UMass Amherst-Office of Faculty Development

UMass Amherst Libraries Announce Jerry Russo Oral History Collection

Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center wordmark

The UMass Amherst Libraries has announced the digitization of the Jerry Russo Oral History Collection. In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, filmmaker and photographer Jerry Russo began working on an oral history project to interview visual artists and creatives all over the world. During the subsequent two years, he completed 249 interviews via Zoom. Russo donated the oral histories to the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center (SCUA), for which social change and the arts are major collecting focuses.

In the interviews, Russo captures the artists’ thoughts on a wide range of topics and themes, including living and working during the pandemic’s enforced solitude and lockdown; the ways in which the pandemic has had an impact on their creative processes, shifts in narratives, and use of materials; and whether the work they created referenced the pandemic, the Black Lives movement, or politics in the U.S.

A documentary filmmaker and photographer based in Boston, Russo was educated at Tufts University and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. His photographs have been exhibited at a variety of galleries in the Boston area and New York City. In 2023, he completed artist residencies in Cape Ann and Provincetown, Mass. When Russo describes his intention as a photographer, he identifies as his primary goal being “as sincere and empathetic as possible … [to be] a kind observer of the world around me. I’ve always lived my life intensely soaking up the environment with a non-judgmental (but truthful) eye and using my images as a reflection of that.”

More than 100 of the interviews of the Jerry Russo Oral History Collection are now available in SCUA’s digital repository, Credo.