Collecting and preserving hip-hop history in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston

Members of the hip-hop community fill out paperwork about photographs and items they plan to contribute to the Mass. Memories Road Show.

Volunteers and contributors at “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition.

Well over 200 community members joined us at the Boston Public Library this past Saturday to share photographs, objects, and memories at “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition. In all, we collected about 300 digital images of items ranging from photographs and concert posters to t-shirts and album covers. We also recorded about 60 video interviews with community members throughout the day about their connections to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts.

Six people in front of a graffiti painting.

Cindy Diggs (AKA “Mother Hip Hop”), center, with contributors at the Mass. Memories Road Show. Diggs served as Director of Hip-Hop Community Engagement for the event.

It will take University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston 2-3 months to fully process this collection and make it available for the world to see at openarchives.umb.edu. Once it’s there all contributors will be notified. [Update: This collection is now online. Read more and view the digital collection here.]

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.

This event was supported by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, as well as support by the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. It is part of a larger project called “Local Rappers, DJs, B-Boys, and Graff: Documenting the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Community from the 1970s to the present.” Learn more about this project here.

Contribute to the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive

In 2016, University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston launched the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive with an initial donation by Pacey Foster of recordings from the Lecco’s Lemma radio program. Learn more here and explore the Lecco’s Lemma Collection.

Image lists the kinds of materials we collect: Audio and video recordings (cassettes, videotapes, and film reels); Original photographs, negatives, and slides; Flyers, promotional materials, and unique publications and magazines; Letters, diaries, and other firsthand accountsAs we continue to develop this new collection area, University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston is now focusing on donations of original and unique archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help us document the rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture in Boston and Massachusetts.

Do you have original and unique materials related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts that you think should become part of the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive? Contact an archivist at UMass Boston to learn more.

What’s next: Digitized Massachusetts Rock Against Racism videos online soon

Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR) was co-founded in the Boston area in 1979 at a time when the City of Boston and its surrounding areas were “rocked by racism.” The RAR organizational records are part of University Archives & Special Collections. Learn more and view the finding aid here. We recently completed digitization of approximately 100 videos from the RAR collection and this summer,  thanks to a grant from the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, we will complete descriptive work on these videos, which include documentary films, outtakes, interviews, and concert footage.

As a sneak peek of what this amazing collection has to offer, embedded below is “Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin’: A Rockumentary,” which was filmed at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Mass., on June 9, 1985. The footage includes performances by a number of artists, as well as a breakdance battle between the Floor Lords and HBO.

Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin’: A Rockumentary, Presented by Mass. Rock Against Racism (1985 June 9) from UMass Boston Archives on Vimeo.

The digitized and described Massachusetts Rock Against Racism collection of videos will be available online soon. Keep visiting this site for more information and for updates.

If you have questions about the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, please contact an archivist at UMass Boston or connect with the project on Facebook.


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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Theresa-India Young papers processed and available for research

Theresa-India Young, undated. Courtesy of the Theresa-India Young Estate.

University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was awarded a Research Inventory Grant from Mass Humanities in June 2017. This allowed us the opportunity to devote a significant amount of time and resources to acquire, arrange, and describe the papers of noted Boston fiber artist, educator, and artist activist, Theresa-India Young. The collection was donated by Jacqueline McRath, executrix of Young’s estate in 2016. An exhibit showcasing materials from the collection is planned for June 2018 at the Grossmann Gallery in the Joseph P. Healey Library.

The Theresa-India Young papers, spanning 41.75 linear feet, document her work as a fiber artist, interdisciplinary arts teacher, and education consultant working in the Boston area from 1975 to 2008. Young taught studio art and museum education at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where a scholarship is endowed in her name. She also taught at the Museum of Fine Arts, Roxbury Community College, Boston Public Schools, Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, Harvard University Museum, Cambridge Friends School, Lesley University, and Wheelock College.

The collection documents her involvement with various Boston communities, including the Piano Craft Guild Tenants’ Association and Piano Factory Gallery, where Young worked as an advocate for her fellow artists at the Piano Factory Studios when rising rent threatened to displace resident artists. Young served as a mentor in her community, helping her colleagues and local youth claim their identities as artists, and pursue opportunities related to those roles.

University Archives and Special Collections, UMass Boston, 1972, Kingston Black Arts Theatre exhibit flyer, artwork by Theresa-India Young

Young mentored Boston youth by developing the Kush Club, a teen docent program, and managed Primal Arts, an educational consulting business that specialized in cultural presentations, art workshops, and museum tours. As a teacher and purveyor of cultural heritage, Young worked to preserve and maintain folk art traditions in her artwork, such as the Gullah heritage of basket weaving. Her work was informed by her research into African aesthetics and traditions, particularly weaving and hair braiding. She was also prolific in ceramics, European Tapestry, and ethnic weaving.

Much of her research is preserved in the collection, in the form of clippings, handwritten notes and varied publications. As a longtime resident of the Piano Factory, Young lived and worked within a dynamic local arts scene. The collection documents her relationships with other local artists, like Allan Rohan Crite, as well as the issues they faced, such as affordable housing.

This collection consists of correspondence, handwritten notes, curriculum research, meeting minutes, scrapbooks, clippings, publications, ephemera, photographs, slides, and original artwork by Young and others, and includes personal papers related to Young’s early years in New York, her education, and genealogical research of her Gullah heritage in South Carolina and Africa.

Logo for Mass Humanities in orange and blue.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Research areas include but are not limited to: African-American art and artists in Boston, multicultural education, museum education, and artist tenancy rights. University Archives and Special Collections also hold the records of the Piano Craft Guild Tenants’ Association, 1972-2000, which provide  researchers with a complete picture of Young’s life while living at the Piano Factory Studios.

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 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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Healey Library receives two National Endowment for the Humanities grants in support of archival collections and community collaboration

The Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is proud to announce that it has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Division of Preservation and Access to support the work of the library’s University Archives and Special Collections department.

Logo for National Endownment for the HumanitiesThe Preservation Assistance Grant will allow University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library (UASC) to contract with the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) to assess the physical condition of the department’s extensive archival holdings. In addition, the grant will support a public photograph preservation training workshop that will be open to volunteers and professionals working in local historical societies and museums. UASC will use the assessment, resultant recommendations, and knowledge gained in the workshop to develop a 5-year preservation plan to ensure continued access to the unique collections.

“This support from the NEH is a tremendous opportunity to enable us to continue to improve how we preserve our collections,” explained Patricia Bruttomesso, the grant’s principal investigator and the department’s Archival Collections Project Manager. “We are grateful for the funding that will allow us to benefit from NEDCC’s expertise and share knowledge about preserving archival collections with other cultural institutions in the Boston area and across the Commonwealth.”

Edo G, Tony Rhome, Lisa Lee, and Pacey Foster speak on a panel as part of the launch event for the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive in November 2016.

Edo G, Tony Rhome, Lisa Lee, and Pacey Foster speak on a panel as part of the launch event for the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive in November 2016. Photo courtesy of Michael R. Colford.

UASC also received funding through NEH’s Common Heritage grant program to support a project called “Local Rappers, DJs, B-Boys, and Graff: Documenting the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Community from the 1970s to the present.” This funding will enable UASC and project partners at the Boston Public Library to work with the local hip-hop community and scholars to host a digitizing day event to collect photographs, stories, and other materials that will be added to the Healey Library’s Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive. It will further support four public programs at the BPL showcasing the four original elements of hip-hop culture—music, dance, DJs, and graffiti.

“We are looking forward to holding a thematic Mass. Memories Road Show event where everyone connected to hip-hop—musicians, DJs, dancers, graffiti artists, producers, and fans—can bring materials to document their experiences and share personal stories,” says Carolyn Goldstein, the grant’s principal investigator and the department’s Public History and Community Archives Program Manager. “The event will allow UMass Boston’s Healey Library to continue to build a unique collection documenting hip-hop in Massachusetts and, in collaboration with the Boston Public Library, engage a broad public in learning all about this important culture and its place in the Commonwealth.”

“Development of public programs is underway, which will further enable discovery of this important and historic hip hop archive, and Boston Public Library invites all to celebrate Boston’s unique music culture with us beginning this spring,” said Gianna Gifford, Boston Public Library’s Chief of Adult Library Services.

UMass Boston professor and hip-hop historian Pacey Foster notes that “Boston has had a vibrant Hip-Hop scene since the very early 1980s but never quite got the recognition it deserved from the popular press or commercial outlets. As a result, perhaps more than any other major metropolitan area in the nation, the story of Boston hip-hop remains relatively unknown. This project presents an incredible opportunity for the Hip-Hop community in Boston to share their stories and ensure that they remain accessible for generations to come.”

For more information about these grant-funded programs and about University Archives and Special Collections, email library.archives@umb.edu or call 617-287-5469.

About University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston

UMass Boston logoUniversity Archives and Special Collections in the 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 carry out its mission, UASC is committed to working with, promoting, and assisting community archives in the Greater Boston area through facilitating cross-organization collaboration and access to informational, educational, and practical resources relevant to archival procedures and best practices.

For more information about these grant-funded programs and about University Archives and Special Collections, email library.archives@umb.edu or call 617-287-5469.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these initiatives and programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Cathy Buckley papers and the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway publications: Explore the history of bicycling in these newly-processed collections

"On The Path," Minuteman Bikeway 4th grade class project

“On The Path” by Mr. Levy’s 4th grade class, 1993-1994

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that a number of our collections related to the history of bicycling have been processed and are now available for research. This is the fifth of several planned posts on Open Archives News that will highlight some of the recently-processed collections in University Archives & Special Collections related to the history of bicycling.

Minuteman Commuter Bikeway publications, 1993-1994

This collection contains the signed first edition copy of the booklet On the Path, published by Mr. Levy’s fourth-grade class at the Bowman Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts, as well as the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway brochure guide from 1993. View the finding aid for this collection here.

Arlington, Massachusetts celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in September 2017 by placing art along the bike path and conducting lectures and presentations. Learn more about these events here.

Cathy Buckley papers, 1973-2007

Cathy Buckley worked for the Central Transportation Planning Staff in Boston, Massachusetts and was one of the founders of the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition (now the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition) in 1977. This collection mostly contains correspondence, but also includes notes, proposals, clippings, studies, reports, brochures, and maps. This collection contains documents primarily related to Cathy Buckley’s bicycling work as part of the Central Transportation Planning Staff including planning, design, and construction of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway. View the finding aid for this collection here.


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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Saturday, Nov. 18 at Freedom House: Documentary screening hosted by Massachusetts Rock Against Racism and Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive

Screenshot from the documentary film, "Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin"

Screenshot from the documentary film, “Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin’” (1985).

When: Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Doors open at 2:30 pm, program runs from 3:00–5:00 pm

Location: Freedom House | 5 Crawford St. | Dorchester, Mass. 02121 | Click here for directions.

Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR), in partnership with the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive and the Healey Library at UMass Boston, is hosting a reunion of the RAR community at Freedom House in Dorchester, Mass.

The event will feature a special screening of “Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin,’” a thirty-minute documentary produced by youth members of RAR in 1985 that documents a legendary b-boy battle at Madison Park in Roxbury, Mass. The records of Massachusetts Rock Against Racism are part of University Archives & Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston. View the finding aid for the collection here, and keep visiting blogs.umb.edu/archives to be notified when recordings from the collection are digitized and available online.

Flyer for Rock Against Racism Event at Freedom House on Nov. 18After the film screening, we will have a World Café-style discussion focused on the Rock Against Racism movement, local hip-hop history, and the engagement of youth in arts and culture as a tool for racial justice work.

This event is free, open to the public, and family friendly. To learn more and to RSVP, click here.

This event is co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, Freedom House, and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and is supported in part by the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund.

Download the flyer for this event and share it with your friends and colleagues.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment to view the materials at UMass Boston, 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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