Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday sometimes known as the Festival of Lights. It’s an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. This year, Hanukkah is observed from sunset December 16th to nightfall December 24th.

The Digital Commonwealth includes photographs of a Brookline family celebrating Hanukkah in 1971 taken by photographer Spencer Grant and included in the Spencer Grant Collection of the Boston Public Library.

Lensen family lights Hanukkah candles
Lensen family lights Hanukkah candles
Jewish boys light Hanukkah candles
Jewish boys light Hanukkah candles
Lensen family eats Hanukkah dinner, Brookline
Lensen family eats Hanukkah dinner
Jewish boys play with dreidel, Brookline
Jewish boys play with dreidel

skating2

On December 9, 1884, Levant M. Richardson was issued a patent for the use of steel ball bearings in skate wheels, reducing friction and increasing speed, ushering in the modern age of roller skating. This photograph by Leslie Jones shows three children roller skating on Boston Common circa 1939.

UMass Lowell Libraries in partnership with the Tewksbury Museum of Public Health has nearly completed the first phase of a project to digitize intake records from the Tewksbury Almshouse.

ledger

Funding for this project was provided through a Library Services and Technology (LSTA) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC).
Continue reading

Greetings from Mohawk TrailThe general route we now know as the Mohawk Trail was once a rough footpath used by the Wampanoags, Nipmucs, Mahicans, Mohawks and Pocumtucks for hunting and trading. Early European settlers used this path as a travel route between Boston and Albany, and as a military route during the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution. In 1814, it became a stagecoach route when service began between Greenfield and Troy, New York.

But the ancient footpath received its name and fame one hundred years ago, in October, 1914, when the Mohawk Trail was dedicated and designated as a scenic highway by the Massachusetts General Court. The road had been engineered and graded for automobile travel at a time when the automobile was becoming an affordable means of transportation. It was unpaved and only 15 feet wide, still an adventurous journey for the early automobile tourist, but gas stations, restaurants, guest houses and souvenir shops soon opened to provide services to the new auto tourists, and the route became famous for its scenic beauty.
Continue reading

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.”
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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!