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Boston Phoenix Collection

Boston Phoenix archives donated to Northeastern

Reprinted From News @Northeastern, November 24, 2015 

By Noelle Shough
Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
 
For nearly 50 years, The Boston Phoenix was Boston’s alter­na­tive news­paper of record, the first word on social jus­tice, pol­i­tics, as well as the arts and music scene. Its intrepid jour­nal­ists tackled issues from safe sex and AIDS aware­ness to gay rights, mar­riage equality, and the legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana. Ads for room­mates, romantic mates, and band mates—one could find all these and more in the newspaper’s probing, irrev­erent, enter­taining pages.
 
It ceased pub­li­ca­tion in March 2013, but the Phoenix will be pre­served for posterity—thanks to owner Stephen Mindich’s deci­sion in Sep­tember to donate the paper’s archives to Northeastern’s Snell Library.
 
Snell’s Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions already houses an impres­sive array of his­tor­ical records of Boston’s social move­ments, including civil and polit­ical rights, immi­grant rights, home­less­ness, and envi­ron­mental justice.
 
“The Phoenix never shied away from cov­ering topics of neigh­bor­hood interest, sup­porting the rights of indi­vid­uals and groups,” says Will Wakeling, dean of Uni­ver­sity Libraries. “So it will form a per­fect com­ple­ment to this growing collection.”
 
The Boston Phoenix will be preserved in Snell Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
The Boston Phoenix will be pre­served in Snell Library’s Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University
 
LOCAL HISTORY WRIT LARGE
Mindich’s gift encom­passes much more than The Boston Phoenix. The archives include sister pub­li­ca­tions in Worcester, Mass­a­chu­setts, Port­land, Maine, and Prov­i­dence; Boston After Dark; The Real Paper; the alter­na­tive pro­gram­ming of WFNX FM; and Stuff and Stuff at Night mag­a­zines. These sources, including a full Web archive of mate­rial not included in the print edi­tions, pro­vide a richly nuanced per­spec­tive on how people thought and put ideas into action when it came to social issues and social jus­tice from the 1960s to the near-​​present day. They are doc­u­men­ta­tion of the ways social change happens.
 
“Our vision for the archives is dig­i­tizing all the print and making it fully text-​​searchable, so all that his­tory lives on,” says Dan Kennedy, asso­ciate pro­fessor at Northeastern’s School of Jour­nalism and a former Phoenix media colum­nist and nationally-​​known media commentator.
 
Adds Wakeling, “As the library works on the com­plex dig­i­tizing strategy, the archives will be made avail­able to the public.”
 
The Boston Phoenix not only reported on the news, it made the news. In 1987, during the height of the AIDS crisis, it dis­trib­uted 150,000 con­doms to readers. In 2001, Phoenix reporter Kristen Lom­bardi described trou­bling pat­terns in how Catholic Church leaders were trans­fer­ring priests accused of sex­u­ally abusing chil­dren to new parishes. The alter­na­tive weekly also fol­lowed the evolving rights of the LGBTQ community.
 
“A great strength of the paper was also its arts cov­erage, which is also Stephen’s pas­sion,” notes Kennedy. In 1994, writer Lloyd Schwartz won the Pulitzer Prize for Crit­i­cism for his cov­erage of clas­sical music. Many former Phoenix writers—Susan Orlean, David Denby, Mark Lei­bovich, and Michael Rezendes among them—went on to illus­trious careers at top U.S. news­pa­pers and magazines.
 
Though Boston’s anti-​​establishment spirit has faded some­what over the years, Mindich’s dona­tion ensures that its his­tory never will. “Scholars and researchers in this area will be licking their lips in antic­i­pa­tion,” says Wakeling.

The collection also consists of the Phoenix's online presence. 

The website is now stored in the Internet Archive's Wayback machine, and can be accessed on their website.

For further information, please contact Head of Special Collections and University Archivist Giordana Mecagni at 617-373-8318.