Have you kept your New Year’s resolution to digitize your historical treasures? These institutions did. Anna Maria College’s The Travel Postcards of Charles Bumsack Collection includes this view of Smith College’s Observatory (left). If you explore more, you’ll also find views of the Crab, Dumbbell and Horsehead Nebulae. I kid you not.
If whimsy is not your cup of tea, the BPL has added some significant correspondence collections and Barre Historical Society has added maps. (See example below.) Wilbraham Public Library chips in some photographs of the Glendale section of town while the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) has added prints, sculptures, photos and more in its six collections.
Earlier this month Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we have six more weeks of winter. Plenty of time to visit all these great collections.
Digital Commonwealth partners Weymouth Public Library and Lee Library Association were in the news last month.
Wicked Local Weymouth in an article entitled, Weymouth Public Libraries announces programs, reports on the Weymouth Public Libraries adding more digitized items from the Weymouth Historic Collections to the Digital Commonwealth. Highlights include more items concerning abolitionism and the Civil War, as well as maps of Weymouth dating from 1854 and 1880. The map from 1853 (left) is especially interesting because it marks the locations of houses with the names the residents. The items featured on Digital Commonwealth are a selection of the materials in the Weymouth Room and Local History Collections. Finding aids describing the contents of the collections in detail are viewable online here. Original materials are viewable in person by appointment. What’s available on Digital Commonwealth is viewable anytime, anywhere you have Internet access.
The Berkshire Eagle’s article, Lee Library Association: A history lesson, just a click away, extols the Lee Library Association’s efforts to identify, preserve and provide online access to its collection of photographs, postcards and prints. Over 25 years ago, local volunteers organized and categorized the collection over 5 years. When Mary Philpott, president of the Lee library, learned about Digital Commonwealth in 2013, she immediately signed up to begin what became a 4-year process of getting the collection digitized. Digital Commonwealth staff really appreciated all the hard work done by the Lee volunteers. The more data cultural institutions can supply, the faster Digital Commonwealth can process their collections. For the Lee Library Association the reward was that their historical collections were no longer “sitting in boxes”. Now everyone with an interest in Lee history can see them.
Admit it. You took it easy last month. After exams or while planning office parties, you let some things slide. The digitization team working on the Lawrence Public Library collections added twenty three collections in December: 23. No slackers there. Take the Stereo Slide Collection for example. It contains 108 items, including the Frozen Fountain on the Common slide (Left). Is it too soon after our own deep freeze to appreciate this icy monument?
Maybe you would find the variety of the Hamilton Historical Society’s collection of photos of parades, historic houses, town celebrations and prominent citizens cozier. For Civil War students, we have letters from the Jubb brothers courtesy of the J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford. As always, we have maps. December saw the Leventhal Map Center add yet more to their collection while the Wilbraham Library’s Maps Collection included the Hampden and Hampshire highway map below.
The Armenian Mirror-Spectator posted an article called, “Project Save hosts an afternoon of thanks for donors and supporters” on December 7, 2017. You may remember Project SAVE from our October 9, 2017 blog post when we highlighted them as one of our new collections from September. The article mentions, as we did, that Project SAVE had Digital Commonwealth digitize over 200 photographs from their collection as part of their effort to bring “awareness to our work beyond the Armenian community”. Project SAVE also is collaborating with the USC Shoah Foundation to create educational resources for students of genocides.
Consider adding your collections to Digital Commonwealth if you, too, want to expand your reach beyond your core audience.
If you were a little sad to see your feathered friends head south last month, take a gander (pun intended) at the John James Audubon The Birds of America drawings digitized by the Boston Public Library in November. You won’t want to miss the weirdly wonderful Roseate Spoonbill below:
There is, once again, something for everyone in this past month’s additions: large collections and small; photos, letters, music; artwork, nature, history. You want it? Digital Commonwealth’s got it! Special mention has to go to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library’s Edward Hale Lincoln Collection of flora in nature photographs. The photos are in black and white, but are so sharp and clear that winter weary Bay Staters may find inspiration for their spring gardens in these photos. Never ask me to choose a favorite orchid, but the nearby Cattleya Snow Queen seems an appropriate choice for a December post. And if you need some color, try Mass Hort’s previously digitized Botanical Prints collection. Gorgeous, even to us non-gardeners.
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.)”
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.”
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.