Instructors Nichole Shea and Julia Howington at the Omeka workshop at the BPL
Instructors Nichole Shea and Julia Howington at the Omeka workshop at the BPL

The Digital Commonwealth Outreach and Education Committee is responsible for all the workshops and classes that Digital Commonwealth offers to the cultural institutions of Massachusetts.  While DC has offered workshops on metadata, the digitization process and understanding copyright, the popularity of the digital exhibit workshops took us by surprise.

We started with a workshop on Digital storytelling introducing attendees to various options.  As a follow up, we offered a hands-on workshop specifically on Omeka.  The Building a Digital Exhibit workshop had to be limited in size to allow for the hands-on instruction and they filled up fast.  Ken Liss, Brookline Historical Society president, attended the Omeka workshop in Worcester in October.  He was so pleased with what he learned that he wrote the committee that he wanted to, “…share what I’ve done with Omeka.net thanks to what I learned at the workshop. I moved content from an old website into Omeka, where it will be much easier to maintain. (I actually created my Omeka account in 2014 with this project in mind, but was not able to make it work until I learned so much more at the workshop.)”

Learning Omeka at the Boston Public Library
Learning Omeka at the Boston Public Library

Another attendee suggested we follow up yet again with a showcase of the exhibits that attendees have organized since taking the workshop.  This might be an option – if the conference committee doesn’t steal it for a session at the annual conference – but in the meantime, you can take a look at Ken’s exhibit on Blake Park, a Brookline neighborhood and the people who lived in it from its development after World War I until the end of World War II.  It is still a work in progress and the photos are from BHS’ collection (i.e. not on Digital Commonwealth – yet), but it will give you an idea of what’s possible.

Our last Omeka workshop in December is fully booked.  Let us take a breath and regroup,  and then we hope to offer more of your favorite workshops in the New Year.

Charleston, SC April 1865 from The Medford Historical Society & Museum
Charleston, SC April 1865, from The Medford Historical Society & Museum

As we pack away the ghosts and goblins of Halloween and prepare for Thanksgiving, let us give thanks:

…to the Annisquam Historical Society for sharing a lovely sketch of the I Am Here schooner amongst its 86 historical documents.
…to the Boston Public Library – and especially to the Leventhal Map Center – for continuing to add too many wonderful items to mention individually.
…to the Medford Historical Society & Museum for adding a superb collection of Civil War photographs, ranging from cartes de visites to battle scenes to fortifications to the haunting photo of a devastated Charleston, S.C. (Left)
…to the Sharon Public Library for a wonderful variety of photos, including photos taken after the Blizzard of ’78. “Foot of my driveway” is exactly the kind of titles I give my photos, but the Cobb’s Corner photos give a better idea of the scale. (Below)

Take a look and let us know what you’re thankful for.

Annisquam Historical Society

Annisquam Historical Society’s Collection of Historical Documents – 86 items

Cobb's Corner, Sharon, February 8, 1978>, from the Sharon Public Library Photo Collection
Cobb’s Corner, Sharon, February 8, 1978>, from the Sharon Public Library Photo Collection

Boston Public Library

Early English Printers – 1 item

Incunabula (Collection of Distinction) – 1 item added to an existing collection

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 18 items added to an existing collection

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 728 items added to an existing collection

Medford Historical Society & Museum

The Medford Historical Society Civil War Photograph Collection – 742 items

Sharon Public Library

Sharon Public Library Photo Collection – 155 items

"The Devil" will smile from the Fall River Collection--Historic Postcards, c. 1880-1970
“The Devil” will smile from the Fall River Public Library Historic Postcards, c. 1880-1970 Collection

This eerie optical illusion postcard (left) comes from the Fall River Public Library’s Historic Postcards, c. 1880-1970 collection.  It advertises a production of Ferenc (Franz) Molnar’s play, The Devil.  With Halloween coming up, I think it deserves A Closer Look.

The title leads us to see the devil first: his nearly-crossed eyes, his black moustache, his Chiclet-like teeth and his black coat.  He has an unusual hairline and the collar of his coat (or cape) hides his ears.  From a distance, he appears to have rather sinister furrows and wrinkles on his face.

A great feature of Digital Commonwealth is the magnifying glass icon, which enlarges the image without affecting the resolution.  When we click that on this image, the devil recedes.  Instead we see two well-dressed women meeting in front of a theater.  Their black skirts make up the devil’s coat; their hand muffs his mustache and their hats and feathers his pupils and eyebrows.  His nose is a view of another female theatergoer walking away from us.

Interestingly, when the play was first staged in America in 1908, there were two dueling productions, each claiming to be the “sole authorized” version of the play.  The reverse of this postcard indicates it is promoting the Henry W. Savage production.  According to a 2009 lecture at the Library of Congress by Marlis Schweizer, Savage hired people to picket in front of his rival’s production wearing sandwich boards that said, “Thou shall not steal.”  Was Savage making a sly reference to the twin productions in this postcard?  I like to think so, but you may have a different take on it.

Reverse of above
Reverse of above

If you have a favorite photo as deserving of A Closer Look as this eerie postcard, please let us know.  Send your Closer Look or a link to your photo to outreach@digitalcommonwealth.org.

World Armenian Congress from the Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection
World Armenian Congress from the Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection

Just in time for Armenian Independence Day on September 21, Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection added 222 items to Digital Commonwealth – including the nearby photo of the World Armenian Congress held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The place was packed!  I honestly don’t know how those people got served.

In addition, Needham Free Public Library has added over 3,000 house photos while Wellesley Free Library and Boston Public Library added more historical maps.

 

Boston Public Library

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 5 items added to existing collection

Paintings and Fine Arts Collection – 5 items

Needham Free Public Library

Needham Historical House Collection – 3,199 items

Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives

Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection – 222 items

Wellesley Free Library

Wellesley Free Library Local Historical Maps – 19 items

Photo case for Portrait of a man
Photo cover

Historic Newton’s Early Photograph Collection has something for everyone who loves photographs: daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, hand painted miniature portraits and cartes de visite.  You can see the fashionable cases of the day as well.  Many of Newton’s historically prominent families are included.  The poses struck range from the straightforward, all business portrait of Charles Redding, an African-American sailor who served on the famous USS Kearsage during the Civil War, to the dandified Stephen Winchester Dana Jackson in his fur-trimmed coat – and with a name that reads like the genealogical profile of a Boston Brahmin.

Sara Leavitt Goldberg, Archivist and Curator of Manuscripts and Photographs for Historic Newton (HN), took up her position about seven and a half years ago.  Always interested in photographs, she did a concentration in archives at Simmons College.  She then interned and consulted at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Watertown.  Sara’s predecessor at HN, Susan Abele, began the photo project 10 years ago.  With assistance from Ron Polito, co-author of Massachusetts photographers, 1839-1900, she created a comprehensive inventory of the photograph collection that Sara has found invaluable.

Charles Redding
Charles Redding

Inventory and collection in hand, Sara wanted to make it more broadly accessible while protecting her materials.  HN is a small, public/private collaborative and did not have the budget to digitize on its own.  Sara

went looking for a few good partners.

Digital Commonwealth (DC) had been on Sara’s radar since Simmons.  Sara knew she wanted to talk to DC.  She also knew about Simmons College’s internship program.  Here were two sources of free, professional help for her project.  Sara recommends both to small cultural institutions with limited budgets and big digitization dreams.

The photo inventory done by previous staff was an essential part of the process.  Kelsey Sawyer, the Simmons intern, handled all of the HN metadata based on the data in the inventory.  Sara is convinced the more prepared your institution is before you send your collection to digitization, the easier – and faster – it will go.  She characterizes her experience as “remarkably flawless.”

 Stephen Winchester Dana Jackson
Stephen Winchester Dana Jackson

Sara contacted DC in January, DC visited in February, she dropped off the collection in April, the imaging was done in June and uploaded in August.  She got her collection back in September.  It “truly could not have been easier.”

Sara sent HN staff a link to the collection and everyone was impressed.  She is eager to show the images off to her trustees and museum council.

Her advice to anyone still on the fence about digitization: Take the time to get your descriptions done and done right.  She gives full credit to HN staff for their work on the inventory and metadata.  Next, find yourself a few good partners.  She can recommend two.

In summary, Sara says it was “well worth the price of membership” to have DC digitize her collection.  HN owns some collections in partnership with the city, so Sara has some negotiating to do before she can send more collections.  But send more she will.

Index map, Town of Wellesley Wellesley Free Library Local Historical Maps
Index map, Town of Wellesley Wellesley Free Library Local Historical Maps

 

 

The Swellesley Report of September 19, 2017 chronicled Wellesley Free Library’s addition of 19 local maps to the Digital Commonwealth – with a little help from the New England Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).  The maps of Wellesley and surrounding communities span the years from 1853 to 1999.  After NEDCC took high quality photos of the maps, the library went looking for a host who could make the maps “…accessible to the most people…” and chose Digital Commonwealth.

We must be doing something right because the Wellesley Free Library plans to continue digitizing its maps and adding to its collection.  Take a look at what they’ve added so far!

 from the Public Works Department Photographs collection
105 State Street, Boston from the Public Works Department Photographs collection

Strike up the band, fire the confetti cannon and release the balloons!  Digital Commonwealth is celebrating the half million item mark.  Thanks, in part, to the large and small collections below, Digital Commonwealth by the end of August was able to offer access to 529, 444 items.

On August 23, you could commemorate the 90th anniversary of Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution by perusing the 285 additional items added to the Boston Public Library’s Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee Collection.

Or you could remember your summer vacation trips around Massachusetts by comparing your GPS maps to the more than 400 1794 town plans in the Massachusetts Archives’ Town Plan Collection.  Wait, school is starting and your brain is working and you know Massachusetts only has 351 cities and towns.  What gives?  In 1794, Massachusetts still had a province in what is now Maine, so be careful when you look for Falmouth.  There are two of them.

Or you could play the “then and now” game with the City of Boston Archives Public Works Department Photographs Collection, one of twenty and including over 1,000 photos by itself.  My how you’ve changed, 105 State Street.

So whether you are partial to the early daguerreotypes included in Historic Newton’s collection or the Town of Rockport’s maps, there’s something for everyone in the 85 collections added in August or the over half million total items on Digital Commonwealth.  Enjoy!

Boston Public Library

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 3 items added to existing collection

Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee (Collection of Distinction) – 285 items added to existing collection

Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953). Prints, Drawings, and Paintings – 577 items

Huntington family from the Historic Newton Early Photograph collection
Huntington family from the Historic Newton Early Photograph collection

 

Cape Cod Community College

Cape Cod Association Collection, 1851-1969 – 80 items

 

City of Boston Archives

20 collections – 3,750 records harvested

 

Historic Newton

Historic Newton Early Photograph Collection – 279 items

 

 

Plan of Greenwich from the  Mass. Archives Town Plans, 1794 collection
Plan of Greenwich from the Mass. Archives Town Plans, 1794 collection

Massachusetts Archives

Town plans, 1794 – 403 items

 

Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation

Laws, Regulations and Commerce Collection – 3 items

NCCHP Museum Collection – 2 items

Noble & Cooley Business Correspondence Collection – 2 items

Noble & Cooley Employee Collection – 7 items

Trade Catalog Collection – 4 items

 

Town of Rockport

Rockport Town Clerk, Street, Roads and Maps – 228 items

 

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives

53 collections – 26,759 records re-harvested

 

Leominster Fire Department, Engine 1 from the Leominster Public Library
Leominster Fire Department, Engine 1 from the Leominster Public Library

 

 

Leominster Public Library got a little ink from the Leominster Champion for their 1915 Municipal Building (City Hall) time capsule digitization, which was among the new collections added to Digital Commonwealth in May.

If you have been in the news for your digitization project, be sure to send us a link so we can share the good news with all of Digital Commonwealth.

Robin Hood's Bay From the Sir David Young Cameron Collection (BPL)
Robin Hood’s Bay From the Sir David Young Cameron Collection (BPL)

Put on your comfy travel shoes, it’s time to play tourist!  If you can’t actually take a trip to faraway places, Digital Commonwealth has got you covered.  From Sir David Young Cameron’s delightful watercolor of Robin Hood’s Bay in England (Boston Public Library) to the postcard of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Springfield College Archives and Special Collections) to the flier for the Willow Park Cure and Hygienic Institute (Westborough Public Library), you can find a virtual vacation destination to your liking among the additions to the Digital Commonwealth in July.

Boston Public Library

Sir David Young Cameron (1865-1945), Prints, Drawings and Paintings – 551 items

 

 

Willow Park  From Westboro Your Town-Your History Collection (Westboro Public Library)
Willow Park From Westboro Your Town-Your History Collection (Westboro Public Library)
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan From  the Smith Postcard Collection (Springfield College)
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan From the Smith Postcard Collection (Springfield College)

SAILS

1 new collection and 109 new items added to existing collections

Springfield College Archives and Special Collections

Cliff Smith YMCA Postcard Collection – 98 items added to existing collection

Topsfield Historical Society

The Parson Capen House and the Captain Joseph Gould Barn – 4 items added to existing collection

Topsfield Maps – 1 item

USS Constitution Museum

War of 1812 – 78 items added to existing collection

 Westborough Public Library

“Westborough: Your Town – Your History” Scanning Day, 2017 – 97 items