Northeastern University Solves a Sandy Island Mystery!

At Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, Dana Bronson, Daniel Lavoie and Michelle Romero hold a photocopy of a newspaper article describing the 1938 De Turk-Mount Washington boating accident.

Alice Erickson has attended Sandy Island for 78 years and she told a story from her youth about an incident that few recall nowadays. Alice remembered that the Mount Washington once ran into a Sandy Island sailboat, the De Turk. According to Alice, the two Sandy sailors jumped overboard just before the collision but they were quickly pulled from the water by the Mount Washington crew. The De Turk, however, was destroyed. While organizing Sandy Island materials last year, archivists at Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections discovered three newspaper articles documenting that August 1938 accident. Northeastern archivists also found a letter from Sandy Island director Walt Taylor which named the Sandy boat, the De Turk. When she was told about the newspaper articles which corroborated her story Alice replied, “At my age (93) you begin to doubt your own memories. I was sure this story was real because I recalled so many details. It’s nice to hear that my memory is still working. You’ve made an old woman very happy!” Northeastern archivist Michelle Romero prepared a photocopy version of the article, pictured above, and the article will be on display in the Sandy Island Dining Hall during summer 2017.

View Sandy Island Photos and Documents – in Boston!

We have received so many Sandy Island photos and artifacts that we realized we did not have enough space to store them. Even worse, we do most of our history research during the winter months when items stored on the island are inaccessible to us. Greater Boston YMCA CFO Ann Tikkanen came to the rescue and directed us to Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections where the Boston Y stores its historic documents. In 2015 we transferred ten boxes of Sandy Island items to Northeastern.

In 2016, Northeastern archivist Daniel Lavoie and a team of graduate library school interns from Simmons College sorted through years of dust, mold, mildew and even some broken glass to uncover the treasures hidden within the boxes of Sandy Island “stuff.” Lavoie said, “Our team spent 105 hours processing these items. Despite their age, most were in pretty good shape. It was obvious that they had been carefully and lovingly preserved.” Northeastern Archives staff cleaned each item, placed it into a labelled folder, and then stored the folders in numbered boxes. Archives Assistant Dana Bronson helped to create a list of the contents of each folder and box, a list Northeastern calls a “finding aid.”

Sandy Island items, and all Boston YMCA material (including some North Woods and Pleasant Valley items), are available for public viewing, year-round, any time that Northeastern Archives and Special Collections is open . Northeastern archivist Michelle Romero suggests that visitors call ahead to schedule their first visit. “We’ll give you a tour of our Archives Department and show you how to use the finding aid to locate the items you want to see,” Romero said. We are thrilled that Northeastern can provide this service for us! For more information contact Sara Clarkson at

Special Project: Please Help the Sandy Archives Rescue a Fragile Old Document

Northeastern archivists declared that two of our items were “too fragile to handle safely.” These are two huge plans (40×50″) that are versions of the Olmsted Firm’s 1938 landscape design plan for Sandy Island Camp. Because we believe these plans are valuable to Olmsted historians as well as to YMCA and Sandy Island historians, we think these plans are worth a concerted effort to repair and to share with the public. We submitted the plans to a professional paper conservation firm (that’s how we learned how large they were) and the conservators estimate that the cost of preserving these two plans will be $4,000. The three-part “rescue mission” to preserve these historic plans includes these organizations and services:

  • Northeast Document Conservation Center: will clean, repair, and digitize the landscape design plans.
  • Digital Commonwealth: will make the digital images available on the Sandy Island page of their website.
  • Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections: will store and arrange viewings of the original copies of the plans.

To read more about this project, and to see photos of the tattered plans, go to NEDCC’s website and look at the “Crowdfunding for Preservation” page (under the “Crowdfunding” tab at the top of the page.)

If you would like to help us save this bit of Sandy Island history, please contact Kate Lemay at or you can donate directly by CLICKING HERE.


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