Fallen tree next to Holmes Variety Store
Fallen tree next to Holmes Variety Store

Boats ashore at Savin Hill Yacht Club
Boats ashore at Savin Hill Yacht Club
On the afternoon of September 21, 1938, a Category 3 hurricane struck Long Island and southern New England with little warning, causing over 600 deaths, and great damage to property and the environment. Winds of 121 mph, with gusts close to 200 mph, were recorded at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, but it was the flooding that caused the most damage. All along the coast, boats sank or were tossed ashore — even “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, was ripped from its moorings in Boston Navy Yard. According to a WPA report, the New Bedford Yacht Club “was plucked bodily from its foundation and scattered in broken wreckage on the surface of the New Bedford-Fairhaven bridge.” There was also water damage inland — in Southbridge, for example, a dam burst and “the flood crashed down upon the town’s center, ripping up roads, tearing bridges.”

Ware fire station blown off foundation
Ware fire station blown off foundation
Several church steeples toppled, and, in the words of a WPA writer, “The hurricane sliced stories from buildings with the precision of a meat axe.” Across the state, large trees came down. From the WPA report: “Scarcely a Springfield street escaped. Giant hundred-year-old elms smashed houses, fell across power lines, crushed automobiles as if they were toys made of tin”; “Canton lost trees which were standing there when the Puritans landed”; “Wellesley, college town and attractive Boston suburb, kept its homes but lost thousands of magnificent trees” and in Worcester, “Hadwen Park became a logging camp. Streets were labyrinths of trunks and poles.”

Recovery from the hurricane was a slow process. According to Lourdes Aviles, author of the book Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane, “it took weeks to even get access to some places. It took months to clean up, several weeks to restore power to the 80 percent of the region that lost its power. The amount of flooding and tree damage and forest destruction that happened was just immense, unimaginable.”

Learn More About the Hurricane

All photographs on this page are from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library. Leslie Jones was the staff photographer for the Boston Herald-Traveler from 1917 to 1956.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a national holiday honoring the contributions workers have made to the prosperity and well-being of the country. The first Labor Day observance was organized by the Central Labor Union in New York in 1882, with an estimated 20,000 workers marching in support of labor law reforms including the eight-hour work day. Labor organizations in other cites held similar events the following year, and a handful of states made Labor Day an official state holiday, including Massachusetts in 1888. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894.

This year the Digital Commonwealth has been celebrating Labor Day by posting photographs of Massachusetts workers on the Digital Commonwealth Facebook Page. These images include cranberry pickers, bakers, construction workers, clerical workers and more from around the Commonwealth, and you’ll find many more photographs of workers in the Digital Commonwealth collections.

Filling the pies, Table Talk factory, Worcester
Filling the pies, Table Talk factory, Worcester
Cape Cod decoy carver
Cape Cod decoy carver – Harwich Port
Sorting linens at the Faulkner Hospital laundry
Sorting linens at the Faulkner Hospital laundry
A.E. Little Shoe, Lynn: Stitching room personnel
A.E. Little Shoe, Lynn: Stitching room personnel

Links to All the Selected Photographs

This past year resulted in several members leaving the Digital Commonwealth Board. Anne Sauer, who served as vice president, left her job at Tufts for a new position at Cornell. Ryan Hanson, who took over for Anne as vice president, left his position at the Newton Free Public Library for a job with a company in the Back Bay of Boston.

Besides these unexpected and regretful departures, the normal matriculation of board members resulted in the resignations of Margaret Morrissey, Director of the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, and Kim Cochran, the ex officio representative from the Massachusetts School Library Association. Both of these board members served three years.

Nancy Heywood, past president of Digital Commonwealth, agreed to re-join the board as a temporary replacement for Anne and Ryan. Nancy has since agreed to remain on the board and serve as its new treasurer. Since Kim’s position is reserved for an MSLA member, the only remaining positions to fill by member application were those left by Margaret and Ryan.

Five exceptional candidates submitted applications for the two open board positions. It was a close vote, but the board decided on accepting Jean Maguire, Library Director of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Susan Stearns, who last year became the new Executive Director of the Boston Library Consortium.

Jean Maguire brings to the board a long and broad experience in libraries, beginning as a public library employee in 1987 and moving on to private and academic positions. She began working in the NEGS as a technical services librarian in 1999. Jean has a proven record of leadership in the region and should prove instrumental in helping Digital Commonwealth reach out to a larger membership constituency among smaller organizations not currently served very well, such as the many historical societies within the state.

With over 25 years serving in senior and strategic management positions, Susan Stearns offers the Digital Commonwealth extensive experience in marketing management and communication. At the other end of the member spectrum, Susan should help Digital Commonwealth attract more of the local area’s numerous academic institutions. In addition, she will provide enormous assistance with outreach — both to existing and prospective members. This is an area of concern that Digital Commonwealth needs to expand.

We welcome our two new board members and expect that they will provide enormous benefits to the organization.

For those who applied this year and were not chosen as well as others who might be interested, please consider that there is turnover on the board every year, so although your expertise might not have fit the board’s greatest needs this time around, it well might at another time. There are also many other ways to participate, and the board encourages interested applicants to consider a volunteer position on one of the committees. We can always use the extra help!

Recently, Digital Repository Developer Steven Anderson and Web Services Developer Eben English presented at the Open Repositories 2014 conference in Helsinki and at the Northeast Fedora Users Group (NEFUG) meeting in Boston.

Open Repositories is an annual international conference that brings together people and institutions responsible for the development, implementation, and management of digital repositories to share information and strategies for long-term preservation and access. Steven’s presentation was entitled “When Metadata Collides: Lessons on Combining Records from Multiple Repository Systems.” It summarizes the practical challenges involved in combining diverse descriptions, authorities, and technologies into the shared Digital Commonwealth repository and highlights the imaginative ways Steven and Eben have addressed them with the help of the Digital Projects department. Watch the seven-minute presentation online. Move the slider to the 52 minute mark to start with Steven’s talk. (Editor’s note: the previous link has had intermittent connection issues. Please continue to try the link until it resolves correctly.)

During the NEFUG meeting, Eben and Steven gave a presentation titled “digital_commonwealth_presentation” during the Hydra session. Steven presented on slides, that can be viewed here, and Eben gave a 10 minute demonstrations of teh actual portal. Steven also gave a lightening talk (aka “Dork Short”) about metadata combination challenges.

By Harold Smith

If you work at a public library, especially if you work at a small library where opportunities for collaboration are rare and money for new projects is even rarer, then you should read about this opportunity that is now available. Here’s the deal in a nutshell. If you have an unprocessed collection, even if you aren’t sure of their importance, you can arrange for someone to come to your library to assess the collection and to walk you through the entire process of project design, digitization, metadata creation, rights management, and putting the collection online. If you have never done anything like this before, they will help you learn. If you have done similar work but are simply strapped for time or money, they can take a lot of the work off your hands and they can do it with grant money instead of your money. All they ask in return is that you share what you digitize. That doesn’t mean you lose your collection or even that you lose the right to host the digital collection if you want, it just means that the metadata and a thumbnail image will be used to link your content with the content from other collections. This expands the reach of your collection and helps get your library more attention, but this aggregation of data also helps develop new opportunities for research. It’s a great opportunity to honor that donor who gave items not so that they could gather dust in your basement, but so that they could be used and shared in meaningful ways. It also is an opportunity to improve your digitization skills without taking on an entire project by yourself. I attended a workshop about this at the Jones Public Library in Amherst on June 18th, and I left feeling really excited about the whole idea. Like I said, it’s a sweet deal.

Bringing in wood, Chesterfield, Mass. from the Jones
Bringing in wood, Chesterfield, Mass. One of the treasures from the Clifton Johnson Collection, 1880-1940 at the Jones Library Special Collections.

How is this possible? The Public Library Partnership Project is funded through the Digital Public Library of America by the Gates Foundation. Four states are involved and in each state there is a digital library partner to provide training. In Massachusetts, this assistance is provided by the Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library. If you decide to get involved these are the folks who will come and work with you. It’s not like working with a vendor who will come and scan your collection only to leave you with a bunch of questions and a confusing list of file names. The goal here is different. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you, and to create a sense of perpetual engagement so that there is a process in place for continued sharing. One example of that ongoing relationship is the goal of working with public libraries to create exhibitions from the newly ingested content. The exhibitions would be built in part with your content, as well as with your knowledge of the community that is sharing the content, and they would be hosted by the Digital Public Library of America, whose site has had more than one million unique visitors. To make participation in these exhibitions easier, additional training will also be available about how to put a collection together, about writing for the web, and for learning to use Omeka when putting exhibitions together. The DPLA exhibits would share your content on equal footing with content from other, often larger organizations, and it would make it part of a national narrative. After participating in that process, you could then take those same skills to build a local exhibit designed specifically for your own community. It would be a great way to keep the new skills sharp and to give back to the local community that shared the content and has a deeper connection to it.

To learn more about this opportunity, please consider filling out the very simple form that will get the ball rolling.  You can find it on the Digital Commonwealth site.  If your public library is not a member of the Digital Commonwealth, joining is a great option, but don’t abandon the idea of participating in the digitization project if you are not members. Like public radio, support is important and encouraged, but no one is turned away. To do so would undercut the whole idea behind such projects. Worst case scenario, you end up chatting with someone at the Boston Public Library about the interesting stuff at your library and the possibility of finally getting it processed and out where it can be accessed. And, if while filling out the form you realize you aren’t even sure how to answer the questions, remember that putting “I don’t know” is a perfectly fine and honest response. Someone will get back to you and will help you along; that’s what is so great about this project.

If you’re interested in this opportunity, you should attend the next and final workshop in the series at SAILS Inc., Lakeville, MA on July 16 from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM.

First Parish in Brookline (FPB) Archives Project to bring 300 years of history out of the woods…

by Elizabeth Cousins, Archivist, First Parish in Brookline

 

Chapter One: First Steps on the “road of yellow bricks.”

Lyon Chapel at FPB, named after William Henry Lyon, Sixth Minister, is a lovely space where spirits are moved, ideas are exchanged and plans put into action. This is where ‘archives talk’ evolved into the Archives Project, driven by several factors: In 2012 the basement flooded. The rescued records were moved to premium space that administration could put to other use since our parish is growing; I, a trained Archivist, finally had time to commit to volunteering; and, FPB is anticipating its’ Tercentennial in 2017. During coffee hour over several Sundays, parishioners, the Minister and committee members expressed interest in access to historical records for a variety of reasons. These reasons in turn became the driver for joining Digital Commonwealth. Certain record series have high informational value for ongoing planning, strategic initiatives and reference purposes. We want to digitize these series so multiple committee members can access them remotely, so that Dr. Rev. Sherblom can search sermons by keyword, and to enable parishioners and the community at large to discover and explore our 300 years of evolution as a community of worship and social action.

During the Digital Commonwealth Conference (2014), I spoke with BPL Digitization Services staff. I described where the records were on the continuum of arrangement and description. In preparation for developing work plans for our processing priorities, I wanted to obtain their spreadsheet to capture required metadata before processing is begun. As it turns out, the spreadsheet is being revised, and the actual first step is submitting the online application for digitization servicesDONE!

The next step is a Team site visit, scheduled for early July. I’ll report on my second step down the “road of yellow bricks” next month!

Want to get more involved with Digital Commonwealth? We’re looking for members to sit on the board, starting terms in July. If you’re interested in taking on this role, please send current Digital Commonwealth President Karen Cariani (karen_cariani@wgbh.org) a resume or short bio and a statement of interest.

Statements of interest should include:

  • A statement of commitment to be active on a committee (and which committee you are interested in, if you know )
  • A statement of commitment to attend at least half of the board meetings in person and others on the phone. Board meetings are once a month for about 2-3 hours at a time and location agreed to by everyone on the board, (currently last Monday of the month from 9-12)
  • A 2 year commitment to serve on the board
  • The possibilty of serving as an officer at some point

I am not a board member of the Digital Commonwealth. In fact, until the 2014 Annual Conference, I had never attended a Digital Commonwealth event. However, when I showed up, along with three other guests, at the May 2014 board meeting, I was welcomed quite warmly.

Board Members Margaret Morrissey, Jacob Edwards Library, Southbridge; Kim Cochrane; Henry Whittemore Library, Framingham State University; Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society; Karen Cariaini, WGBH; Elizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE network; Ellen Dubinsky, Clement C. Maxwell Library, Bridgewater State University and Joe Fisher, O'Leary Library UMass, Lowell. Photograph by Sadie Roosa of WGBH.— at American Antiquarian Society.
Board Members Margaret Morrissey, Jacob Edwards Library, Southbridge; Kim Cochrane, Henry Whittemore Library, Framingham State University; Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society; Karen Cariaini, WGBH; Elizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE network; Ellen Dubinsky, Clement C. Maxwell Library, Bridgewater State University and Joe Fisher, O’Leary Library UMass, Lowell. Photograph by Sadie Roosa of WGBH.— at American Antiquarian Society.

The term board meeting makes it seem like it should be extremely formal, possibly even stodgy; however, I got the distinct impression that, although everyone there took the proceedings very seriously, they weren’t just going through the formal motions. These were real people doing real work.

At the meeting we discussed the previous month’s annual conference, the activities of the outreach committee, a plan for debugging the integration of the repository’s new website with the older member site. Being right there during the conversation, it was very easy for me and my fellow guests to add our two cents or volunteer bits of our time to help out. I can guarantee that I would never have participated as much if I had only read about it in the newsletter; that extra barrier of sending even one additional email in response to a call for volunteers would be enough to stop me.

Now, clearly I’m very excited to be part of this whole process, but I can see why others might have reservations. That’s why I truly want to encourage you to sit in on even just one meeting. That’s not very much of a commitment, is it? And in that one meeting, you’ll be able to see the best way for you to participate based on your own schedule: whether it’s sitting on the board, volunteering for a committee, or helping out with only one local event. As a volunteer-run organization, we need our members to participate, and I hope you’ll consider doing so by sitting in on a future board meeting. The next meeting will be on June 23 from 9:30-12 at the MLS building in Marlborough (225 Cedar Hill Street, Suite 229 Marlborough, MA 01752). If you plan on attending, please contact Karen Cariani at karen_cariani@wgbh.org.

Submitted by Sadie Roosa, WGBH

Developing a Born-Digital Preservation Workflow

Presenters: Bill Donovan and Jack Kearney, Boston College

Bell Tower image
Postcard image of the Boston College Bell Tower, ca. 1930-1945. From the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection at the Boston Public Library.

Our presenters described the workflow followed to access records on an external hard drive included in the personal papers of Irish soprano and harpist Mary O’Hara, their first dive into the sea of digital preservation. They described how workflows start as baseline best practices. What happens when the unanticipated occurs? Hearing about the steps taken at Boston College to appraise, ingest and clear unanticipated hurdles along the way reinforced that processing plans/workflows are a starting point. What you find when you open the files can and will drive changes to workflows – sound familiar? Tags: Writeblocker, UNIX, 8.3 Constraint, Fixity (software), Identity Finder (software), XENA tool, Policy writing, FITS tool, JHOVE tool, LOCKSS, DP in a box, Digital Forensics.

Digital Commonwealth 2.0: It’s Alive!

Presenters: Steven Anderson and Eben English

Despite the migration to our new platform in Fedora and Hydra literally happening while we met, our intrepid presenters gave before & after comparisons of the repository website with its streamlined visual presentation and enhanced search capabilities. If you haven’t already, check it out!

Rapid Fire Inspiring Projects

Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping, ca. 1888. From the Francis Blake photographs at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping, ca. 1888. From the Francis Blake photographs at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Presenters: Christine Clayton, Worcester Art Museum (WAM); Abigail Cramer, Historic New England (HNE); Sean M. Fisher, Department of Conservation (DCR) and Recreation and Rebecca Kenney, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA); Larissa Glasser, Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library (AAHL); Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS); Michael Lapides, New Bedford Whaling Museum; Sara Slymon, Turner Free Library

WOW! Our presenters offered up a smorgasbord of formats, collections and projects they undertook to make records available to their users. For some, their users were internal, like the WAM, which digitized exhibition catalogs, HNE digitized their collection of photographs by Nathaniel Stebbins, DCR and MWRA digitized 8800 images, the largest collection undertaken by Digital Commonwealth so far. AAHL digitized a collection of glass plate negatives…the results? Unanticipated revenue streams – from interior decorators, increased hits on websites, object provenance authentications, access to the identities of early American movers and shakers as reported in contemporary newspapers, accessible Town Reports and High School yearbooks. Several of these projects are still in the pipelines, so not yet searchable on the Digital Commonwealth website.

Submitted by guest reporter Elizabeth Cousins, First Parish in Brookline.

Digital Commonwealth has recently hired Alison Kemp as a temporary employee to help manage member accounts and perform other administrative tasks as time permits. She is beginning at ten hours per week.

Alison currently works part-time as the administrative assistant at the Newton Free Library. She has held previous positions as a resource and communications specialist, magazine writer and editor, and tutor for students with disabilities. 

For Digital Commonwealth business, Alison will be using her Digital Commonwealth email address: akemp@digitalcommonwealth.org. If you have questions about your membership, feel free to contact Alison at that address. She is available to help with any of your membership problems.