Tag Archives: Connor Anderson

Surrounded by Sound: Processing Pop Culture

by Connor Anderson, MA (Archives program ’17)

I was in the unique position to work with and create a finding aid for an unprocessed archival collection for my Capstone Project during my final semester at UMass Boston.  For those who are unfamiliar with a Capstone, it offers an equivalent alternative to writing a traditional thesis in the History MA program. Personally, a Capstone was a better fit for my career aspirations as an archivist—the inventory and finding aid I created, along with the collection I processed, are both tangible objects.

I chose to work with the Allan D. MacDougall Popular Culture Collection which represents the lifework of its namesake.

Stamp of MacDougall’s signature.

MacDougall, known affectionately as “Rocco,” taught at Newton North High School in Newton, MA. He dedicated his life to collecting items that he felt documented popular culture in the US. MacDougall used items from his vast collection as integral part of his teaching to instill a love of music and pop cultural history for decades. His massive collection was donated by his wife, JoEllen Hillyer, to the Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society (CHCS) at UMass Boston in the spring of 2015.

A musician and lover of music, MacDougall collected all genres and styles of recorded music, from the eclectic and obscure to popular hits that topped 20th-century American music charts. The collection also hosts the various formats on which music was created and stored over time, including impressive quantities of CDs, vinyl records, audio tape cassettes, and phonograph cylinders. First used by Thomas  Edison, inventor of the phonograph, to successfully record and reproduce sounds, phonograph cylinders were small grooved cylinders made of ceresin, beeswax, and stearic wax. The sound recording format was popular in the late 19th through the early 20th centuries.

Phonograph cylinder produced by the Thomas Edison Phonograph Company in 1911 (left) with a case of late 19th- and early 20th- century wax cylinder sound recordings collected by MacDougall.

In addition to music recordings, MacDougall acquired extensive runs of British and American magazines, numerous trade journals and collectors’ guides. Titles included mainstream publications, such as Rolling Stone, Uncut, Word, and Billboard, as well as journals that are difficult to find and even more difficult for researchers to access. The collection boasts hundreds of issues of local Boston and New England regional publications, such as Broadside of Boston. Especially noteworthy is the breadth of magazines, journals, and newspapers devoted to jazz, blues, and folk music, as well as band and concert guides spanning the latter half of the 20th century. Included among the magazines is small but notable assortment of magazines about Elvis, Buck Owens, John F. Kennedy, and the Beatles.

In addition to providing a wide range of music materials, the archive also houses more than 2,000 comic books and a wide range of popular culture ephemera, including hundreds of newspaper and magazine clippings organized by topic, ranging from individual musicians to major corporations, from cultural phenomena to social problems.

Cover of DC Comic’s Romance Comic, Secret Hearts, 1970.

The comic-book collection includes an impressive selection of mainstream comic books from the 1960s and 1970s, many of them superhero comics. But it also includes dozens of “humor” comics, such as Little Lulu, Casper, and Walt Disney comics. Perhaps the most distinguished feature of the comics collection is the remarkable number of “romance” comics, of which there are more than 200 from a variety of publishers.

There are a notable number of books, VHS tapes, and DVDs as well. The sheer size of the collection combined with the small space it resides it proved overwhelming to me at first.

The Allan D. MacDougall Popular Culture Archive as it appeared before processing began
The Allan D. MacDougall Popular Culture Collection as it appeared before processing began.

Luckily, I received help from two alumni of the American Studies Graduate Program during the semester, Andre Diehl and Scott Harris.

Scott provided the muscle—consolidating the collections and creating much needed “breathing room” in our location. Even though he worked with the archive for a short period, he played a pivotal role in my project. Andre knows the collection back and forth, up and down. He may have forgotten more about the collection than I’ll ever know.

Connor, ensconced in the processing area of the MacDougall Collection, creating an inventory of thousands of AV materials.

Andre and others before him did an amazing job cataloging much of the magazines, journals, and comic books, as well as digitizing all the CDs in the archive.

Here are some numbers for you—as of spring 2017—that we have cataloged EXACTLY:

  • 8,960 vinyl records—including sizes of 7”, 10”, 12”, and rare 16”
  • 3,145 CDs
  • 836 tape cassettes and another 500+ student-made mix-tapes
  • 33 rare phonograph cylinders
  • A combination of 4,035 magazines, journals, and newspapers
  • 2,277 comic books
  • 110 VHS Tapes
  • 180 DVDs
  • 1,990 books

If you are interested in learning more about the collection, reach out to CHCS!

Note: A few weeks after graduation, Connor Anderson became the new Public Records Access Officer/Archivist of the Town of Plymouth. Congratulations, Connor!

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Divided Schools & Neighborhoods: Students Explore De Facto Segregation In Boston

“Turned Away from School,” Anti-Slavery Almanac, Boston, 1839.
“Turned Away from School,” Anti-Slavery Almanac, Boston, 1839. Similar to the black child in this image, Sarah Roberts was rejected from an all-white school in Boston in 1848.

On February 15, 1848, Sarah Roberts, a five-year-old African American girl, attempted to enter an all-white grammar school near her home. A white teacher rejected Sarah, based on the color of her skin. Sarah’s father, Benjamin F. Roberts, tried to enroll his daughter in four different schools attended by whites. All were close to their home while the schools designated for black children were located over a half mile away—a long walk for a young child, especially during the bitterly cold, snowy month.

Robert Morris, Esq. may have been the first black male lawyer to file a lawsuit in the U.S. He was also the first black lawyer to win a lawsuit
Robert Morris, Esq., was admitted into the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Two years later, he co-defended Sarah Roberts’ right to attend a public school closer to her home than the schools designated for blacks.

The General School Committee, the group responsible for administering the city’s public schools, rejected each request that Sarah attend a white school. That December, Benjamin Roberts sued the city for damages, on grounds that his daughter was unlawfully denied admission to a public school. Robert Morris, one of the first black lawyers in the US, worked with abolitionist lawyer and politician, Charles Sumner, to represent Sarah in Roberts v. City of Boston. The two argued that Massachusetts law guaranteed equal education regardless of race and that requiring black children to attend separate schools was unconstitutional.

Equality Before the Law: Unconstitutionality of Separate Colored Schools in Massachusetts
Read the full text of Sumner’s, “Equality Before the Law: Unconstitutionality of Separate Colored Schools in Massachusetts,” 1849 (above) courtesy of the Internet Archive.

Despite their impassioned arguments, Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw found in favor of the city. Defending the actions of the General School Committee, Shaw ruled that a segregated school system did not violate the principle of equality before the law. His decision laid a foundation for the federal doctrine, “separate but equal,” that held that racial segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Five years after the Roberts’ decision, the state of Massachusetts made it illegal to segregate the city’s public schools according to race. Despite that decision, city schools remained heavily segregated through the twentieth century. “Back To Square One: Racial Imbalance in the Boston Public Schools,” an online exhibit designed and curated by Connor Anderson (Archives, 2017), highlights Boston’s long history of de facto segregation in public schools and the role the School Committee played in supported de facto segregation. In this type of system, blacks and whites were separated due to facts or circumstance. But, as the School Committee pointed out to critics, racial separation was not created or imposed by law.

Protest Flier from a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts, to Louise Day Hicks, circa 1974.
Protest Flier from a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts, to Louise Day Hicks, circa 1974. Courtesy Boston City Archives.

Using a sampling of correspondence, reports, and images from Boston City Archives and Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections, he traces divided opinions surrounding the efforts to achieve racial balance in public schools in the 1960s.  Anderson illustrates how reactions to the Racial Imbalance Act split the city.

Boston Neighborhoods,” an exhibit created by Vini Maranan (General History, 2016) and Paul Fuller (Public History, 2015), explores the unique cultures, communities, and stereotypes surrounding six of Boston’s twelve neighborhoods. In the 1960s and 1970s, economic fluctuations, settlement patterns, and urban renewal programs in Boston reinforced ethnic associations and strengthened a separation of races in many working-class neighborhoods. The de facto segregation of neighborhoods affected the makeup of schools which had become heavily segregated. Maranan and Fuller’s exhibit uses letters and interviews of ordinary citizens to document conditions in schools by neighborhood. Their exhibit also traces neighborhood reactions to Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s ruling that de facto segregation was discriminatory. It examines a sampling of neighborhood reactions to the 1974 order that students be bused away from local schools to achieve a better integration of white and black students.

Learn more about about the implementation of “Phase I” to desegregate Boston Public Schools by busing students away from neighborhoods in the next post.



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Students in Archives Awarded for Work

Congratulations to Connor Anderson and Corinne Bermon, the inaugural recipients of the Maureen Melton Endowed Scholarship for the Archives Program in History at UMass Boston!

The newly endowed scholarship was created to support students pursuing a Master of Arts degree in History, specializing in Archives. The benefactor, Maureen Melton, is the Susan Morse Hilles Director of Libraries and Archives and Museum Historian at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A UMass Boston alumna, Melton earned a BA in Political Science (’85) and an MA in History with a specialization in Archives (’90). She studied and trained under Professor Jim O’Toole, former Director of UMass Boston’s Archives Program and current Charles I. Clough Millennium Chair in History at Boston College.

Maureen Melton, Invitation to Art: A History of the MFA, Boston (2009).
Maureen Melton, Invitation to Art: A History of the MFA, Boston (2009).

In addition to curating exhibits such as “Preserving History, Making History: The MFA, Boston” (2008), Melton authored Art Spaces, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2001), an architectural history, and Invitation to Art: A History of the MFA, Boston (2009). Like Melton, both Connor Anderson and Corinne Bermon are diligent, thoughtful, and committed. Each has demonstrated passion for archives and regularly volunteered their time to help local organizations. Both continue to do volunteer processing and outreach work for various causes and are dedicated to promoting the profession.

 Anderson, now in his final semester as a graduate student in the Archives Track of the History program at the UMass Boston, hails from Duxbury, MA. In May of 2015, Connor graduated with a B.A. in History from Assumption College in Worcester, MA. While at Assumption, he produced a video in collaboration with Preservation Worcester about the historic significance of the Central Building; an endangered building located in Downtown Worcester.

Connor Anderson at Boston City Archives, 2016.
Connor Anderson working at Boston City Archives, 2016.

Anderson has completed internships at the Boston Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the U.S. Presidential Museum in Worcester, MA, the Boston City Archives, and currently interns at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in the audiovisual archives. In addition, he volunteered at the New England Historic Genealogical Society where he transcribed written documents from the 19th century for digitization on their website. His combined passion for digital archives and history is evident in his recent blog post about his internship experience at the Boston City Archives and his digital project “Back to Square One: The Racial Imbalance Act.”

Connor Anderson (right) with fellow grad student, Ashlie Duarte-Smith, in the staging area of the MacDougall Collection of Popular Culture Materials.
Connor Anderson (right) with fellow grad student, Ashlie Duarte-Smith, in the staging area of the MacDougall Collection of Popular Culture Materials.

In his final year at UMass Boston, Anderson was awarded a graduate assistantship. He now serves as the president of the History Graduate Student Association and is working on his Capstone Project, processing and producing a finding aid for the MacDougall Collection of Popular Culture Materials, a project of the Center for Humanities and Cultural Studies at UMass-Boston. Anderson expects to graduate with his MA in History, with a concentration in Archives, in May 2017.

Corinne Bermon and Paul Bachand at UMass Boston commencement, 2015.
Corinne Bermon and Paul Bachand at UMass Boston commencement, 2015.

Like Melton, Corinne Bermon earned a BA from UMass Boston (2009) and, after earning an MA in American Studies from UMass Boston (2015), she returned for graduate studies in history and archives. Her fascination with Progressive Era women’s social activism led her to write a thesis for (her degree in American Studies) that explored Rose Standish Nichols’ work in Boston and transnationally for the women’s peace movement of the early 20th century. For her extensive thesis research, Bermon was awarded the 2015 American Studies Book Prize. While writing her thesis, she enrolled in an archives class and developed a passion for archival work. Her work on a co-designed digital project, “Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO): Solving Racial Imbalance in Boston Public Schools,” led to a temporary position at the Northeastern University Archives. In 2016, earning an MA in History, specializing in Archives, she was awarded a graduate assistantship. While completing her coursework, she currently works in the University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston and interns at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Corinne Bermon working at the National Park Services archives in Boston.
Corinne Bermon working at the National Park Services archives in Boston.

Recently, Bermon completed an internship in archives with the National Park Service while volunteering at the South End Historical Society. Based on that experience, she is working on a capstone project that explores the lives and work of the Everetts, a middle class family who lived in the South End during the 1850s. Examining extensive correspondence between parents living in the South End with their son, who lived and worked in Calcutta, India, her project promises to provide new perspective into the development of Boston’s South End as well as the social dynamics of the family.  Bermon expects to graduate with an MA in History, with a concentration in Archives, in 2017.

Maureen Melton’s generosity in creating this scholarship dedicated to supporting archival studies makes it possible to reward these students for their commitment and hard work. Congratulations, Connor and Corinne!



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