Collections document history of local jazz and the Boston Harbor Islands

University Archives & Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that six collections of previously unavailable archival material are now open for research. This is the fourth of a series of posts to announce newly available collections, toward the goal of making all of UASC’s collections, both processed and unprocessed, open for research.

Black and white photograph from 1958 depicting radio announcer James Townsend Fitch standing with jazz musicians Clark Terry and Jimmy Ruching in front if a post with arrowed signs each labeled New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York

John Townsend Fitch and jazz musicians Clark Terry and Jimmy Rushing, 1958

Collections that have not been processed, or that are minimally processed, will be made available upon request to researchers in approximately two to three weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the collection. Contact library.archives@umb.edu for more information.

To learn more about the collections that were made available this week, click the collection title in the list below.

  • Richard Vacca collection, 1939-2012, bulk 1949-1989: Richard Vacca is a writer, independent scholar, researcher, and the owner of Troy Street Publishing, through which he published his book, The Boston Jazz Chronicles: Faces, Places, and Nightlife 1937–1962. These records document the local jazz and blues scene in Boston and beyond. Materials consist of publications such as newsletters, magazines, and books, postcards, one cassette tape, and multiple LP sizes including 12”, 10” (78 RPM) and 7” (45 RPM).
  • John Townsend Fitch papers, 1951-2014, bulk 1951-1961: These records document the life and work of John Townsend Fitch. Fitch obtained a degree in engineering from MIT and went on to work as a radio announcer for WHDH. He became known for his jazz programs under the name of John McLellan from 1950-1961. Materials consist of manuscripts, notes and research, clippings, interviews, publications, certificates, correspondence, sheet music, and photographs of musicians and music during Fitch’s time as a radio and television host for jazz programs in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Suzanne Gall Marsh Boston Harbor Islands collection, 1883-2017, bulk 1990-2017: In 1979, Marsh founded the Boston Harbor Islands Volunteer Corps, later called the Volunteers and Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands, and served as a board member. She has worked for the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park as an interpreter and ranger and for Boston Harbor Cruises as a narrator. Marsh also teaches classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston. This collection documents the Boston Harbor Islands and Suzanne Gall Marsh’s collecting interests around the islands. Materials consist of newspaper articles and clippings, photographs, negatives, contact sheets, reports, correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers, newsletters, magazines, books, and maps. Topics related to the Boston Harbor Islands include the waterways, wildlife and other environmental aspects of the islands, native peoples who inhabited the islands, tourism, advocacy, and the history of the islands.
  • Boston Harbor Islands Partnership records, 1998-2017: Created in 1996, the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership is an organization comprised of federal, city, state, and nonprofit agencies that coordinates the management of the Boston Harbor Islands. These records document the activities of the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership and include the management of the Boston Harbor Islands and the duties within the partnership and for the public. Materials consist of by-laws, minutes, reports, correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers, newsletters, clippings, and agendas.
  • Boston Harbor Islands Advisory Council records, 1997-2016: The Boston Harbor Islands Advisory Council began as a planning committee in 1997 and was officially founded in 1998 with the goal to advise and make recommendations to the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership. These records document the activities of the Boston Harbor Islands Advisory Council. Materials consist of by-laws, minutes, reports, plans, correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers, clippings, and articles. Topics addressed in the Advisory Council’s records include projects related to the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership, educational and recreational tourism, foundational information, historical and cultural information about the islands, and grant and financial information.
  • Boston Harbor Island and National Park and Recreation Area: National Park Services publications, 1994-2016: Originally established in the 1970s and designated as a National Park unit in 1996, the Boston Harbor Island National Recreation Area has been managed collaboratively by the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership with the aim to protect the islands, make them an integral part of the local communities, and improve public knowledge of and access to the islands as a recreational area.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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