Research center expanding historical collection on Boston's neighborhoods

BOSTON — As one of the countries oldest cities, and the birthplace of American Revolution, Boston is a city with rich history.

Paul Revere's ride through the North End and the Battle of Bunker Hill are only two of the iconic stories that attract visitors from around the world to downtown Boston.

The Boston Research Center, housed at Northeastern, is expanding its collection of documents and artifacts from Boston's neighborhoods.

“The Boston Research Center can help activate this history in a more tangible way for people,” said Molly Brown, one of several staff members at the Northeastern University Library who are involved with this project.

Daniel Cohen, the Dean of the Northeastern Library, said that the Boston Research Center brings together a wealth of information and archival materials about Boston's neighborhoods.

“We’re all familiar with the stories about Boston that we see and read in textbooks and see in documentaries,” Cohen said.

“The Boston Research Center is really expanding that history to incorporate multiple voices and perspectives, and to really diversity the entire historical record of this city.”

Researchers started in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood, talking to residents. Catherine McGloin, a graduate student, said, “We were just trying to capture, in that moment, a real slice of life. What it’s like be in a neighborhood that’s so rapidly changing, growing, and developing. What issues are they facing?”

The Boston Research Center recently won a $650,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Center plans to partner with branch libraries across Boston to conduct more outreach in the neighborhoods, including exploring East Boston's long-term relationship with Logan Airport, and a look into how Chinatown has dealt with development pressures over the past generation.

"I am by training, a historian, and I always feel that getting a better sense of your neighborhood’s history, your own city’s history, actually makes you a better citizen," Cohen said.

"It really enriches your understanding of how we came to be, the struggles that have gone into the city, to make it what it is today,” Cohen added.

Researchers will announce dates for community meetings at the branch libraries. They're interested in oral histories, collecting archival photos, and gathering notes from old community meetings.