Information and Society


Boston Library Consortium signs letter to President Obama about Open Educational Resources

Posted by: Hillary Corbett


In June, the White House called for suggestions from the public for its third Open Government National Action Plan, to be released later this year. The purpose of this plan is to increase transparency in government as well as support open research and learning tools, which were identified as areas for development in the first two National Action Plans. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international group of academic research libraries, has responded to this call with a letter advocating for increased support for the development of open educational resources. The Boston Library Consortium, of which Northeastern University is a member, has added its name as a signatory of this letter. We are proud to voice our support for open educational resources!

Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible learning objects that support teaching and learning at all levels – from kindergarten through higher education. Because they are openly licensed, educators can customize OERs or create mashups of different resources to provide their students with the material that best meets their teaching objectives. OERs include textbooks, audio and video materials, tests, software, interactive modules, and much more. Many are peer-reviewed either before or after being publicly released, so teachers can be assured of their quality.

OERs benefit students as well as educators—they serve as free alternatives to costly traditional textbooks. A recent NBC News story about the astronomical increase in textbook prices (more than triple the cost of inflation since 1977) quotes an incoming Northeastern first-year student on the struggle to afford college textbooks. OERs would help him and thousands of others get a high-quality education at a more affordable price. The Open Education Group, which conducts an ongoing review of empirical research on the use of OERs, reports that studies show students and educators using OERs are satisfied with the quality of these resources and that learning outcomes are equivalent to or better than those in classrooms using traditional resources.

Instructors and students, are you interested in learning more about open educational resources? Check out my guide to OERs and textbook alternatives, and please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

Posted in: Information and Society, Research Online, Scholarly Communications


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


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: Free Access to 400,000 Digital Images from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Posted by: Rebecca Bailey


Exciting news! New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced recently that “more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use—including in scholarly publications in any media—without permission from the Museum and without a fee. The number of available images will increase as new digital files are added on a regular basis.”

The Met calls this initiative Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC). When searching their online image collection, look for the OASC icon, which designates images that are part of this initiative. These images may be used for non-commercial purposes, including school assignments, presentations, scholarly publishing, or personal projects. (Read more about the OASC policy in the FAQ.)

This decision by the Met follows a very welcome recent movement among galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (the so-called GLAM organizations) to make more of their digital image content freely available when possible. This benefits the organizations by increasing public awareness of and generating publicity for their collections. And of course it benefits all of us to have greater access to cultural content worldwide!

Here are some links to more such programs:

The initiative known as OpenGLAM, which is helping many museums to open up more of their content, has a longer list of these types of efforts on their website. You can learn more about OpenGLAM from their FAQ. And be sure to check out the amazing image collections listed above. Happy exploring!

Posted in: Architecture, Art, Information and Society, Read, Listen, Watch, Research Online


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