by Mary Bell, Assistant Director
Wilbraham Public Library
The Glendale Collection is a treasure-trove of local history and genealogy, and is the newest in the Wilbraham Public Library’s collections in the Digital Commonwealth.
The collection was in an unlabeled box of miscellaneous photographs found among our uncatalogued collections. We gave it the name Glendale Collection because several of the people and places featured were from that section of town, up the mountain on Glendale and Monson roads.
Genealogists especially would be interested in the portrait photographs of families that lived in that area. Seavers, Bennetts and Benedicts are among those featured. This one of Allyn Delos Seaver and his brother-in-law Cassius Benedict is one of the oldest in our collection, as Cassius died in 1872. They were both trustees of Glendale Methodist Church. In addition to the men’s dapper dress, I love the detail of the patterned floor they’re standing on.
Most of the photographs in the collection are from the early 1900s. Several feature the ceremony on June 20, 1913, unveiling a memorial boulder for Wilbraham veterans at Glendale Cemetery, an event that served as the third day of festivities during Wilbraham’s 150th celebration. Though unnamed, the men in this photograph were veterans of the Civil War, and were honored in the ceremonies that day.
These are just a few highlights that can be found in these and other photographs in Wilbraham’s local history collection. We only digitized photographs we were reasonably sure were in the public domain, so if you’re interested in seeing more come to the Wilbraham Library during our regular hours and we’d be happy to give you access to the full collection.
It’s the quirky collections that will delight you if you give them a chance. Not that there isn’t incredible value in six collections added by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Canton Public Library’s Canton Historical Commission Photos or the Boston Public Library’s Thaxter/Fields correspondence. Some people will be so pleased yet more nautical charts have been added by the Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society or yet more Sacco-Vanzetti materials – this time from the Harvard Law School Library.
For my money, though, there’s a certain fascination with the Lawrence Public Library’s 724 items from that city’s Engineering Department on city sewers. It sounds ridiculous and then you look at them. They’re maps of the sewer system. (See left.) You get to see the city’s streets at a micro level. They even show where the manholes [sic] are! They’re hand drawn with lovely, legible script. There are notes on why the sewer was laid on this street, at this elevation. What a wealth of detail. File it under things you never knew you wanted to know.
Now, I don’t want to leave you down in the dumps, so let’s welcome the South Hadley Public Library to the Digital Commonwealth by highlighting their two new collections: Canal Park Committee Collection and Scott Family Photographs. While the latter is a pretty traditional, but still wonderful collection of 19th century photos, the former is a collection of slides the Canal Park Committee used for talks on the history of the Canal and related sites and institutions. The images cover a range of historical eras and subjects. In addition to locks and gates, power plants and buildings, there are some lovely landscapes. Let us leave the industrial behind and spend a few moments with nature. Ah, the flowering crab – much more attractive than its name suggests. (See below.)
Although summer slips away too quickly for some of us, those of us who wilt in the heat and humidity are happy to see the end of July. If you’re not, don’t fret. August is promising more of the same.
The Boston Public Library was busy this month, adding to the Leslie Jones Collection as well as adding over 100 items of Thomas Wentworth Higginson Correspondence. Fans of the 2013 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Anders Zorn exhibit will be happy to see the BPL’s Zorn etchings. Allow me to draw your attention to the Stow Wengenroth Prints and Drawings, though. The exquisite Two Small Birds on a Bough (left) is from this collection, which includes other bird drawings and some lovely Maine scenes.
Medford Historical Society & Museum has added significantly to its already impressive Civil War Photograph Collection. The Lawrence Public Library has also added more photographs plus a new collection of World War I-related items. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library began the harvesting season early with 64 new items to their collections.
The heavy hitters this month are the Massachusetts Historical Society (4,161) and Springfield College Archives and Special Collections (5,181), who re-harvested 4 new collections. I’m not sure that the Arthur and Madeline Slicer Turnvereine Stein Collection is one of the newly-harvested collections, but I offer the jovial barrel-shaped character stein image below because we all need a cool drink of something during the dog days of August.
This post was written by Anne Berard, Reference & Outreach Librarian, Milford Town Library
Say the names of the infamous duo, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and most people immediately think of the bank-robbing couple and their fatal shootout with police. Their guilt and defiance were never in doubt for either the public or the law. Another of history’s infamous duos, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, conjures up far more complicated associations. There’s the 1920 armed robbery and double murder at a shoe company in Braintree, the contentious trial in Dedham with blatant anti-immigrant bias and a hostile judge, the lengthy incarceration in Charlestown, and finally, their execution in 1927.
The case of these two Italian-American anarchists gripped the nation and the world in real time and has continued to be debated and studied by scholars nearly 100 years later. The Aldino Felicani Sacco-Vanzetti Collection available via Digital Commonwealth is a massive compilation of photographs, court documents, correspondence, and protest materials all related to Sacco and Vanzetti. More than 1000 items are available for either browsing by topic or for doing a deep dive into the world of these men. Governor Michael Dukakis in 1977 – on the 50th anniversary of their execution – issued a proclamation in both English and Italian stating that the pair had not received a fair trial and that lessons should be learned from their unusual case.
Among the most poignant pages in the collection are the hundreds of letters Sacco and Vanzetti wrote to their families, compadres, and each other while imprisoned. Also worth a look for the sheer size of the crowds are the photographs of their funeral procession where over 200,000 people poured into Boston streets in a show of solidarity with the men. The funeral route passed by the State House before arriving at Forest Hills Cemetery where the bodies were cremated.
After being sentenced to death by electric chair by Judge Thayer, Nicola Sacco spoke out in court, declaring, “You know I am innocent. Those are the same words I pronounced seven years ago. You condemn two innocent men.”
The Boston Public Library continues to add to existing collections, although a brand new collection – 32 items from John Sullivan Dwight’s correspondence regarding Brook Farm – snuck in while no one was looking. Needham Free Public Library added more than 3,500 items to its historical house collection as well.
The largest addition was from Historic New England (HNE) – 139 new collections, over 54,000 items. Here be treasures: clothing, photos, architectural drawings (left), samplers (below right), quilts, furniture; everyday objects and priceless art. Browsing these collections is almost as good as touring the HNE collections storage facility in Haverhill – or one of the many HNE house museums. I highly recommend doing both. Until you can, though, browse these great collections.
Wicked Local Arlington reported June 28, 2018 that they were going to have a Throwback Thursday feature this summer. And where were they finding their Throwbacks? The Robbins Library collections on Digital Commonwealth. They were particularly taken with the photos from the Arlington Town Life series commissioned by the Robbins Library in Arlington from Norman Hurst. The series contains everyday moments of life in Arlington, like the children with basketball photo on the left.
All of May’s contributors are return customers. The Boston Public Library has added significant holdings of prints and drawings. The Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society has contributed more nautical charts while the Wilbraham Public Library has digitized more photographs. Special mention has to be made of the Lawrence Public Library, which has added fourteen collections ranging from 1 to 68 items.
Most striking are the photographs of the aftermath of the “Great Cyclone” of 1890. Eight people died and 65 were injured. The tornado did $60,000 worth of damage. ($1.5 million in today’s money) The house on the left is just one of many that did not survive the storm.
On a happier note, Lawrence Public Library also digitized a collection of sheet music. It almost doesn’t matter how tuneful the songs are when the covers are this colorful. (See below.)
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the third of these reports today.
Jacob Loberti is our third student correspondent. A sophomore at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, Jacob is majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business.
An Undergrad on a Mission: Attending the Digital Commonwealth Annual Conference to Survey for an Independent Study
On Tuesday, April 10th I attended the 12th annual Digital Commonwealth conference at The College of the Holy Cross. I differ slightly from the regular attendee as I come bearing a different lens, that of a budding computer scientist. I decided to attend the Digital Commonwealth conference as a result of my independent study at Wheaton College. My independent study is a so-called Special Interest Group (SIG) project designed to be an interdisciplinary course of study amongst my other classes this semester. My two other group members and I have titled our SIG this semester, “3D Modeling to Virtual Viewing: Digitizing Wheaton’s African Collection”. In this project, we used a technique called photogrammetry to create virtual models to preserve Wheaton’s Permanent Collection. We found this conference to be quite relevant to what we had been working on since the beginning of the semester. When we first arrived at the Digital Commonwealth conference, we were presented with a delicious continental breakfast (we would later be served a warm lunch) to tide us over until the welcome remarks.
One notable session was certainly the keynote address, where Professor Joseph Nugent gave a presentation of his latest project, Joycestick, a “gamefiction” of Ulysses by James Joyce. I found this presentation fascinating and actually quite relevant to my group’s SIG project – except obviously done on a much larger scale with some great resources along with some graduate students at Boston College. Another session I found interesting was the networking session where my group partner and I got to speak directly with Professor Nugent. We showed him our SIG project and how far we had come since the beginning of the semester. He seemed rather impressed. What I soon found out about Professor Nugent was that he was a truly genuine person; he was more than happy to share some of his successes and failures with us, along with some tips that we could use for success as we continued and wrapped up our semester-long project. Our talk with Professor Nugent was probably the highlight of my day.
All in all there was a lot going on April 10th, but I’d say there was definitely a common theme in the air of the 12th annual Digital Commonwealth conference. This theme was one of Evolution as the greatest archivists in Massachusetts gather to discuss and master the art of preserving their historical pieces beyond the realm of the physical, and to keep doing so for many years to come.
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the second of these reports today.
Our second report comes from Daniel Chivvis, a graduate student at the Simmons School of Library & Information Science. His focus is on Information Technology.
A Glance at the 12th Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference
As a graduate student at the Simmons School of Library & Information Science, my main area of focus has been Information Technology. Consequently, I was thrilled to find out that the Digital Commonwealth Conference is held every year right here in Worcester, MA; a city that I not only reside and work in, but also love dearly. Upon arriving at the conference, I browsed through the network of vendors, met a plethora of new people, and collected a stack of business cards (of
which I have yet to fully sort through). All the while, and this would be the first common theme of the day, I helped myself to as many cups of coffee as possible. Low quality jokes aside, out of all the sessions I attended, there was never a dull moment. I was impressed by every speaker. It is quite evident that the folks at the Digital Commonwealth are not only a tight-knit group of passionate professionals, but they are also welcoming to those completely new to the industry.
Let me begin with a brief homage to Professor Joseph Nugent’s Keynote Address: “Joycestick – Engaging Ulysses In a Virtual Reality Game.” As a James Joyce fan and general advocate of virtual reality technology, I was pleased to learn how an eclectic group of students at Boston College had managed to create something so beautiful and entertaining. Now, that is not to say that the exclusive purpose of Joycestick is to entertain. Rather, it serves a more important role: to educate in a way that is accessible to a wider audience. Accessibility, as a common theme repeated throughout the day, was highlighted as an attribute of visual reality technologies by Professor Nugent on several occasions. I could not agree more; virtual reality offers a unique window into the world of literature (or any other content) that has, up until the present moment, been limited to a privileged group of people. I hope Joycestick and similar projects continue to enter our pedagogical discourse, for what this group of developers is accomplishing is truly inspiring.
During the first breakout session, I attended Professor Carolina Ruiz’s “Concepts in Data Mining.” Here I learned the basics of data mining and how it can be used as a versatile tool by information professionals. This session was perhaps the most impressive: Professor Ruiz articulated complex topics in a way that was accessible to those even completely unfamiliar with the topic. My only criticism is that the session ended earlier than it should have; Professor Ruiz had much more to say. I also found Eben English’s Luncheon Keynote Address: “Digital Commonwealth Repository System Update: Year in Review & Future Directions” useful in many ways. As someone new to the Digital Commonwealth, the address summarized the organization’s purpose and future aspirations. Looking at usage statistics—such as through Google Analytics—English presented invaluable data that was not only fascinating, but sometimes humorous. I look forward to hearing what he has to report next year.
Upon reflecting on the conference, I am reminded of its diverse group of speakers and friendly members. I have since been inspired to inquire about our own digital collections at the Worcester Public Library (where I play the role of both patron and employee). There is no doubt that I intend on remaining involved with the Digital Commonwealth. I plan on attending all future conferences and keeping up with the latest news. The general consensus among the people I met was that the conference continues to improve every year. For this and other reasons, I cannot wait to see what is in store next year.
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the first of these reports today.
Ashley Miller is currently finishing up coursework in Simmons College’s dual-degree History and Archives Management Master’s program. She has used the Digital Commonwealth for research on her own projects.
Outreach and Accessibility in the Digital World
They are two of the most basic archival functions, yet the increasing content and ever-changing nature of the digital world is forcing information professionals to approach outreach and accessibility in new and unique ways. This year’s Digital Commonwealth conference presented a number of examples of how librarians are adapting and utilizing digital platforms to perform outreach and make their collections more accessible.
With more and more libraries, museums, and archives creating active digital presences, the field is generating new ways of engaging with patrons. Social media is one of the most useful forms of outreach, but there are even more ways we can engage with patrons on the digital front. Increasingly, libraries are crowdsourcing their collections to allow patrons to provide information valuable for cataloging. This not only allows collections to become accessible at a much faster rate, but allows patrons to participate in a unique manner on their own time. Furthermore, there are a variety of apps, tools, and websites available to display digital exhibits such as HistoryPin, Story Map, Omeka, and Soundate. These allow our collections to be viewed in a new light, providing patrons with differing ways of exploring archival materials.
There are aggregate possibilities with digitization. As Professor Joseph Nugent demonstrated with “Joycestick,” we can make difficult to understand concepts more accessible through digital means. Moreover, virtual reality is said to be an empathy machine, allowing users to have an on-demand experience that they otherwise would not have. If virtual reality can make accessible challenging texts like Ulysses, imagine the possibilities archival holdings can have. Public libraries have already begun to adopt virtual reality technology, providing access to their patrons.
Libraries must be adaptive and innovative. We cannot be content simply posting our collections on social media, but we should strive for digital accessibility across the board. Libraries have always adapted to changing technologies, and the Digital Commonwealth conference demonstrated the continued effort to do so.