Burns Library acquires Jacobs' papers

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

Noted urbanologist and architectural critic Jane Jacobs chained herself to buildings to stop the demolition of old neighborhoods and her books on urban renewal have long been essential to the PULSE curriculum at Boston College. Now, at age 79, she has donated her papers to the Burns Library.

The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Growth and Development of Cities , Jacobs played a major role in stopping the government practice of tearing down old, close-knit neighborhoods and replacing them with architecturally sterile housing projects, thus helping to save the community aspect of city life and architecture.

"Preservation has been the theme of her work," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill, "and Ms. Jacob's commitment to people and her spirit are consistent with the Jesuit ideals of Boston College, making it a fitting place for her papers."

The collection includes a number of media, including a film on her work, recordings, a complete set of revisions to her book Systems of Survival , copies of all her works in several languages, newspaper clippings, manuscripts, awards, magazines featuring Jacobs, letters, correspondence and photographs.

"This collection is a significant addition to our management holdings, specifically in the subject of ethics," O'Neill said.

Jacobs' relationship with Boston College started in the 1970s, when Assistant Dean of the Carroll School of Management Richard Keeley, then director of the PULSE program, wrote to her requesting that she visit the University. At the time, public skepticism of her ideas made Jacobs reluctant to speak and Keeley's repeated invitations were turned down for almost a decade before she allowed him to visit her at home in Toronto.

"We hit it off well," he said, "and she agreed to come to BC."

He wanted her to visit to speak to students involved in the PULSE curriculum. "Her books help the students in the PULSE Program make sense of the neighborhoods in which they work and we've been using them for years" he said.

Her first visit was in 1987 for a Lonergan Weekend Workshop. She has also served as a PULSE resident author and then came back in 1993 for a two day symposium, "Jane Jacobs in Conversation," which attracted 300 people.

During her last visit, she was given a tour of Burns Library. O'Neill asked her where she'd like to house her papers and she responded, "I can't think of any place I'd rather have my papers be than here."

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