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Berklee College of Music photographic collection by Alma Berk, 1940s-1980s

Identifier: BCA-003

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises 76 albums of photographs and associated negatives and contact sheets pertaining to Berklee people, places, and events from the school's founding as Schillinger House in 1945 through the mid-1980s, though the majority of photos date between 1968 and 1984. Most photos are uncredited, so it is thought that Berk likely took several the photographs herself, and that many may have also been taken by her personal photographer, Dino.

Most prints are measure 3.5x5 or 4x5 inches in size, with some 8x10-inch and other odd-sized prints. While some photos do have written labels, the prints often lack description or other context. In some cases, the associated negatives will have more information on the people, places, and events depicted. Older photos in this collection are less likely to be dated, labeled, or have associated negatives or contact sheets.

The albums of negatives are linked to the print albums through a complex code, presumed have been Berk's. Photos taken between 1969 and 1980 tend to have negatives and contact sheets associated with the prints. These can be found in the respective Negatives and Contacts album based upon ID number written on the print and the ID number range given to the Negatives and Contacts albums. There are two different types of IDs, one that was in effect from 1969 to 1976, and another that last from 1977 to 1980.

Many albums also included sticky notes that did not appear to come from Berk or her photographer. These notes, which provide information on photos or how the album was used or who had possession of it, were transcribed during processing onto archival-quality paper and included in the rehoused albums.


  • 1940-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1984



Collection is open for research by appointment. Advance notice is required for access because materials are stored offsite.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alma Berk (1912-1995) established Berklee's Office of Public Information in 1959 and served as Chief Public Affairs Officer until her retirement in 1994. Her husband, Lawrence Berk, founded Berklee (then Schillinger House) in 1945 and their son Lee Eliot Berk served as the college's second president from 1979-2004.

Berk's tenure at Berklee encompassed the school's beginnings as the Schillinger House in 1945, its rebranding as the Berklee School of Music in the 1950s, and the transition to Berklee College of Music in the 1980s. As a founding staff member and presidential spouse, Berk had access to events and behind-the-scenes activities unavailable to student or outside photographers. She took (or contracted) many photographs of events, people, and places pertaining to the school's activities and collected (and possibly created) many fliers and programs. Her photos remain the most comprehensive photographic collection of Berklee during its first fifty years.


9.7 Cubic Feet (76 albums total, comprising 17 albums of negatives and 59 albums photographic prints.)

Language of Materials



The materials have been organized alphabetically by subject into seven series based on album name. Each series is arranged based on an approximation of the original order of the albums per roman numerals assigned to several albums, though the numbering systems implies that some albums are misising or were reorganized by other hands. Four of the series contain subseries. Photographs have been retained in the order in which they were received.

The negatives are arranged in their original chronological order.

Custodial History

These photograph albums were compiled by Alma Berk during her time as Berklee's publicity officer from the college's inception until about 1986. They appear to have been used by other staff throughout the years for displays and other projects, and the original arrangement may have been altered or disrupted as a result. For example, the photos were used to partially produce the book Berklee the First Fifty Years, although it is not known by whom or from which original albums materials were selected.

The collection was transferred to the archives circa 2012.

Processing Information

Primarily processed and encoded by Christopher Stowell, Simmons GSLIS intern, spring semester 2013. Physical processing completed by Nicole Lewis-Prawl (Simmons GSLIS intern, summer semester 2013) and archival assistants Harry Lodes, James Malinowski, and Dmytro Gordon.

Albums were rehoused but were not reordered. Information on sticky notes was transcribed during processing onto archival-quality paper and included in the rehoused albums.


Berklee College of Music photographic collection by Alma Berk, 1940s-1980s
Christopher Stowell, Simmons GSLIS intern
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
The arrangement and description of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Revision Statements

  • 2022/10/27: Finding aid revised by Ashley Gray, Processing Archivist, to conform descriptive notes to DACS and improve clarity.

Repository Details

Part of the Berklee Archives Repository

Berklee College of Music
1140 Boylston St
Boston MA 02215 USA