Tag Archives: Boston City Archives

Dual Degrees and Dead Chickens: Municipal Records and Challenging Archival Stereotypes

By: Anthony Strong

“People are weird and you get all of that with city records. It’s great.” These were the words of Marta Crilly, Archivist for Reference and Outreach at the City of Boston, at the beginning of our exchange in October 2017. Her words especially resonated with me that morning, and I agreed wholeheartedly that people certainly are weird with myself being no exception. Being a first-year graduate student on the History track at UMass whose twenty-four-hour shift for the Boston Fire Department had ended just two hours prior, it was weird that I was sacrificing valuable sleep to meet with a woman I had no connection to, regarding a career I was not actively pursuing. It was weird that I had never conducted an interview before. It was even weirder that I had never stepped foot inside of an archive, let alone spoken with an archivist. Prior undergraduate work had led me to believe that institutional archives were largely obsolete due to the widespread availability of digital records – why go to an archive when I can find what I need online? This in turn dominated my opinion of the latter as I assumed the stereotypical image of the archivist as an older, unapproachable individual who spent a majority of their day muddling over dusty boxes in the dark recesses of a warehouse.

Pulling up to the Boston City Archives certainly did not do much to dissuade these preconceived notions. Tucked away on an industrial road behind a West Roxbury Home Depot, the City Archives occupies a building formerly owned by the gas company.

Exterior of the Boston City Archives, West Roxbury, MA
Exterior of the Boston City Archives, West Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Although you can tell that some remodeling efforts had been undertaken in recent years, the bleakness of the loading dock and desolation of the parking lot seemed to affirm my earlier conclusions. Upon entering the building, I was instantly greeted by an older gentleman sitting behind a desk which contained an empty sign-in sheet; my suspicions appeared confirmed. Within thirty seconds I found myself in the reading room of the City Archives and that is when my perspective of both the archives and the archivist began to change.

Archivist Marta Crilly (right) helping a patron in the Boston City Archive reading room.

Marta emerged to greet me; a woman not much older than myself with a small tattoo on her forearm and a personable demeanor. Contrary the air cast on her leg, this was not the old and unapproachable archivist I had assumed I would be interviewing. Rather, Marta proved enthusiastic, outgoing, and knowledgeable about her profession and the collections contained within the archives. After some small talk, we began a tour of the facility which proved more extensive and technologically advanced than I had imagined. Although she joked about the primitiveness of their microfilm reader, to my novice eyes this was a stark contrast to the dusty boxes I had pictured. It was during this tour that I received a crash course on administrative archival tasks and how they were conducted at the City Archives. The most rewarding experience, however, came as we entered the Records Room.

Interior views of the records room, City of Boston Archives.
Interior view of the Records Room, City of Boston Archives.
Another view of the Records Room, City of Boston Archives.

Clearly observing my amazement at the organization and breadth of the collections, Marta remarked: “I don’t think people understand how fascinating municipal records are.” She was right.

Returning to the reading room, the hard part was about to begin.

Though I had prepared several questions that I thought would fulfill the technical aspects of the assignment, I realized I no longer cared about simply “checking-the-box” and getting a good grade; I now had a legitimate interest in what I had just observed and the stereotypes that had just been challenged.

I was less concerned about annual processing statistics and was more intrigued by what she did as an archivist. Describing her typical day as a “mix of social media, working with researchers, and then using any extra time to work on digital records,” I realized an archivist is a lot less dusty boxes and a lot more interaction and technology. Not only does Marta maintain a twitter feed for the City Archives, but she also tries to keep the public engaged by posting a “mystery photo of the day” while actively blogging on behalf of the archive.

What really interested me, however, was how her formal education factored into her role as an archivist. Marta possesses Bachelor’s degrees in History, English Literature, and Spanish from the University of Tennessee, as well as Master’s Degrees in both History and Library Science (with a concentration in Archives Management) from Simmons College. Regarding my own situation, I was curious how her degree in History impacted her role as an archivist and if this was a career she just stumbled upon, or if it was her long-term objective after leaving Tennessee. Though she joked that she was “highly motivated to get out of Tennessee,” she explained that her undergraduate experience had nurtured an interest for the archives and that was a determining factor when applying to graduate school. Boston is home to an abundance of archives, and Simmons seemed a good fit for her as it offered many internship opportunities and a chance for her to network within the profession.

Why not just get a graduate degree in Archives? Why put yourself through the extra work and expense of attaining two graduate degrees? Quick to note that “not everyone would agree,” Marta feels as if having a history degree “is really helpful to understand the historical context of the records that you’re working with, especially when you are working with researchers.” This historical background appears to complement almost every aspect of her role as an archivist. Considering the appraisal process, for example, Marta reflected how “if you have a historical background you recognize the value in things that someone with just an archives background might not necessarily recognize.” Although her historical specialty while at Simmons of Gender and Religious History did not necessarily aide her work as a City Archivist, she was quick to credit the “writing and research skills” she developed while a member of their program.

Marta maintains the social media channels for Boston City Archives, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr. Screen shot of BCA’s Tumblr page.

Writing and research skills have certainly paid off for Marta, as she is a frequent collaborator and initiator of digital projects and collections for the City Archives. Although the website for the digital records of the City Boston is somewhat difficult to navigate (you can find it here), the extent of the available collections is impressive. Marta is an active proponent of the City’s “Digital Access Initiative” – a program aimed at digitizing some of their “most interesting or best-known records.” While Marta lightheartedly states that making all of the records in the City Archives available digitally is unrealistic, she believes that the information they have digitized will draw more researchers into the archives. A perfect example of this is the desegregation records she has overseen the digitization of, which she concludes has “allowed her to a part of some groundbreaking research.” When researchers browse these desegregation records it is frequently followed with a phone call to Marta, during which she informs them that the archives houses about ten times more than what they are seeing online. This bait-and-hook tactic has proven effective, and has led her to aspire to conduct a similar project regarding Boston’s immigration history in the 1900s.

Flickr page of the Boston City Archives.

Marta’s work, however, is not solely aimed at academics and researchers; she hopes to engage public participation in the City Archives. The extensive use of FlickR on projects such as the “Ray Flynn Collection” have proven perhaps the most effective means of achieving this; the “granular information” that public participants provide is just an added benefit. Considering my personal situation and how I never had an interest in the archives until I had actually been there and seen one for myself, I questioned how she would convince someone to want to come to the archives? What would make Joe Schmo want to give up his Tuesday morning to examine the collections? Marta, after a brief moment to collect her thoughts, summed up her sales pitch in the simplest of terms by stating: “We have the history of your neighborhood. We have the history of your family. And for some, we have the evidence you need to hold the city accountable.”

“#Mystery Photo,” one of the most successful social media initiatives Marta implemented at Boston City Archives, using Twitter.

More interesting to me was the realization that nowhere else could you find a well-maintained record of how city of Boston residents interacted with their government. Where else could you find a letter to the Board of Alderman complaining that a neighbor’s dog killed his chickens?

Our interview concluded with some general advice about the profession, as well as some things Marta personally wishes she had done differently. Stressing “technical skills and digital classes,” her insight certainly suggested that the future of the archivist is increasingly focused on the digital realm. Rather than try to convince me to become an archivist, Marta offered credible and honest advice:

“Being an archivist is not for everyone and it can be a really difficult job sometimes. But what’s wonderful about being an archivist is that you get to see history in people’s own words; it’s not filtered through someone else.”

Whether or not I pursue an archives certificate is still a personal decision I have yet to make. If you are someone reading this however, don’t take my “filtered words” as gospel; this was just a small account of my brief interaction with the City Archives. Take an afternoon, visit the City Archives, and be surprised at what you might find there (just be sure to make an appointment).

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Women of the Past & Present Shaping the Future

by Monica Haberny

In January 2017, half a million people showed up for the Women’s March in Washington DC and over four million people participated in their own marches throughout the country to raise awareness for women’s rights. During my internship at the Boston City Archives in Fall 2016, I came across many female activists who worked tirelessly for change in the past two centuries. The following three women represent just a fraction of the inspiring women whose successes and failures can motivate activists fighting for similar issues today.

Florida Ruffin. ca.1890. Wikimedia Commons.
Florida Ruffin. ca.1890. Wikimedia Commons.

Suffragist, journalist, and anti-lynching activist, Florida Ruffin Ridley (1861-1943) became one of the first black teachers in Boston. She came from an educated background. Her father, George Lewis Ruffin, was the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School and the first African American to be a judge in the country. Her mother, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a suffragist and civil rights activist, published the first newspaper for African American women. Ruffin, following in her mother’s footsteps, also worked as a pioneering journalist and activist.

Florida Ruffin's Teacher Qualification Record, 1888, Teacher Qualification registers and index. Courtesy of Boston City Archives.
Florida Ruffin’s Teacher Qualification Record, 1888, Teacher Qualification registers and index. Courtesy of Boston City Archives.

Journalists provide an invaluable service, especially in a digital age where news comes from various sources and is often contested or falsely reported. Florida edited the Women’s Era, her mother’s newspaper. She wrote articles about black history and issues affecting blacks for multiple publications, including the Journal of Negro History and The Boston Globe. She, Pauline Hopkins and Dorothy West all belonged to the Saturday Evening Quill Club, an African American literary group founded in 1925. In addition to her writing career, Florida was involved in co-founding several nonprofits for African American women and was a lifelong political activist.

Application from the Housekeeper's League, January 1913. Courtesy of Boston City Archives.
Application from the Housekeeper’s League, January 1913. Courtesy of Boston City Archives.

Ridley raised awareness about race relations; her contemporary Ida Hebbard pioneered the issue of food safety in Boston. Recent documentaries like Food, Inc. and Cowspiracy have challenged people to think about where their food comes from. Hebbard became a food safety activist over a hundred years ago.

She served as president of the Housekeepers League, an all-female group. During the 1910s, the League lobbied for consumer rights, protesting the increasing prices of household foods. Hebbard led the group in protesting the price of eggs in 1912, as well as the price of potatoes and coal in 1917. Potato prices for consumers dropped from 70 cents to 35 cents a peck because of their efforts. More importantly, she advocated for the Bob Veal Bill. This bill banned the sale of calves weighing less than sixty pounds, preventing them from being slaughtered and shipped to Boston the day they were born.

In November 2016, activists like Ida Hebbard succeeded in passing Question 3 on the ballot, which banned the confinement of farm animals in small cages in Massachusetts. Like the Bob Veal Bill, Question 3 will go on to improve the health of people because it improves the lives farm animals.

Grace Lonergan with fiancee Lee Lorch in 1943.
Grace Lonergan with fiancee Lee Lorch in 1943.

Grace Lonergan Lorch, the third Boston woman featured today, championed civil rights and women’s rights in education. Before 1953, Boston Public School teachers were forced to resign before they married. Thus, in the 1880s, Florida Ruffin left her job to marry. Grace Lonergan Lorch changed that for future female teachers. In 1943, she brought a case against the Boston School Committee (BSC) in an attempt to keep her job after she married Lee Lorch. Although the BSC upheld the rule and Lorch was forced to resign when she married, the publicity surrounding the case forced the BSC to end the ban of married women public school teachers ten years later.

During his service in the military during World War II, Lee became aware of racism. During troop transports, he noted, often the black company had to clean the ship. Discrimination made Lee Lorch, a professor and mathematician, very uncomfortable and his wife shared his views. When the couple moved to New York City following the war, they worked to desegregate their home community, Stuyvesant Town apartments, which had banned black families from living in their complex.

The Lorch family being interviewed in 1949 by New York Times reporters about their work in Stuyvestant Town.
The Lorch family being interviewed in 1949 by New York Times reporters about their work in Stuyvestant Town. New York Times, 2010.

Lee led the Town and Village Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town to try to end the ban. In 1949, the Lorch family attempted to find a loophole in the ban and invited a black family to live in their apartment as their “guests.” When their plan backfired, the couple and their daughter, Alice, moved to Pennsylvania, then Tennessee before they moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1955.

The couple became very active in civil rights in their new community. Their neighbors were Daisy and L.C. Bates, founders of the Arkansas State Press and active members of the NAACP during the Little Rock Crisis. Alice Lorch became friends with many of the children in their new neighborhood. So, in September 1955, Grace wrote to the local superintendent requesting that her daughter be able to attend the local school. She hoped that Alice would not only be able to attend school with friends, but also promote integration as their neighborhood was predominately black. Although the school board denied her request, Grace continued to be involved in Little Rock’s branch of the NAACP.

The now famous image of Grace Lorch (left) comforting Elizabeth Eckford (right).
The now famous image of Grace Lorch (left) comforting Elizabeth Eckford (right).

On September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, found herself alone and surrounded by a mob when she attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School.

All nine teenagers had planned to arrive at the school together with their parents, but the meeting place changed. The Eckford’s lack of a phone left Elizabeth uninformed and alone. Grace Lorch, after dropping Alice off at school, passed the high school and saw Elizabeth’s predicament. The civil rights activist fought her way through the angry crowd and helped escort the girl home. The rescue of Elizabeth placed a target on the Lorch family. Alice Lorch found herself bullied at school. Someone placed dynamite in their garage, and they were harassed by both press and the people around them. In 1959, Lee accepted a job from the University of Alberta and moved his family to Canada.

By fighting for causes that were important to them, Florida Ruffin, Ida Hebbard, and Grace Lorch shaped the future and women now continue to do so. Originally from Little Rock, journalist, activist, and speaker Liz Walker became the first African American woman to co-anchor a newscast in Boston in the 1980s. Lauren Singer challenges us to think about where our household goods come from and the environmental impact they may have. In India, Rashmi Misra fights for education in rural communities and giving young women entrepreneurial skills, and Maya Wiley works for civil rights in New York. Like Ruffin, Hebbard, and Lorch before them, these women will go on to influence the next generation of women.

Monica Haberny is currently working on her Master’s degree, specializing in Archives. She received her Bachelor’s in History from Montclair State University (2013). Currently, she is working on a digital exhibit on Kathleen Sullivan, the only woman on the Boston School Committee during the start of Boston’s public school integration, for Stark & Subtle Divisions. She has a strong interest in the history of nutrition, activism, and animal rights, and hopes to use these interests in her final capstone project.

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“A Great Woman, Great Leader & Great Bostonian:” Melnea Cass

Though she was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1896, Melnea A. Cass devoted her life to making the city of Boston a better, more equitable place to live.

Melnea Cass speaking at the Boston Massacre Commemoration, March 5, 1976. Image courtesy of Boston City Archives. See digitized photos from Boston City Archives here.

 

“She was a great person–a great woman. . . . A great leader of her community. . . and a great Bostonian.”                                                                                        ~ Mayor Kevin H. White, 1978

The Cass family moved to Boston’s South End when Cass was five years old and, three years later, when her mother died, Melnea Cass moved to Newburyport, a small suburb north of Boston, where she was raised by her aunt. After attending  a parochial high school in Virginia, Cass returned to Boston where she spent the remainder of her life striving to promote social justice and civil rights in the city.

Throughout the 1920s, when Cass was in her early twenties, she helped black women register to vote in Massachusetts. In her thirties, Cass became a community advocate and leader. She helped found the Boston chapter of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor organization led by African Americans.

Because Cass was especially active in community-based activism in the South End and Roxbury, she was affectionately nicknamed the “First Lady of Roxbury.” Working alongside social workers Muriel and Otto Snowden, Cass helped establish Freedom House in 1949. The nonprofit organization began a community-based group advocating for the African American community in Roxbury. Today, Freedom House continues to improve education and relations between racial, ethnic, and religious groups in the city.

Cass championed social justice and rights of African Americans in Boston and served as a leader of several local institutions and causes including the Mayor’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Minority Housing and the Harriet Tubman House. When Cass was in her early fifties, John Collins, then Mayor of Boston, appointed her to the Action for Boston Community Development, making her its only female charter member. She served as the Boston president of the NAACP from 1962 until 1964, and in the mid-1970s she was appointed chairperson for the Massachusetts Advisory Committee.

Melnea Cass receiving an honorary doctorate from Northeastern University in 1969. Image courtesy of Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections.

In 1969, when she was 72 years of age, Northeastern University awarded Cass an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, in recognition for her community-based activism.

Melnea Cass played an active role in community leadership until the end of her life. When she died in December 1978, Boston’s mayor, Kevin H. White, wrote a poignant eulogy that highlighted her tireless, life-long devotion to social justice and healing “the rift between the races and provide for a better life for black Americans.” He noted, “her life was so connected with the life of this city… it is difficult to imagine Boston without her.”

Eulogy for Melnea A. Cass, written by Mayor Kevin White, December, 1978. Image courtesy of Boston City Archives.
Eulogy for Melnea A. Cass, written by Mayor Kevin White, December, 1978. Image courtesy of Boston City Archives.

Interested in learning more about Cass and her work? Check out local archives! Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections houses the Melnea A. Cass papers. The collection contains biographical information and awards, and photographs documenting her work with community improvement and civil rights organizations. Northeastern University also houses the Freedom House Photographs, which are digitized, as well as the Freedom House, Inc. records.

Boston City Archives also holds records related to Melnea Cass’s life and work. In fall 2016, graduate student Monica Haberny completed an internship at Boston City Archives where she discovered  materials about Cass in the “Boston 200” collection and Mayor Kevin H. White records. The latter have recently been digitized and are available online. Check out the fully searchable, newly digitized collections at Boston City Archives.

Cass’s legacy lives on in Boston; in Roxbury, Melnea Cass Boulevard was named in her honor and she is commemorated on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

 

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#BlackHistoryMonth: My Outreach Internship in Archives

By Monica Haberny

In fall 2016, I completed internship early at the Boston City Archives (BCA). My project combined research, access and outreach. My goal was to identify and digitize interesting material related to African American history and women’s history in Boston, then create a few compelling posts for Black History Month (February)  and Women’s History Month (March). I loved this project so much I ended up writing one post for every day of each month (read my posts on BCA’s blog every day!) To read more about my experiences each week, check out the class blog for internships: Archives In Turn: Interns in Archives.

On my first day, Marta Crilly, the Archivist for Reference and Outreach, gave me a tour of the BCA and introduced me to the collections. During that first month, I began making connections and “discoveries.” I unearthed the story of Julia Harrington Duff–a teacher who fought for the rights of Irish-American, female teachers–in the teacher qualification records. But I also found info about Julia in the city documents, as she served on the Boston School Committee in the early 1900s.

In September, I encountered a few research dead ends. I’d hoped to write an in-depth post on Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States. Crumpler lived in and operated an office in Beacon Hill in 1869, and moved, with her husband, to Hyde Park in 1880. Searches for her tax records (using her maiden name, her husband’s name, a mention of a black doctor, female doctor, or any combination) returned no information. But by the end of the month, I’d made progress in other areas. I wrote a compelling post on William Monroe Trotter, a newspaper editor and civil rights activist, listed in Hyde Park’s graduation exercises from 1860. I wrote posts on seven other African Americans who shaped Boston’s history.

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Closing Exercises of the Boston Girls’ High School, 1918, Graduation Programs, Collection 0400.004, Boston City Archives.

In October, I utilized three tricks to help me track down people of interest in Boston’s past.

First, I searched for alumni of Boston Public Schools. I found well-known individuals from the high schools of South Boston, Girls’, and Hyde Park.  Some graduation records were missing, but it was helpful to know who attended which school. I used photos and documents from the schools’ records to enhance blog posts about alumni who went to those schools, like community and civil rights activist Melnea Cass who attended Girls’ High School. Cass remained remained active in many community projects and volunteer groups in the South End and Roxbury and helped found the Boston local of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Second, I used digitized photographs on BCA’s Flickr page as documents or sources of valuable information. The John F. Collins album  provided a wealth of rich material and allowed me to write about Bobbi Gibb and Katherine Switzer, the first women to run the Boston marathon, and many more topics and persons of interest.

The third trick I learned entailed using records of city officials to uncover material about individuals or topics. In November, Marta and I found folders in the John Collins’ papers that documented key events from the civil rights movement. These documents included Collin’s reaction to violent attacks on civil-rights demonstrators by state police outside of Selma, Alabama; letters from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) about housing inequality in Roxbury, and documents from the NAACP.  I learned that, in some cases, searching records from mayors uncovered far more information than looking for topics directly.

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. circa 1984-1986. Mayor Raymond L. Flynn records, Collection #0246.001 Boston City Archives.

There were some surprises in my research. For instance, I found the eulogy for Melnea Cass and documents from Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Special Olympics in Mayor Kevin H. White’s records. I also found significant material pertinent to women’s issues in White’s records.

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Application from the Housekeepers League, January 7, 1913, Box 1, Petitions to use Faneuil Hall 1912-1914, Applications to use Faneuil Hall 4320.001, Boston City Archives.

My favorite aspect of my internship was the sleuthing it allowed me to do. For instance, I found the name, “Ida M. Hebbard” on an application to use Faneuil Hall from the Housekeepers League, a group for which she served as president. I discovered that the league consisted of wives and mothers who were concerned about the prices of household goods in the 1910s. Hebbard was an early advocate of consumer rights and led the group in boycotting goods to protest unfair pricing. Their potato boycott helped lower the cost of of potatoes from 70 cents to 35 cents a peck. The League advocated for the Bob Veal Bill, which prohibited the sale of calves weighing less than sixty pounds. Hebbard also called attention to violations in the way cold food was stored in Boston. Though extremely influential in Boston at the time, Hebbard is, today, barely remembered by Bostonians. The fact that I brought back her memory is something I’m extremely proud of.*

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Grace Lorch(left) with Elizabeth Eckford (right), one of the Little Rock Nine. From clipping, Max Brantley, “Lee Lorch, a figure in Little Rock’s ‘57 crisis, dies at 98.” Arkansas Times, March 02, 2014, in Mayor Kevin H White records, Boston City Archives.

I  found inspiration in my research into the men and women of color in Boston’s history. I learned about the creator of the Drop-a-Dime hotline, Georgette Watson and the first Black female firefighter, Karen Miller. I also discovered the teaching record of Grace Lorch who was a white escort for the Little Rock Nine.

One of my favorite items and most interesting discoveries came from the Town of Dorchester records: the military enlistments from the 5th Regiment Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War.

Massachusetts had three African American regiments during the Civil War: the 54th Infantry Regiment, 55th Infantry Regiment, and the 5th Colored Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.  The 1989 movie Glory starring Mathew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman documents 54th Infantry Regiment–a Massachusetts military unit that was one of the first units in the Union Army composed entirely of African-Americans.  The records for the 5th Colored Cavalry are lesser-known but fascinating! Included among the enlistees from Dorchester were Stephen Jacobs and Betsey Smith. Jacobs and Smith enlisted together but his form said he had originally come from Virginia, whereas Smith’s listed her home as Africa. I found out that she went into the war as a private and left with the rank of private.

1100box18folder118-2
A list of some of the recruits for the 5th Regiment Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry. Lists of Recruits, March 1864, Box 18, Folder 118, Town of Dorchester records 1100.001, Boston City Archives

Marta told me that she had expected me to write two or three blogs per week for Black History Month and Women’s History Month, but by the end of my internship I had written a post for every day in February and March to honor the admirable men and women of our city in Black History and Women’s History Months.

While working at BCA, I monitored the research room, so I gained experience watching researchers and making sure everyone handled documents correctly. I also had the chance to answer some reference queries. I realized while doing these tasks that I really enjoyed acting as a bit of a detective for the public.

By working at the Boston City Archives, I learned how to become a better writer, what working in an archive entailed, and how to serve the public. I began to see myself there and enjoyed going there. While the idea of what career I want is still foggy, I do know that wherever I end up working needs to involve archives or some aspect of it.

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* These are some published articles about Hebbard:

“Coal Dealers Put the Blame on Mine Men.” Boston Evening Globe, May 29, 1917.

“15,000 Women Banded in Fight Against H.C.L.” The Boston Globe,  May 12, 1917.

“Potato Boycott by Housekeepers.” The Boston Globe, January 27, 1917.

“To Start Probe of Cold Storage Foods.” Boston Post, December 5, 1916.

“Watch on Legislators.” Boston Post, March 17, 1917.

“Women Who Let Fight For ‘Bob Veal’ Bill” The Boston Globe, February 22, 1917.


 

 

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Fighting Fire & Segregation: A Semester at the Boston City Archives

By: Connor Anderson

hphs-busing_02
Officers from the Boston Police Department standing beside school buses. Photo from the 1975 Hyde Park High School yearbook.

I decided to complete my internship at the Boston City Archives (BCA) in West Roxbury thanks in part to the experience I had there during our Digital Archives class in spring 2016. In that class, we worked with Marta Crilly, the Archivist for Reference and Outreach, to create exhibits for the class’s Omeka site, “Stark and Subtle Divisions,” which explores the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools.

My internship included many small projects but, primarily, I focused on digitizing materials from the desegregation collections housed at the City Archives, and inputting metadata onto their digital repository, Preservica, for future use. This project builds upon the work of Lauren Prescott, a recently graduated student from our program.

I started off in September digitizing materials from the Mayor Kevin H. White records, specifically feedback notes from the various “coffee klatches” the Mayor held throughout the city. Some of these notes mentioned the residents’ concerns about the busing situation. I then moved onto some materials from the Louise Day Hicks papers and the Fran Johnnene collection, two ardent opponents of desegregation, or “forced busing,” as they dubbed it.

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A map of neighborhood schools with accompanying geocodes found in the Louise Day Hicks papers.

The Louise Day Hicks material featured interesting content that Marta thought researchers would love.

I was really hoping that I would have the chance to scan images while at the BCA. I am familiar with digitizing still and moving images from my internship in the audiovisual archives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and I really enjoy working with that medium. So when I heard that there were some negatives in the Kevin H. White records that needed scanning, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. We encountered some setbacks and I ended up only scanning a few negatives. In hindsight, that’s good since there were many other projects for to do.

After working there a few weeks, Marta mentioned that some of the materials from the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire needed scanning.

In November 1942, Cocoanut Grove, a night club in Boston, caught fire. The blaze claimed the lives of almost 500 people making it the deadliest nightclub fire in the world at that time. The Boston City Archives has three collections which contain material about the fire: the Boston City Hospital collection, the Law Department records, and the William Arthur Reilly collection. The materials are fascinating, with items ranging from death certificates to samples of the fabric that caught ablaze (see below).

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A sample of fabric that caught fire at the Cocoanut Grove Night Club Fire.

This detour turned into one of my favorite projects of the semester, and I learned more about the privacy restrictions of some collections. The biggest issue we faced with this material involved HIPAA regulations that protect the privacy of medical records. After consulting with an attorney for the City of Boston, we were cleared to publish the names and other information about the victims online, because (long before HIPPA was enacted) the Boston Post had already published the names in a “List of Dead.”

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A page from the Boston Post featuring names of the victims of the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire.

The materials in these collections reflect the fire’s immediate impact on the city and its long-lasting national legacy. For instance, the Boston City Hospital (BCH) records document procedures and treatments used on Cocoanut Grove fire victims. The approaches and practices used at BCH established a modern treatment of burn victims that hospitals across the country soon followed. The materials from the Law Department document the city’s creation of new safety and fire codes.  Many of the codes Boston created in response to Cocoanut Grove were later adopted nationwide.

After scanning materials related to the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire, I returned to desegregation, this time focusing on yearbooks. I focused on two high schools in neighborhoods which busing significantly affected: Charlestown High and Hyde Park. I soon found out, to my surprise, that Hyde Park High School already enrolled a number of non-white students before busing started in the Fall of 1974. Charlestown High School, on the other hand, enrolled very few non-white students prior to the Fall of 1974. This began a troubling trend of white Charlestown residents sending their children elsewhere for school.

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A Hyde Park High School Senior sporting some groovy hair.

In total, I scanned twenty-three yearbooks between the two high schools. Needless to say, the fashion trends of the 1960s and 1970s puzzle me after going through the yearbooks.

MODS metadata
Some lovely metadata using a MODS template by yours truly.

For each object I scanned, I needed to complete the metadata on that object as well. In my internship, I created metadata that provided detailed information about the digitized content. Marta set up a Google spreadsheet to organize all of my metadata, which was a huge help since I scanned almost 350 objects. The metadata I was responsible for were–Title, Record Identifier, Date Created, Creator Name, City, Neighborhood, Description, Collection Name and Number, Location of Originals, Type, Language, Conditions Governing Access, Conditions Governing Reproductions, Library of Congress Subject Headings, Description Standard, Pages.

Thankfully, the Boston City Archives has a set of controlled vocabulary to help with the process. I also found that a lot of the Library of Congress Subject Headings, dates, creators, and locations could be repeated. Still, it took me around 15 hours to complete all of the metadata alone during my internship.

I benefited a lot from my semester at the Boston City Archives. I learned technical skills that I will use in my future career and also got a view of how a municipal archive operates. Some of these skills include redacting documents, digitizing documents, different metadata formats, and working with a digital repository. There are many more that I probably do not realize I acquired yet as well. I am excited to take the valuable experience and these skills with me as I begin my career! To read more details about my experiences each week, check out the class blog for internships: Archives In Turn: Interns in Archives.

 

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Digging Into Digital Preservation & Outreach at Boston City Archives

By: Lauren Prescott

This semester I completed a digital archives internship at Boston City Archives with archivist Marta Crilly. Established in 1988, in an old school building in Hyde Park, the archives (now located in spacious location in West Roxbury), holds documentation of the history of Boston from the 17th century to present. Some notable collections in the archive include documentation of Boston’s role in the Civil War, immigration records, city council records, and Boston Public Schools (BPS) desegregation records. My interest in digital archives, as well as my experience in History 630, the digital archives class working with Boston Public Schools’ desegregation records, made this internship a perfect fit for me.

Desegregation

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A report from the Massachusetts State Board of Education on the racial imbalance in schools, circa 1965.

In 1961, the NAACP met with the Boston School Committee in an attempt to get the committee to acknowledge the racial imbalance of Boston Public Schools. The School Committee refused to acknowledge the presence of segregation for over a decade. In the 1971-1972 school year, enrollment in the public schools totaled 61 percent white, 32 percent black, and other minorities comprised the remaining 7 percent. However, 84 percent of the white students attended schools that were more than 80 percent white, and 62 percent of the black pupils attended schools that were more than 70 percent black. Also, during this time, at least 80 percent of Boston’s schools were segregated.[1]

Eventually, the NAACP filed a lawsuit in Federal district court in 1972, known as Morgan vs. Hennigan. The case came before Judge Wendell Arthur Garrity Jr., who made his decision on June 21, 1974. He found that “racial segregation permeates schools in all areas of the city, all grade levels, and all types of schools.”[2] The court ordered that the school committee immediately implement a desegregation plan for its schools. Garrity’s decision met with a myriad of responses from hostility and protest to submission and acceptance. Parents, teachers, politicians, and even students voiced their opinion in various ways; many sent heartfelt letters to Judge Garrity and Mayor Kevin White.*

Digital Preservation

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A letter sent to Mayor Kevin White urging him to ask Senator Barry Goldwater for help regarding desegregation and busing.

In the digital age, archivists face challenges of acquiring and preserving electronically generated records. In addition to this, archives are constantly under pressure to make their collections more accessible, through online finding aids or digitizing collections.[3] Some repositories use Institutional Repositories (IRs) for “collecting, preserving, and disseminating the intellectual output of an institution” in digital form.[4] Boston City Archives has recently begun using Preservica to keep their digital files safe and share content with the public. Preservica does not necessarily constitute an institutional repository; but, as digital preservation software, it keeps digital files safe and accessible for institutions. Preservica contains Open Archival Information System (OAIS)-compliant workflows for “ingest, data management, storage, access, administration and preservation…”[5] In addition, Preservica allows institutions to share this digitized content with the public.

Desegregation Records

For my internship, I began the process of digitizing the Boston City Archive’s desegregation records. Because the archive contains a plethora of desegregation records spread through numerous collections, I was not able to digitize everything. This semester I worked with the School Committee Secretary Files, the Mayor John F. Collins Records and the Kevin White Papers. Not every single document can be digitized, so I was responsible for choosing records that are important to understanding the desegregation of Boston public schools. In some cases, I digitized only a few documents in one box, and in others I was digitizing entire folders.

An important part of the internship involved writing metadata. Metadata is “data about data” and provides descriptive language about a record, “such as proper names, dates, places, type, technical information, and rights.”[6] Metadata constitutes a critically important piece of digitization; without it, digital objects would prove inaccessible and futile over time. If archives presented digitized images without identifiable information, researchers could not, with certainty, understand the context surrounding the document’s content!

I wrote metadata for each document and included information such as title, unique identifier, date created, creator, city, neighborhood, description, collection name and number, box and folder location, type, language, access condition and Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH). Inputting the metadata was easier than expected, thanks to last spring’s Digital Archives class.

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An angry letter sent to Mayor Kevin White from a resident of South Boston who does not believe that the mayor should have “interfered” with the School Committee. The letter has been redacted.

Redaction of sensitive or private information constituted another major component of the internship. I primarily redacted letters written to Mayor John F. Collins and Mayor Kevin H. White regarding desegregation of Boston Public Schools. John F. Collins served as Boston’s mayor from 1960 until 1968. While he played no official role in the desegregation of Boston Public Schools or the subsequent busing of students in the early 1970s, Mayor Collins still dealt with the problem of racial imbalance during his term. Since many of the letters expressed hostile and, in some cases, racist views, the archivist decided to redact the names and contact information of the authors. Documents written by politicians, federal and local government employees and other public figures did not require redacting.

The majority of the documents I digitized came from the Kevin H. White Papers. Kevin White served as the mayor of Boston from 1968 through 1984; this period spanned the desegregation of public schools. Documents digitized from this collection included police logs sent the mayor’s office, departmental communications, statements from the mayor and a plethora of letters, both against and in support of the mayor.

I worked with the Kevin H. White papers last semester when I created an online exhibit for class, so I was familiar with the collection; but, I still felt surprised by some of the letters I read this semester. Many of the letters Mayor White received in the 1970s were hostile and racist. Mayor White did not just receive letters from angry Boston parents, he also received letters from people in the South who had already experienced desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as several letters from other countries.

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Hand-drawn covers containing letters from fourth and fifth grade students at the Maurice J. Tobin School in Roxbury.

Letters written by children were my favorite documents.

Students of all ages had opinions of their own and even offered suggestions to Mayor White. Click here to learn more about students’ responses to desegregation and read a sampling of letters written by students at the time. Letters poured in to Mayor White’s office from students in Boston and all over the country. Most students were against busing, but mainly because they were afraid of potential violence. I digitized some letters from the advanced fourth and fifth grade classes at the Maurice J. Tobin School in Roxbury. The students were worried that the administration would remove advanced classes during Phase II of desegregation and wrote to Mayor White to express their concerns.

My internship at Boston City Archives was one of the best I have had throughout my academic career. Working directly with professionals in the field on an important project is gratifying. The purpose of the project was two-fold: digitally preserve documents relating to an important time in Boston’s history, and to share these desegregation documents with a wider audience. Not everyone can go to an archive and spend time doing research. The project to digitize Boston City Archive’s desegregation records is not over. I have digitized only a portion of the records and others will continue where I left off.

_________________________________________________________________

*For more information about the letters sent to Mayor Kevin White, see the finding aid to: the Mayor Kevin H. White records, 1929-1999 (Bulk, 1968-1983) at Boston City Archives; to learn more about the the letters sent to Judge Garrity, see the finding aid for the Papers on the Boston Schools Desegregation Case 1972-1997 at UMass Boston’s University Archives and Special Collections, in the Joseph P. Healey Library. This collection contains the chambers papers of Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. 

References

[1] School Desegregation in Boston: A Staff Report Prepared for the Hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Boston, Massachusetts, June 1975. Washington: Commission, 1975, 20.
[2] Ibid., 71.
[3] Christina Zamon. The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2012, 39.
[4] Ibid., 45
[5] “Preservica.” How Preservica Works. Accessed May 13, 2016. http://preservica.com/preservica-works/.
[6] The Lone Arranger, 47.

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Legacy in the Archives: Mayor Menino’s Office of Neighborhood Services

By: Ashley Kennedy-MacDougall

I began my internship at the City of Boston Archives in September 2015 under the direction of Marta Crilly, Archivist for Reference and Outreach. I was able to work on the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services series from the collection of Mayor Thomas Menino. Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino (December 27, 1942 – October 30, 2014) served from 1993-2014, and emphasized the importance of neighborhood development and city services to the neighborhoods such as trash removal, plowing, street sweeping, pothole repair. The Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) was formed to ensure the needs of city constituents were heard and addressed. Each neighborhood of Boston was assigned a coordinator who was involved with addressing and aiding to resolve various types of constituent issues that often required coordination with other city departments such as the Inspectional Services Department and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The coordinators were also involved in the local neighborhood associations and other civic organizations of their area.

The records in this series consisted of paper materials collected by the neighborhoods’ ONS coordinators and included correspondence, meeting notes, minutes, and event plans, as well as materials from various city departments including the Boston Transportation Department, Boston Inspectional Services Department, Boston Conservation Commission, Boston Landmark Commission, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The correspondence, fliers, and meeting notes of various neighborhood associations were also included. The dates of the materials ranged from 1987 to 2013, with the bulk of the material falling between 1995-2013.

As Marta had explained to me when I began, some of the materials had been collected directly from the current coordinators’ desks at the end of Mayor Menino’s administration, so the level of organization would vary from box to box. The first order of business was to survey the materials and identify which neighborhood or coordinators they belonged to. This was not too difficult to discern because there were personal notes written on the coordinators’ personal letterhead intermingled with the records. I began processing the materials, which consisted of removing paperclips, flattening brochures or folded papers, re-foldering when needed, flagging for sensitive materials, photographs, or newspaper, and weeding duplicates or unneeded materials such as the coordinators’ handwritten notes and call sheets.

The processing experience differed for each coordinator’s materials – some coordinators were organized and had assembled their materials in labelled folders, other boxes contained piles of unfoldered, loose documents or unlabeled hanging folders. The boxes containing hanging folders required complete re-foldering and dating of the folders, and the boxes of loose materials required me to find an order in the materials and create folder titles and dates. While these materials required the most time to process, having to closely read and inspect the documents was especially interesting as it revealed how local government interacted with its constituents and vice versa.

Figure 1
Figure 1 – Loose materials prior to processing

 

Figure 1
Figure 2 – A box of processed materials

 

Once I had completed processing all the neighborhoods’ materials, as well series of street sweeping records, Zoning Board of Appeal records, and architectural plans, all of the boxes were brought out so that I could arrange them in alphabetical order by neighborhood, consolidate neighborhood materials together, and incorporate 7 boxes of previously processed materials from South Boston and Charlestown. This organizing was challenging because there was some overlap in neighborhoods and coordinators, and when there was more than one coordinator over the 18 year span I separated the materials where I could, but this was not always possible. Once the boxes were in order, I began condensing them, pulling materials from the next box into boxes that were not full. I then numbered them, incorporating the previously processed boxes, for a total of 30 boxes, not including the three boxes of materials that were pulled for destruction.

The next step was to enter the folders into Archives Space. This was my first experience with this software, but it was very easy to learn. I would start a neighborhood by creating a subseries which was named after the neighborhood, and assign a date range. The folders titles and date ranges were then entered under their neighborhood. This process also varied from box to box, as the folders I had made were already dated and were much faster to enter then the folders I had to date as I was entering. After entering the folder information I had to go back to each folder to assign it a location in the records room because unfortunately this info wasn’t able to be entered with the initial folder information, so that added time to the process as well. I also created a scope and contents note to the series, which gave an overview of the types of materials contained within the series.

I really enjoyed my experience at the City of Boston Archives. Getting hands on experience is so essential for an archives student because there are some experiences that can’t be relayed through text books. While sorting through the records when I first began was intimidating, after becoming familiar with the materials and the processing experience, I gained confidence in my abilities and knowledge of the series. In time I was able to date folders, pull materials for destruction, and organize the materials into folders with confidence. Gaining experience with the Archives Space software was also important and less difficult than I would have imagined.

I also learned a lot about Boston, local government, and Mayor Menino’s administration. Through these records, Menino’s legacy as a mayor who was dedicated to the growth and improvement of his city and its neighborhoods is reflected. One of the reasons I became interested in archives is the opportunity to learn something new every day, and this experience reinforced that.

Figure 3
Figure 3 – Photo of Mayor Menino at the Annual Kite Festival in Franklin Park, c. 1995
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The Boston 200 Collection: A Processing Experience

By: Laura Kintz

During the Fall 2015 semester, I had the opportunity to complete my required archives internship at the City of Boston Archives in West Roxbury. This was a wonderful learning experience that allowed me work on processing an important archival collection: the records of the Boston 200 Corporation, which planned and managed the city’s United States Bicentennial celebrations in 1975 and 1976.

Before beginning this internship, my processing experience was limited to the Spring 2015 Archival Methods and Practices course, in which we processed the collection of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. That project was very challenging because I worked mainly with photographs for which there was no significant original order; they were just unorganized, loose photos with very little, if any, identifying information. In addition, the JPHS did not have an established archival collections policy, so much of the work we did was from scratch. Processing the Boston 200 collection gave me the chance to work with institutional records that are probably more typical of the type of materials that I would work with in future processing projects at an established archive.

The Boston 200 collection specifically consists of the records of the Boston 200 Corporation, which planned and managed Boston’s United States Bicentennial celebration. The celebratory events took place mainly in 1975 and 1976, but the records that I processed date as far back at the late 1960s through the late 1970s. The corporation itself was in operation from 1972 until 1976. In its pre-processed state, the collection consisted of boxes of file folders most likely from filing cabinets or office drawers, with occasional miscellaneous materials in manila envelopes or just loose inside the boxes. The collection is divided into series based on the specific program areas of Boston 200. Of approximately 200 total boxes in the collection, I processed 20. I was able to condense the original 20 boxes into a finished product of 14 boxes. This included part of the Visitor Services series and all of the Neighborhoods series and the Environmental Improvements series.

Unprocessed box
Unprocessed box

My job was, in short, to make order out of disorder. The biggest part of this task was refoldering, since the original folders were not in very good condition nor were they acid-free, and acid-free folders are the standard for archival document storage. The folders already had labels, and in most cases I could just keep the same labels as my new folder titles. There were some exceptions to this rule; I occasionally encountered folder titles that did not accurately reflect their folders’ contents, and in those cases, I created new ones. The main reason for doing that is so that a researcher looking at the list of folders in the collection can determine which folders will be helpful; an inaccurate folder title would be misleading and waste the researcher’s time. To indicate that a folder title was of my own creation, and not the original title, I put it in brackets. In addition to the title, I also added a date range to the folder label.

Processed box
Processed box

Just as important as processing a collection is making it accessible. Towards that end, after completing the processing of each box, I cataloged it using the ArchivesSpace platform so that the collection will be searchable on the City of Boston Archives website. ArchivesSpace allows for the hierarchical entry of information that can be migrated into a finding aid. I entered folder information at the “file” level underneath the appropriate series within the collection. The most important information that ArchivesSpace captures is the folder title and dates, but I also added information related to the document type (always “paper,” except in the case of photographs) and the materials’ physical location in the storage room. This example shows my entry for a folder titled “Neighborhood History Series booklets” and dated 1975-1976, which I entered as a file unit under the Neighborhoods series.

ArchivesSpace
ArchivesSpace

The majority of the materials that I processed and cataloged were textual, but I did encounter some photographs as well. There were two general types of photographs: those that documented Boston 200 activities and those that did not. Photos in the latter category were related to things like advertising or proposals from potential vendors. This distinction is important because I handled these two types of photos in different ways. For the unrelated photos, all I did was insert them into mylar photo sleeves and return them to their original folders. When I found photos related to Boston 200 activities, on the other hand, I separated them out to add them to their own Boston 200 Photographs series. I gave each of these photos their own identifying number (or digital identifier), inserted them into mylar photo sleeves, scanned them, uploaded them to the city archives’ Flickr page, added identifying and copyright information, and entered them into ArchiveSpace (at the item level, not just the folder level). I also put the photos into their own folders with titles that corresponded to the folder that they originally came from. Most photographs that I encountered did not have any identifying information, but in the interest of time, I did not do much research to identify people or places were not recognizable. That is where the Flickr platform can come in handy; the site allows registered users to view and comment on photos, and users have occasionally been able to identify people and places in city archives’ photos that staff could not identify. Below is a screenshot of the Flickr page, as well as three examples of photos that I scanned and cataloged.

Photo in Boston 200 Photographs Flickr album
Photo in Boston 200 Photographs Flickr album
Woman posing with Early Music Month sign Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston
Woman posing with Early Music Month sign
Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston
Participants in neighborhood cleanup Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston
Participants in neighborhood cleanup
Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston
Boston Tea Party poster contest participant Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston
Boston Tea Party poster contest participant
Credit: Boston 200 records, Collection # 0279.001, Photographs, Boston City Archives, Boston

While the overall experience of processing a collection was the highlight of my internship experience, I also gained insight into the wide variety of research topics that just one archival collection can represent, beyond those that might seem obvious. My initial excitement in being assigned this collection was that in Monica Pelayo’s Fall 2014 Public History Colloquium, we read a book called The Spirit of 1976 that discussed United States Bicentennial celebrations from a critical public history perspective. I was interested to see how this collection could fit into public history discussions of national celebrations. It certainly would be a valuable resource for research on that topic, but its potential is so much greater. Materials in the collection document the logistics of planning such a massive celebration, which could be used by someone studying, for example, the failure of Boston’s 2020 Olympics bid. The collection also documents the vast number of improvements made to the city’s tourism infrastructure, which could be used by someone studying the history of tourism in Boston. It includes materials related to significant historic preservation projects, which could be used by someone studying the history of the Freedom Trail or Black Heritage Trail and improvements made to the city’s historic sites. It also documents a turbulent time in the city’s history, and its records provide insight into urban renewal and race relations. The research possibilities really are endless.

The Boston 200 collection is a valuable asset to the City of Boston Archives. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to hone my processing skills with this collection and to further my understanding of the wide variety of uses for archival collections. I know that I will take what I have learned with me as I continue my archival career.

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Weird & Wonderful: One Path to Becoming an Archivist

By: Katie Fortier

The majority of archivists I’ve met so far have weird and wonderful stories about how they first became obsessed with archives, and no two paths seem to be the same! For me, I first became introduced to the world of archives through a small radio station during my undergraduate work. I’ve always loved music, and I jumped at the chance to co-host a radio show. We interviewed local musicians and I finally had an outlet to force all of my musical tastes on the public.

During the time I was there, my colleagues were undertaking the process of restoring and digitizing old tape reels of recorded programs from the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the tapes were in adequate condition to convert to digital formats, but some of them were reels of acetate film that had degraded significantly, some suffering from the ghastly vinegar syndrome! We set up a work-flow, tried to salvage tapes to the best of our abilities by carefully baking film reels, slowly set about converting reels to lossless files, and organized them in a database in a user-friendly way. None of the staff or volunteers for this digitizing effort were conservators, nor were any of us archivists. But in a way, we were doing archival work.

I graduated with a BA in 2010, majoring in history, and not really knowing how I wanted to use that knowledge. I’ve always loved history, but I could never seem to focus on one particular topic; every time period and even region seemed to draw me in just as I thought I could settle down with one area of inquiry. In the meantime, I took about three years off and worked in the world of specialty coffee. One of my coworkers mentioned that there was a great history program at UMass Boston, and I applied, and started out on the archives track.

I’m almost done with the program (so close, I can taste it!), and over the course of the past two years, I’ve had a few part-time archival jobs. I have been working for a year and half at the University Archives and Special Collections here at UMass Boston, and have been involved with the UMass Boston Historic Photographs collection, creating an inventory of over 2000 linear feet of UMass Boston records, creating library exhibits, and researching and interviewing staff, faculty and students for UMass Boston’s 50th anniversary oral history collection.

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Blackwell Family Papers Digital Collection, Schlesinger Library.

I’m also currently working at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America on a grant-funded project to digitize the Blackwell Family papers that I’ll be using as the basis for a case-study for my capstone project.

I’ll end this with two pieces of advice:

#1. Volunteer. When I first started in the program, I felt excited by my classes, but I also really wanted to be IN an archive. I decided to volunteer at the archive at the Boston Children’s Hospital for a year. Through this experience, I processed my first collection, and I also got a chance to see how a hospital archive operates. Volunteering with different institutions is a great way to see how other archives operate, and it helps you get a feel for what type of archive you would ideally like to work in.

#2. Join NEA. New England Archivists is a great organization, incredibly welcoming, especially to new students. I didn’t join NEA until this year, but I’m already involved in a study project and have met lots of wonderful people in the field. They have an amazing conference each year, and they also have a mentoring program that pairs students with professionals. Do it!

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