Launching the Boston Teachers Union Collection

Author: Maci Mark, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the Public History MA Program at UMass Boston

The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) has an essential place in Boston’s history. It was formed in 1945 and today has over 10,000 members. With this long history comes a lot to explore, especially when considering that the BTU had an important role in school desegregation and fought against affirmative action after the firing of 710 teachers. The BTU does not shy away from its history, both positive and negative. UMass Boston graduate students getting their Masters in Public History explored this legacy with Professor Nick Juravich in his spring 2022 course HIST 682: Digital Public History.

Screenshot showing 12 separate BTU contract booklets
Screenshot of HIST 682’s digital exhibit on the Boston Teachers Union contract timeline

Over the course of the semester this class (this author being a member of it) met with numerous digital public historians from across the country, studied the ethics and best practices of digital public history projects, and met with BTU members to gain insight about what these members wanted to learn more about. Students then jumped into creating digital exhibits using the recently donated materials in the Boston Teachers Union collection to look at various aspects of the BTU’s history. Digital exhibits range from looking at the year 1981, Kathy Kelley vs. Kevin White, the changes in the BTU contract, and more. My own exhibit looking at solidarity within the BTU also draws from other archival collections from UMass Boston like the Tess Ewing collection and its run of Hazard Lights, the school bus drivers union (USWA Local 8744) newsletter. 

The Boston Teachers Union collection is made up of three parts: digitized copies of The Boston Union Teacher from its 1963 through 2010 run, an oral history project run by Professor Juravich and retired BTU Secretary-Treasurer Betsy Drinan, and items collected from the Boston Teachers Union Digitizing Day in 2018 which kicked off the beginning of this relationship and hinted at what was to come. This collection also contains a complete run of the BTU contracts which have not yet been digitized.

Image of 1970 Issue of the Boston Union Teacher that includes a headline reading "School Committee Tactics Leading to Crisis"
The Boston Union Teacher, March 1970

This collection was launched on May 3, 2022. Students from HIST 682, leadership from the BTU, many active and retired BTU members, and families gathered to have a celebration of this monumental collection. This celebration included speeches from the BTU leadership, Professor Juravich, and Betsy Drinan commemorating the work that went into this project and the significance of interrogating one’s own legacy, including the good and the bad. Students presented their exhibits, discussing their inspiration and personal connections. This also allowed students a chance to meet the people we had been writing about, as many people who had been interviewed in the oral histories attended the launch event, and former president of the BTU Richard Stutman paid a virtual visit as well. 

The author Maci Mark stands at a podium in front of a screen projecting an exhibit about the BTU
HIST 682 student Maci Mark presenting at the BTU collection launch event, May 3, 2022

Overall as a student it was an incredible experience to get to be one of the first people to have hands-on experience working with these materials and to do so alongside the BTU. The type of partnership that is created here is a unique one that will hopefully benefit many students and the BTU down the line.


Explore the Boston Teachers Union digital collection. Contact library.archives@umb.edu for research assistance.

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UMass Boston launches online roadmap for planning participatory archiving events

The Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce the availability of RoPA, the Roadmap for Participatory Archiving, at ropa.umb.edu. Supported in part by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), RoPA is an online resource designed to guide libraries and cultural organizations through the process of collaborating with community members to plan engaging and inclusive participatory archiving events and to create digital collections. 

RoPA homepage screen shot

Screenshot of the newly-launched RoPA website

RoPA is a response to an increasing interest in public digitization events, which are part of the emerging phenomenon of participatory archiving. At these events—commonly called “scanning days” or “digitization days”—individuals connected with a theme, topic, event, or community come together to share personal and family photographs and stories, which are copied and added to a digital collection. More and more, librarians and museum curators recognize the potential for these types of projects to break down hierarchies and enrich local, regional, and national histories. By playing an active role in selecting and describing what should be preserved in an archival collection, community members can transform our collective understanding of the past. Through participatory archiving, these groups come together to build a more inclusive archival record.

“We created RoPA to answer calls from colleagues around the country for guidance on how to undertake participatory archiving projects in their own communities,” explains Carolyn Goldstein, the coordinator of the Healey Library’s Mass. Memories Road Show program. The Mass. Memories Road Show is a statewide, event-based participatory archiving program pioneered by UMass Boston that documents people, places, and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. For this program, archivists and public historians in the Healey Library at UMass Boston work in partnership with local planning teams and volunteers to organize free public events where individuals bring photographs to be copied and included in a digital archive. Since its launch in 2004, the Mass. Memories Road Show has digitized more than 12,000 photographs and stories from across the Commonwealth, creating an educational resource of primary sources for future generations. “RoPA is an opportunity to enhance the impact of our Massachusetts-based program,” adds Goldstein.

The development of RoPA was led by IMLS grant Co-Principal Investigators Goldstein and Andrew Elder, together with Sarah Collins, who served as Project Manager. They worked closely with a Core Team of leaders in the participatory archiving field to inform development and best practices on all aspects of the resource. RoPA’s Core Team included: Kathy Bolduc Amoroso, Maine Historical Society; Anne Karle-Zenith, Metropolitan New York Library Council; Yesenia Lopez, Newark Public Library; Veronica Martzahl, formerly of Massachusetts Archives and now La Mesa History Center; Danny Pucci, Boston Public Library; Joanne Riley, Interim Dean of University Libraries at UMass Boston; and Michele A. L. Villagran, San Jose State University

“I was thrilled when I was asked to work on the RoPA project team with several professionals from libraries and cultural institutions across the country. The collaboration and the sharing of ideas and knowledge helped strengthen the final project deliverable which will be an excellent guide for institutions and organizations as they collect and document personal and local stories and histories for future generations to enjoy or use for research,” notes Kathy Amoroso of the Maine Historical Society.

RoPA is aimed at libraries and cultural organizations of all kinds and sizes, offering a series of modules covering the important aspects of planning a participatory archiving event, including community partnerships and outreach, event logistics, metadata and archival description, and the preservation of digital materials. 

“To understand clearly what our colleagues throughout the country needed to know, our first step was to conduct a nationwide survey to capture the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of libraries and other cultural organizations,” Project Manager Sarah Collins explains. Libraries, cultural heritage organizations, and government agencies from more than thirty states responded to the UMass Boston survey.

“The survey results revealed that different users had different needs for an online resource of this type,” said Collins. Therefore, the team designed RoPA to be an accessible and adaptable resource that would guide both specialized professionals and novice volunteers through all of the steps of the participatory archiving process. While some users might already have experience with certain aspects of the work, they might need help with other dimensions. RoPA is organized by module to allow users to find the guidance they need and connect it to their own expertise and experience.

“We hope that RoPA will strengthen collaborations between libraries and their communities, and enable them to together build unique archival collections that document historically marginalized perspectives,” said Andrew Elder, Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections. “Ultimately, we anticipate that RoPA will help connect people around the country who are doing this important participatory archiving work so they can learn from and support each other.”

For questions and more information, email ropa@umb.edu

RoPA logo in orange, blue, and greenIMLS logo

University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was established in 1981 as a repository to collect archival material in subject areas of interest to the university, as well as the records of the university itself. The mission and history of UMass Boston guide the collection policies of University Archives and Special Collections, with the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service reflected in the records of and related to urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, war and social consequence, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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Community leader Mel King donates papers to the Archives at UMass Boston

The Africana Studies Department and the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston are pleased to announce the recent acquisition of the Melvin H. King papers, which will be preserved and made publicly available for research by the University Archives and Special Collections Department.

Black and white photograph showing crowd of people on a stage, including Mel King, his daughter Pamela, and his wife Joyce

Mel King (center, with fist raised), with his wife Joyce (to his left) and his daughter Pamela (to his right) on the evening of the Boston mayoral primary in 1983, which King won by 98 votes. October 11, 1983. Photo credit: Marilyn Humphries.

Born in 1928 in Boston’s South End neighborhood to immigrants from Guyana and Barbados, Mel King has had a long and significant career as a political activist and community organizer. He graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1946 and earned a B.S. in mathematics from Claflin College in 1950 and an M.A. in education from Boston State College in 1951. King served as the Director of Boys’ Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in the South End, and as the Director of the New Urban League of Greater

Boston. In 1968, he organized a “Tent City” demonstration in protest of a planned parking garage in the South End. Twenty years later, in 1988, a housing complex was built on that site and dedicated as Tent City. The Archives in the Healey Library holds the records of the Tent City Corporation, as well as other additional papers related to King’s work and activism.

Image of a flyer for Melvin H. King's campaign for Boston School Committee in 1964 and 1965

Front of flyer for King’s 1964-1965 election campaign for the Boston School Committee (click image for PDF of flyer)

King worked as an Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies at MIT for twenty-five years, where he founded and served as the Director of the Community Fellows Program in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He published a book, Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development, through the South End Press in 1981. King has received honorary doctoral degrees from New England School of Law, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Boston Architectural College, and University of Massachusetts Boston.

King ran for election to the Boston School Committee in 1961, 1963, and 1965, and served as a State Representative in Massachusetts from 1973-1982. In 1983 he was the first Black mayoral candidate in the City of Boston to make it to the General Election. He founded the Rainbow Coalition Party in Massachusetts, which merged with the Massachusetts Green Party to become the Green-Rainbow Party in 2002.

On behalf of the King family, Rep. King’s daughter, Pamela, said: “Melvin H. King, Sr., Joyce King, and family are pleased to donate the papers and works of Melvin H. King, Community Leader, former State Representative and author to the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Healey Library Archive. Mel received his Masters in Mathematics from Boston State Teacher’s College which was incorporated into the UMass Boston system. He also received an Honorary Doctorate at the recommendation of former Chancellor Keith Motley who had requested to have Mr. King’s papers be placed in the archives at the university. We thank the Africana Studies Department and Professor Jemadari Kamara for assisting with the donation and Andrew Elder of the Archives Department for making the transition of materials to the library. We hope the students, faculty and staff will utilize the collection and add to the growing links in the Chain of Change.”

Image of flyer for Mel King's reelection campaign for State Representative

Front of flyer for King’s 1974 reelection campaign for Massachusetts State Representative (click image for PDF of flyer)

“Given UMass Boston’s deep commitment to anti-racism, community engagement and social justice, we are honored to serve as the research home of the Mel King papers,” said Interim Dean of Libraries Joanne Riley. “On behalf of the Healey Library, I would like to express our gratitude to Representative King for donating these materials documenting his phenomenal work and influence, and to his family for helping us organize the smooth transfer of 80 cartons to campus. We are excited about working with faculty and students from Africana Studies and from across campus to prepare the collection to be publicly available for research.”

The Melvin H. King papers comprise 80 boxes of original archival materials documenting King’s lifetime of work as a Boston-based organizer, politician, activist, and educator. Topics include restorative justice, housing, education, agriculture and urban farming, advocacy for formerly incarcerated people, and computer literacy training. Among the materials in the collection are articles, audiovisual materials, books, correspondence, journals and notebooks, magazines, newspapers and newsletters, pamphlets and flyers, photographs and slides, poetry, reports, speeches and campaign materials, and various ephemera. Additional materials related specifically to King’s mayoral campaign in the early 1980s are housed in the Archives at Roxbury Community College.

This acquisition was made possible by Dr. Jemadari Kamara and Dr. Tony Van Der Meer in UMass Boston’s Africana Studies Department.

Color photograph shows King giving a speech in front the Trinity Church in Copley Square.

Boston mayoral candidate Mel King speaking at a rally in Copley Square in October 1983.

For more information about the Melvin H. King papers, including updates on when the collection will be available for research, please visit blogs.umb.edu/archives or contact library.archives@umb.edu.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was established in 1981 as a repository to collect archival material in subject areas of interest to the university, as well as the records of the university itself. The mission and history of UMass Boston guide the collection policies of University Archives & Special Collections, with the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service reflected in the records of and related to urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, war and social consequence, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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In the Archives: François Sully and the Vietnam War

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photo of Francois Sully standing in a foxhole holding his camera

Sully in foxhole at Binh Gia,  January 9, 1965

One of the largest digital photograph collections we have in the University Archives and Special Collections is that of François Sully. Sully was a soldier with the French Army until he was discharged in Saigon in 1947. After he left the French forces, he became a photojournalist and documented the war for news sources including Time and Newsweek. He took photographs of politicians and officers, soldiers and civilians, and villagers and their villages. Many of his photos show the destruction and violence of the long war, while others show people going about their daily lives as best they could. Some of the subjects include religious figures, the aftermath of battles, celebrations such as Tet, ancient monuments and tombs, student protests, and the lives of Europeans in Vietnam. 

Later on, Sully created two publications about the war and the experiences of those that lived through it: Age of the Guerilla: the New Warfare (New York: Parent’s Magazine Press, 1968; reprinted by Avon, 1970) and We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1971).

Our digital collection includes more than 1,000 photographs taken by François Sully and his companions. Check it out here, as well as its finding aid. You can also request access to Sully’s written materials by emailing us at library.archives@umb.edu

If you are interested in learning more about the US experience in the Vietnam War, we have several oral histories recorded and transcribed of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients that served in the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Navy at the time. Interviews were conducted by student veterans in Professor Erin Anderson’s course, “Oral Histories and the Veteran Experience.” Three of the interviews, those of Jack H. Jacobs, Harvey C. Barnum Jr., and Thomas G. Kelley, discuss the war in Vietnam. 

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Theresa-India Young exhibition at the Piano Craft Gallery

University Archives and Special Collections is pleased to highlight an exhibition that features the artwork of Theresa-India Young and other contemporary artists. Legacy: A Continuous Thread will be held at the Piano Craft Gallery from October 1-24, 2021. A reception is scheduled for October 15 from 6:00-9:00 pm.

Postcard for "Legacy: A Continuous Thread" featuring Theresa-India Young and contemporary fiber artists

Postcard for “Legacy: A Continuous Thread” featuring Theresa-India Young and contemporary fiber artists

University Archives and Special Collections holds the Theresa-India Young papers, 1917-2011, bulk 1975-2008. This collection documents the life and work of fiber artist, interdisciplinary arts teacher, and educational consultant Theresa-India Young. The collection also contains personal papers relating to Young’s family, her early years in Harlem, and her education, travel, and genealogical research, particularly into her Gullah heritage. Young’s interest in and advocacy for multiculturalism and diversity in education is well-documented throughout the collection, with a particular focus on unearthing and preserving African and Native American traditions. Her fiber art was informed by her research into African aesthetics and traditions, particularly weaving and hair braiding. 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.

In the late 1960s Young was a student at the Harlem Youth Arts Program (Haryou Act) and studied with painter Norman Lewis and was an apprentice to Zelda Wynn, Costume Designer for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She graduated from the High School of Art and Design in 1968 and studied at various institutions, such as Parsons School of Design and SUNY at New Paltz, where she received a degree in Arts Education and African Studies in 1973. In 1972 she studied West African Religion and Art at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana.

In 1975 she won a scholarship to Boston University’s Program in Artisanry for Textiles. Since that time, she resided in the Boston area and maintained a home and studio at the Piano Factory artists’ building. From 1978-1983 she was Artist-in-Residence at Northeastern University’s African American Master Artist-in-Residency Program (AAMARP).

For more information on Theresa-India Young’s life and work see the finding aid for the Theresa-India Young papers.


University Archives and 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 and 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 and Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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