Skip to main content

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

Identifier: BCA-003

Scope and Contents

The photos and programs that Alma Berk saved serve as a visual snapshot of Berklee's early history, providing an important component of the College's institutional memory. As a staff member, Mrs. Berk attained a level of access to events and behind the scenes occurrences likely unavailable to student or outside photographers. Given her insider view, her photos have immense institutional value and are the only known comprehensive photographic collection of Berklee during this time. While Mrs. Berk likely took some of the photos herself, it is believed that many of the photos were actually taken by her personal photographer, Dino.

The collection of photographs primarily contain photos of people, places, and events involving students, faculty, and staff at the Berklee College of Music, formerly known as Schillinger House, later Berklee School of Music. The photographs range in date from the early 1940s through the mid 1980s, with the bulk around 1968 through 1984. The photographic prints are primarily 3.5x5 and 4x5 inches in size, with some 8x10 inch prints, and a few odd sized prints here and there. The prints are arranged into 76 albums that were presumably collected, arranged, created, and labeled by Mrs. Berk (unless otherwise noted). 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; again presumed have been Mrs. Berk's. The albums of negatives, while most likely not complete, could still be reused in the condition in which they have been kept to create more prints. Despite the collection being large, comprehensive, and in fairly good quality, there are some downsides to the collection as a whole. For starters the ownership history is not known, and it is clear that many people have used, moved, and labeled photos since Mrs. Berk first created the photo albums. In particular the book Berklee the First Fifty Years used the photographs extensively, which appears to have resulted in the rearrangement and loss of many prints. Knowing what is her original arrangement and order is near impossible at this time. Even knowing whether Mrs. Berk was the original photographer for all of the photos is only an educated guess. In addition, there are a lot of missing labels, names, and dates that would help with the description of the photos. These could have been pieces lost through the years, as some albums do have written labels and other have types labels glued falling off the construction paper backing.


  • 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

Berklee was founded as the Schillinger House in 1945 by Lawrence Berk in Boston, Massachusetts. Renamed Berklee School of Music between 1954 and 1970, it was the first U.S. school teaching popular music for the time (Jazz). From the founding of the Schillinger House to about 1985 Alma Berk, wife of Lawrence Berk and mother of Lee Berk (college president from 1979 to 2004), served as publicity officer for the school. As publicity officer Mrs. Berk took many photographs of events, people and places relating or involved with the school. In addition Mrs. Berk saved, and possibly created many of the fliers and programs of the school related events that happened during her tenure as publicity officer.


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

Language of Materials



The materials have been arranged into seven series alphabetically. Four of the series contain subseries. The series are based off of what is thought to be the original order given by the photographer or Mrs. Berk, usually based on the name of the albums presumably given by the photographer or Mrs. Berk. The roman numerals attached to the names of many of the albums, and inconsistencies in names are direct transcriptions from the original names given to the albums. Due to some albums potentially missing (based on the roman numerals) and the many people who had the albums through the years, it is apparent that some of the albums were reconstructed or reorganized by persons unknown. Given the content and context, the photo albums were not originally arranged chronologically, but by subject and convivence of the photographer/previous owner.

Many albums included sticky notes that gave additional content, context, and identifying information to the photos. During processing of the album these notes were transcribed on to archival-quality paper. While the sticky notes do not appear to be from Mrs. Berk or the photographer, they can give additional information on the photo and the history of the album (i.e. who had possession and uses for the album).

The negatives are also in original chronological order. The individual photographs are kept in their original order and laid out as they were in their respective photo albums, despite having been rehoused.

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. It appears likely that Mrs. Berk may have taken some of the photographs herself, but others have suggested that her personal photographer, Dino, may have taken many as well. Mrs. Berk is presumed to have put together the albums, but it is possible another photographer arranged at least some of them. These albums were clearly used by others throughout the years for displays and other projects, and the original arrangement may have been altered during this time. 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 photographs were passed on to the Berklee College of Music Archives located at the Stan Getz Library. The institutional archives was formally establish in 2012, and processing of this collection began in January of 2013.

Separated Materials

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. Take note that at times the negative and contact sheets can provide additional contextual information not readily available on the prints or in the photo albums.

General Collection Level Note

Please take note that the prints are not arranged chronologically and at times do not have contextual detail. At times the page of negatives associated with the individual prints will have more information on the people, places, and events.

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.


Berklee College of Music Photographic Collection by Alma Berk, (1940’s - 1980’s)
Christopher Stowell, Simmons GSLIS intern.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
All materials are in English when writing is present. Most materials are purely visual in nature.
The arrangement and description of this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the Berklee Archives Repository

Berklee College of Music
1140 Boylston St
Boston MA 02215 USA