Bob Bersson Papers, 1981-2017 *JMU Faculty Papers*

Browse manuscript collections

Descriptive Summary


Repository: Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Title: Bob Bersson Papers, 1981-2017

Collection No.: SC 0272
Creator: Robert Bersson (Bob)

Extent: 6 boxes; 1.94 cubic feet

Language: English

Abstract: The Bob Bersson Papers, 1981-2017, are comprised of documents and media related to Bersson's work as a community activist in Harrisonburg, and professor of art at James Madison University. It contains Bersson's professional papers, material related to the Citizens for Downtown organization, Taxpayers against Golf Spending (TAGS), WMRA's "Our Little Radio Show," and images of downtown Harrisonburg and JMU Campus.


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions: The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], [box#, folder #], Bob Bersson Papers, 1981-2017, SC 0272, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Acquisition Information: Items were donated by Bob Bersson in five separate accessions between 2014 and 2018.
Processing Information: Duplicate copies of materials were discarded. Newspaper clippings related to the JMU Faculty and restructuring were returned to donor. Cassette tapes containing WMRA recordings of "Our Little Radio Show" were digitized and returned to the donor. In January 2019, 771 slides from Series 1: Citizens for Downtown (CFD), 1989-2017 in were inventoried, photographed, and rehoused. The original slide cases, slide boxes, and slide carousels were photographed and discarded.

Bio/Historical Note:

Bob Bersson was a professor of Art at James Madison University from 1983 until his retirement in 2003. He taught modern and contemporary art history, art criticism, aesthetics, and art appreciation. He wrote two art history/art appreciation text books: "Worlds of Art," published by Mayfield in 1991, and "Responding to Art," published by McGraw-Hill in 2004. Bersson founded the Interfaith Initiative for Peace and Justice in Harrisonburg, and remains active in local interfaith activities. In 2016, Bersson served as visiting Jewish Scholar for the Center for Interfaith Engagement at Eastern Mennonite University.

Scope and Content:

The collection is comprised of documents and media related to Robert Bersson's work as an art professor at JMU and community organizer in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It is arranged into four series: Citizens for Downtown (CFD) in Harrisonburg, Taxpayers against Golf Spending (TAGS), WMRA "Our Little Radio Show," and Professional Papers.


The collection is arranged into 4 series:
Series 1: Citizens for Downtown (CFD), 1989-2017
Subseries 1: Administrative Files, 1989-2017
Subseries 2: Subject Files, 1989-2017
Series 2: Taxpayers against Golf Spending (TAGS), 1992-2002
Series 3: WMRA "Our Little Radio Show," 1987-1988
Series 4: Professional Papers, 1991-2004

Related Material:

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Common Ground Records, 1983-2000, SC 0126, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.


Series 1: Citizens for Downtown, 1989-2017

Arranged into two subseries: Administrative Files, 1989-2017, arranged chronologically, and Subject Files, 1989-2017, arranged alphabetically.

The Citizens for Downtown files contain meeting minutes, correspondence, financial reports, newspaper clippings, speeches, membership information, advertisements, and slides related to the historic preservation and revitalization of downtown Harrisonburg. A summary of the history of CFD and the Blacks Run clean-up and restoration project, written by Bob Bersson, can be found in Box 1:8.

The series contains 771 slides with images of Harrisonburg, James Madison University, Rockingham County, and other locales in Virginia and the Northeast. Specific locations include images of downtown Harrisonburg, Hillandale Park, Black's Run, Purcell Park, and JMU buildings and campus. One slide container was labelled, "Good Models for Downtown Development," and contained images of Charlottesville, Roanoke, Richmond, Alexandria, among other locales. Another slide case was labelled, JMU Architecture, 1909-2003.

The series also contains three VHS tapes with interviews of Bersson related to Harrisonburg downtown revitalization, as well as two 3.5 inch floppy discs labelled, "Citizens for Downtown" (4:1).

Subseries: Administrative Files, 1989-2017
Prehistory of CFD, 1981-1989, undated
Box 1:Folder 1
CFD Documents, 1989, undated
Box 1:Folder 2
Bob Bersson Notebook, 1989-1990
Box 1:Folder 3
CFD Documents, 1990
Box 1:Folder 3
CFD Documents, 1991
Box 1:Folder 4
CFD Documents, 1992-1994
Box 1:Folder 5
CFD Documents, 1995-2000
Box 1:Folder 6
CFD Documents, 2004, 2006
Box 1:Folder 7
CFD Narrative and Blacks Run Clean-up Narratives, 2014, 2017
Box 1:Folder 8
Subseries: Subject Files, 1989-2017
Architectural Awards, 1990-2002, undated
Box 1:Folder 9
Blacks Run Restoration Project Documents, 1989-2003
Box 1:Folder 10
Blacks Run Restoration Project Photos, ca. 1992
Box 1:Folder 11
Blacks Run Restoration Project Newspaper Clippings, 1990-2017
Box 1:Folder 12
Fridays on the Square, 1992-2013
Box 1:Folder 13
Gallery Walk, 1989-1990
Box 1:Folder 14
Media: VHS and disks, 1981-1989
Box 4:Folder 1
Slides, c. 1981-2005
Box 6

Series 2: Taxpayers Against Golf Spending (TAGS), 1992-2002

TAGS is comprised reports, memos, maps, studies, advertisements, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and cassette tapes related to a campaign against the Harrisonburg City Council's plans to build a municipal golf course in the Hillandale Park in Harrisonburg. The organization eventually formed the Citizens of Harrisonburg Advocating New Government for the Electorate (CHANGE) in 2000, who endorsed three candidates for city council -- Dorn Peterson, Carolyn Frank, and Joe Fitzgerald -- all of whom were elected in May 2000.

Harrisonburg Golf Course Feasability study, 1992
Box 2:Folder 1
Studies and Reports by City of Harrisonburg, 1994-2000
Box 2:Folder 2
Advertisements, 1999
Box 2:Folder 3
Correspondence, 1999
Box 2:Folder 4
Financial Analysis of Golf Course, 1999
Box 2:Folder 5
Newspaper clippings, 1999
Box 2:Folder 6
Correspondence, 2000
Box 2:Folder 7
Newspaper clippings, 2000
Box 2:Folder 8
CHANGE Campaign Material, 2000
Box 3:Folder 1
CHANGE Documents, 2000-2002
Box 3:Folder 2
Cassettes with Carolyn Frank, Ben Fordney and Warren Dillenbeck, 2002
Box 4:Folder 2

Series 3: WMRA - Our Little Radio Show, 1987-1988

The series, "Our Little Radio Show," contains documents related to a variety show co-founded by Bersson in 1987, and hosted at JMU. Audio cassettes with episodes of the show have been digitized and returned to Bersson, and will be made available.

Our Little Radio Show Documents, 1987
Box 3:Folder 3

Series 4: Professional Papers, 1991-2004

Professional Papers contain the papers and media created by Bersson during his tenure as a professor of Art at James Madison University. There are two folders contain documents related to significant and controversial restructuring under the Carrier Administration in 1993. Files include comments made by President Carrier during a JMU Faculty Senate Meeting in October 14, 1993, as well as other articles and reports related to faculty governance and structure.

The series contains 3.5 inch floppy discs and zip discs which contain drafts of Bersson's two books, "Worlds of Art," published by Mayfield Publishing Company in 1991, and "Responding to Art: Form, Content and Context," published by McGraw Hill in 2003, as well as other academic work.

AAUP Committee Documents, 1993
Box 3:Folder 4
Faculty Senate Documents, 1993-2007
Box 3:Folder 5
Media containing work for two art textbooks, 1991
Box 5

Compiled by: Sarah Roth-Mullet, May 2018