on Todd Haynes’ controversial Bowie-inspired film, Velvet Goldmine.


“Bowie’s Martian Spiders Spin New World” in a 1972 issue of  The Boston Phoenix


The Boston Phoenix won numerous awards for journalism in its lifetime, including in 1994 when classical music writer Lloyd Schwartz was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Ben Gerson’s  1972 article “Bowie’s Martian Spiders Spin New World” highlights the in-depth nature of the alternative newspaper’s music journalism. Showcasing the sexual, political, and artistic nature of Bowie’s music and showmanship, Gerson’s artistic profile of Bowie is beyond music reporting—it is an academic dissection of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” tour. Referenced in Elizabeth Thompson and David Gutman’s The Bowie Companion, Gerson calls Bowie’s body a “laboratory, free of morphological determinants,” analyzing Bowie’s lyrics, performance, costumes, and philosophies.

From a query as to why Bowie would want to perform on the A&E channel’s Live by Request in 2002, to a celebration of “the best record ever made about apocalypse, interplanetary lust, singer-songwriter role playing, and rock-and-roll-as-alien-outsider stuff,” The Boston Phoenix Collection offers insight into the reception of Bowie’s ever-changing identities. An elusive and iconic figure, Bowie is frequently cited as an inspiration not only by newer artists, like Lady Gaga, but also by contemporaries, like Mick Jagger.

To explore the coverage of mainstream and underground pioneers in the music industry visit the Archives in Snell Library.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections


What’s New in Snell this Spring

Posted by: Jennie Robbiano


Here’s what you need to know about the library this semester.

Archives and Special Collections Acquires The Boston Phoenix

Copies of The Boston Phoenix

In September 2015, Phoenix owner Stephen Mindich donated the paper’s archive as well as its sister publications to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections. For nearly 50 years, The Boston Phoenix was Boston’s alter­na­tive newspaper of record, the first word on social jus­tice, pol­i­tics, as well as the arts and music scene.

The physical collection is available in the Archives for research and perusal.


New: GIS and Data Visualization Drop-in Hours

Photo of GIS and Data Visualization Specialists

This semester, Bahare Sanaie-Mohaved and Steven Braun will hold weekly, informal drop-in hours for students and faculty interested in Geographic Information Services and Data Visualization.  Whether you need help with specific projects or just want to know what GIS is, all are welcome. Walk-in hours are every Thursday afternoon from 2:00 to 3:30pm in CoLab D, on the first floor of Snell Library near Argo Tea.

Learn about GIS and Data Visualization here!

Follow Northeastern Data Visualization on Twitter!

Spring 2016 Events and Workshops

Photo from Meet the Author: Dr. Kristen Costa

From exploring the history of Boston’s neighborhoods, to introductory workshops in the 3D printing and recording studios, to a storytelling slam with Foundation Year students, this Spring’s events at Snell cover a range of topics.

Keep your eyes on our calendar and follow us on Twitter @ClubSnell for the most up to date information.


Support in Your Subject Area

Photo of Research help room

Did you know there’s a librarian who’s an expert in you subject? No research question is too small or too complicated for our subject librarians.

Find your subject librarian here to set up an appointment or find them at the Research Help desk on the first floor.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Library News and Events, Research Guides by Subject, Serendipity


Framing the Future of STEM Education by Giving Voice to the Past

Posted by: Michelle Romero


Portrait of Kelly J. Conn. Portrait of Mya M. Mangawang.

Guest Post by Kelly J. Conn, Ph.D. and Mya M. Mangawang, Ph.D.

Lowell Institute School seal.I will never forget the thrill I felt as I worked my way carefully through the meticulously organized folders and boxes of the Lowell Institute School archive collection housed in the Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department of Snell Library. What would be in the next folder? A poem? A work of art? A legal document? A handwritten letter? How were all these items connected? What story did these archives have to tell of the rich history of the 112-year-old Lowell Institute School, which was embraced by Northeastern University in 1996?

Lowell Institute School Alumni Association seal.

While many aspects of the School’s early history had previously been shared in different ways by various authors, an account that combined these stories into a comprehensive narrative that spanned the period from the arrival of the Lowell family in New England through today had not yet been published. My co-author, Dr. Mya M. Mangawang, and I set out to tell that story, not only to celebrate and honor the Lowell family, their Institute, and the School they began, but also to help frame the most recent vision for the future of the School in meeting the needs of the critical areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Lowell Institute School at Northeastern University history.This history is meant both to document the past and point to the future in order to highlight the ways in which the Lowell Institute School has met, and is well-positioned to continue to meet the needs of our STEM industries for years to come. We hope that you, as our readers, will appreciate the well-defined and distinguished legacy of the Lowell Institute and Northeastern University, and will join us in our optimism about the powerful impact that the Lowell Institute School at Northeastern University will have on future generations.

The full text of The Lowell Institute School at Northeastern University is available in the Digital Repository Service.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Engineering, Mathematics, Online Collections


Keeper of the Flame: Boston Phoenix owner gifts archives to Northeastern

Posted by: Jennie Robbiano


Boston Phoenix owner Stephen Mindich decided in September to donate the paper’s archives to Snell Library. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Originally Published in News@Northeastern on November 24, 2015

By Noelle Shough

For nearly 50 years, The Boston Phoenix was Boston’s alter­na­tive newspaper of record, the first word on social jus­tice, pol­i­tics, as well as the arts and music scene. Its intrepid jour­nal­ists tackled issues from safe sex and AIDS aware­ness to gay rights, mar­riage equality, and the legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana. Ads for room­mates, romantic mates, and band mates—one could find all these and more in the newspaper’s probing, irreverent, enter­taining pages.

It ceased pub­li­ca­tion in March 2013, but the Phoenix will be pre­served for posterity—thanks to owner Stephen Mindich’s deci­sion in Sep­tember to donate the paper’s archives to Northeastern’s Snell Library.

Snell’s Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions already houses an impres­sive array of his­tor­ical records of Boston’s social move­ments, including civil and polit­ical rights, immi­grant rights, home­less­ness, and envi­ron­mental justice.

The Phoenix never shied away from cov­ering topics of neigh­bor­hood interest, sup­porting the rights of indi­vid­uals and groups,” says Will Wakeling, dean of Uni­ver­sity Libraries. “So it will form a per­fect complement to this growing collection.”


The Boston Phoenix will be preserved in Snell Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Boston Phoenix will be pre­served in Snell Library’s Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University


Mindich’s gift encom­passes much more than The Boston Phoenix. The archives include sister pub­li­ca­tions in Worcester, Mass­a­chu­setts, Port­land, Maine, and Prov­i­dence; Boston After Dark; The Real Paper; the alter­na­tive pro­gram­ming of WFNX FM; and Stuff and Stuff at Night mag­a­zines. These sources, including a full Web archive of mate­rial not included in the print edi­tions, pro­vide a richly nuanced per­spec­tive on how people thought and put ideas into action when it came to social issues and social jus­tice from the 1960s to the near-​​present day. They are doc­u­men­ta­tion of the ways social change happens.

Our vision for the archives is dig­i­tizing all the print and making it fully text-​​searchable, so all that his­tory lives on,” says Dan Kennedy, asso­ciate pro­fessor at Northeastern’s School of Jour­nalism and a former Phoenix media colum­nist and nationally-​​known media commentator.

Adds Wakeling, “As the library works on the com­plex dig­i­tizing strategy, the archives will be made avail­able to the public.”

The Boston Phoenix not only reported on the news, it made the news. In 1987, during the height of the AIDS crisis, it dis­trib­uted 150,000 con­doms to readers. In 2001, Phoenix reporter Kristen Lom­bardi described trou­bling pat­terns in how Catholic Church leaders were trans­fer­ring priests accused of sex­u­ally abusing chil­dren to new parishes. The alter­na­tive weekly also fol­lowed the evolving rights of the LGBTQ community.

A great strength of the paper was also its arts cov­erage, which is also Stephen’s pas­sion,” notes Kennedy. In 1994, writer Lloyd Schwartz won the Pulitzer Prize for Crit­i­cism for his cov­erage of clas­sical music. Many former Phoenix writers—Susan Orlean, David Denby, Mark Lei­bovich, and Michael Rezendes among them—went on to illus­trious careers at top U.S. news­pa­pers and magazines.

Though Boston’s anti-​​establishment spirit has faded some­what over the years, Mindich’s dona­tion ensures that its his­tory never will. “Scholars and researchers in this area will be licking their lips in antic­i­pa­tion,” says Wakeling.

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Library News and Events, Serendipity