Tales from the Tapes: Processing the Lecco’s Lemma collection

Guest post by Gayle Schechter

Show tapes from the Lecco’s Lemma show (writing by Willie Alexander).

Not many people are required to listen to hip-hop at their jobs, but for the past few months as a University Archives and Special Collections intern in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston, listening to hours of freestyles and beatboxing has all been part of a typical day’s work. Tasked with processing recordings of radio broadcasts from the Lecco’s Lemma collection, part of the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, I’ve not only gained valuable experience with digital collections, but also gotten a crash course in the history of Boston hip-hop. The Lecco’s Lemma collection chronicles an era when hip-hop in Boston was still in its infancy, and when you would record your favorite songs off of the radio instead of searching for them on YouTube.

The Lecco’s Lemma collection contains recordings of radio broadcasts of Lecco’s Lemma, a local hip-hop program hosted by Magnus Johnstone from 1985-1986 on MIT’s WMBR and from 1986-1988 on Boston College’s WZBC. Along with nearly 200 audiocassettes of Lecco’s Lemma broadcasts, the collection also contains more than 200 demo tapes from area hip-hop artists sent to Johnstone to be played on air. In addition to airing local artists, those familiar with old school hip-hop would recognize many of the artists played on broadcasts of Lecco’s Lemma, from Boston-bred Gang Starr to New York City’s Run D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. The digitized recordings are available online here.

Show tapes from the Lecco’s Lemma show (writing by Willie Alexander).

While the Lecco’s Lemma collection provides a window into Boston’s underground hip-hop scene of the 1980s, the unique nature of the recordings created a number of issues to be considered by University Archives and Special Collections staff. Many of the recordings contain explicit language, necessitating content warnings for our digital collection. The do-it-yourself nature of recording demo tapes often meant artists would take commercially-released cassettes and dub their recordings over the originals. While one side of the tape may contain original beatboxes and rhymes from a Boston crew, the other side could contain half of a Donny Osmond album.

Cassette recordings of the Lecco’s Lemma radio program are not official recordings, but rather were created at home by Boston punk rocker Willie “Loco” Alexander, who recorded them off the radio on his boom box. One broadcast of the show can span a number of cassettes, and many cassettes contain portions of episodes recorded on different days creating instances where one object has more than one date associated with it.

Despite the challenges that the Lecco’s Lemma collection has presented, it’s been an honor to help preserve the history of hip-hop. Though the story of hop-hop in Boston has in many ways remained a well-kept secret, the Lecco’s Lemma collection shows that hip-hop artistry was very much alive and thriving in Boston during the 1980s.

Explore the Lecco’s Lemma digital collection online here.

Read more about the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive here and keep visiting blogs.umb.edu/archives for future updates.

Gayle Schechter is an M.S. candidate from Simmons School of Library and Information Science.


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. To learn more about University Archives & Special Collections, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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Mass. Memories Road Show heads to Nahant on Saturday, April 1

When: Saturday, April 1, 2017 | 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Location: Nahant Town Hall | 334 Nahant Road | Nahant, Mass. | Click here for directions.

Do you have a connection to the Nahant, Massachusetts? Do you live or work in Nahant? Are your roots in Nahant? Share your memories and take your place in Massachusetts history at this free, public event.

Please bring 2-3 photographs in their original format (digital or print photographs) and your stories to be recorded. We will scan unframed pictures and copy digital images and return the images back to you. All images will be added to the online collection at openarchives.umb.edu.

Local support for the Nahant Memories Road Show is provided by the Nahant Public Library, 01908, Nahant Council on Aging, Nahant Historical Society, Nahant Public Schools, Nahant S.W.I.M. Inc., and Northeastern University Marine Science Center, with funding from the Friends of Nahant Public Library and Nahant Cultural Council.

The Mass. Memories Road Show is a statewide digital history project that documents people, places, and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. It is produced by the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston and is co-sponsored by the Patricia C. Flaherty ’81 Endowed Fund.

Download the flyer for the Nahant Mass. Memories Road Show here and remember to share it with your friends and family members!

Questions? Email carolyn.goldstein@umb.edu.

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Boston Urban Gardeners records: Documenting community gardening and urban agriculture

BUG SC-043-B009-F577-001Post by Corinne Bermon, Archives Assistant

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that the records of Boston Urban Gardeners (or BUG) have been reprocessed and newer accessions have been added to the collection. This collection documents a range of activities, projects, and publications from 1891 to 2004, with the bulk of the records spanning 1976 (when BUG was founded) to 1989. The finding aid for this collection has been updated and is available here.

The City of Boston has a number of well-established community gardens, with over 50 acres that have helped urban dwellers feed themselves and their neighborhoods since the early nineteenth century. These dedicated urban green areas furnish residents with fresh produce, plants, and flowers. The original community gardens founded around the city provided food supplements for low-income families and senior citizens and offered space for community organizing and gatherings.

Boston Urban Gardeners, founded in 1976, began as a project in the modern urban agriculture movement, especially in making the connections between urban food access, land use, affordable housing, desegregation, and other issues. Founders Charlotte Kahn and Wagner and Ed Cooper understood that “because urban gardening is so empowering, it is inherently political.” BUG was launched by people who lived in inner-city neighborhoods and most board members were residents and gardeners themselves.

Almost immediately, BUG’s activities began to broaden beyond gardening to the larger social, economic, and political issues that reflected the concerns of its founders, staff, and board members in their surrounding neighborhoods. The list of projects sponsored by BUG is impressive in its scope: community gardens, play-lots, wildflower meadows, a job training program in landscape contracting and management, studies for the landscape of public housing, low maintenance landscapes for highway rights-of-way, and an open space study for Roxbury.

Cover from BUG SC-043-B009-F566-001

Lead in the Soil pamphlet. Click to view a PDF.

Among the projects BUG instituted were Lead in the Soil and Project HUMUS (Help Us Make Urban Soil). Both of these initiatives focused on helping communities learn about their immediate environments. Lead in the Soil educated citizens on the risks of heavy metals in both indoor and outdoor environments through pamphlets, articles, and newsletters. The collection in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston offers a first-person view into this project, with BUG’s staff files documenting their work on the task force. In tandem with the Lead in the Soil project, Project HUMUS (see image above) worked with the Division of Land Use of the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture to attempt to create a large-scale urban composting site to provide rich soil to urban gardens and a clean waste disposal facility. This series in the collection contains BUG’s compost project staff’s files which document the project from 1978 to 1982.

In 1990, BUG conveyed its funds and properties to the Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), which is now an Affiliate of The Trustees of Reservations.

The BUG records consist of files kept by project and regular staff and include annual reports and other reports, proposals, correspondence, by-laws, minutes, articles, newsletters, photographs, and leaflets/pamphlets, material published by BUG, flyers, clippings, contracts, maps, plans and drawings.

View a map of Boston’s Community Gardens here.

View the finding aid for the Boston Urban Gardeners Records here.

For questions about this collection 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 action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more about University Archives & Special Collections, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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Remembering historian and public history professor James Green

UMass Boston Labor Resource Center staff in 2001. Left to right: Administrative Coordinator Jean Pishkin, CPCS Professor and LRC board member Terry McClarney, Labor Extension Coordinator Tess Ewing, Director Pat Reeve, Program Director James Green, Researcher Deb Osnowitz, and Researcher Mary Jo Connelly.

James Green with UMass Boston Labor Resource Center staff in 2001. Left to right: Administrative Coordinator Jean Pishkin, CPCS Professor and LRC board member Terry McClarney, Labor Extension Coordinator Tess Ewing, Director Pat Reeve, Program Director James Green, Researcher Deb Osnowitz, and Researcher Mary Jo Connelly.

We’re sad to hear of the passing of James Green, labor historian and professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Professor Green was a long-time supporter of University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, as well as a regular collaborator. Read the Boston Globe’s obituary for James Green here.

In 2011, Professor Green donated his papers to University Archives & Special Collections. This collection details the scholarly career and activist history of Professor Green, dating from 1964 to 2010. Scholarly materials consist of research materials related to his published books, as well as essays, published articles, book reviews, public addresses, political speeches, papers presented at conferences, and correspondence with scholars and colleagues. There is also a significant portion of the collection devoted to his administrative duties as director of the Labor Resource Center and his duties within the College of Public and Community Service. In the spring of 2008, Professor Green joined the History Department at UMass Boston, where he created and directed the graduate program in Public History.

View the finding aid for the James Green papers here.

There are several photographs of Professor Green on our digital collections site, as well as a short interview Professor Green contributed as part of our UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show in 2014, in which he describes his work at UMass Boston and as part of union activities on campus.

James Green at the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show: Video Interview from UMass Boston Archives on Vimeo.

UASC-0140-0062-00012-0001-VID

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Yankee Baleeiros! The Shared Legacies of Luso and Yankee Whalers: Exhibit on display in Healey Library

ss_LusoPanel-pdf-panel_5In celebration of Cape Verdean Week, a traveling exhibition from the New Bedford Whaling Museum is on view in the Walter Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Joseph P. Healey Library, through May 2, 2016.

Co-sponsored by the William Monroe Trotter Institute and the Transnational, Cultural, and Community Studies program (TCCS) at UMass Boston, the exhibition celebrates the interwoven Luso-American stories of the Azorean, Cape Verdean, and Brazilian communities to the United States from early immigration in the 18th century through the latter half of the 20th century. For more information about the exhibition, click here.

Currently on view at the Joseph P. Healey Library through Monday, May 2, 2016.

When: Through May 2, 2016

Location: Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston | 100 Morrissey Blvd. | Boston, Mass. | Click here for directions.

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