By Trish Cassisi

Pheasants (pair), carved by Russell Pratt Burr, ca. 1930-1955
Pheasants (pair), carved by Russell Pratt Burr, ca. 1930-1955.

When I attended the Digital Commonwealth conference in 2014, I was focused on digitizing our Yarmouth town reports dating back to the 1860’s, but, I began re-thinking that by the end of the conference. Tom Blake talked about digitizing items other than text-only resources and it encouraged me to go back to my library and look for something “out of the box” to digitize.

As it turned out, a carved bird collection that had been donated to the town in 1955 in memory of Ann Castonguay by her parents, needed to be relocated from a school in town.  The collection was placed in our West Yarmouth branch library, which was also donated to Yarmouth by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Castonguay.  The collection of 40 miniature painted birds was carved by the renowned bird carver Russell Pratt of Hingham.

Thinking this collection would be perfect, I sent in my request to the BPL and soon received a visit from the BPL team to assess the collection.  In June of 2015, they were packed up and transported to the BPL. By October, all the metadata (which sounds difficult, but it wasn’t) had been submitted and the carved birds were back at the West Yarmouth Library by the end of October.  By December, the collection went live on the website and the photographs are beautiful.

Mallard (pair), carved by Russell Pratt Burr, ca. 1930-1955.
Mallard (pair), carved by Russell Pratt Burr, ca. 1930-1955.

To celebrate the Castonguay carved bird collection, there will be birding programs throughout 2016, including a bird carving demonstration, a presentation from an Audubon Naturalist, and children’s bird related programming, too.  It was a very easy process and the BPL staff couldn’t have been more helpful.  Start looking at your collections for a unique digitization project; you will be thrilled with the end product.  Good luck!

Single illuminated initial cut from a 15th century antiphonal.  From the Boston Public Library's Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection.
Single illuminated initial cut from a 15th century antiphonal. From the Boston Public Library’s Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection.

Check out the cool new items added to Boston Public Library’s collections in Digital Commonwealth this past month!

Anti-Slavery Collection – 1000 new items

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts – 2 new items

Thomas W. Nason (1889-1971). Prints and Drawings – 619 items

 

Dan Cohen, Steve Dalton, Richard Pearce-Moses, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, and Nancy Heywood enjoying the Annual Conference. Photo credit: Molly Stothert-Maurer.
Dan Cohen, Steve Dalton, Richard Pearce-Moses, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, and Nancy Heywood enjoying the Annual Conference. Photo credit: Molly Stothert-Maurer.

On April 5 the Digital Commonwealth held its 10th annual conference and 10th anniversary celebration at the Hogan Center at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester MA.  It was the largest conference in years and afterwards over 90 people joined us to commemorate the anniversary.

Thanks to the hard work of the conference committee and our excellent speakers and sessions, we had nearly 200 people at this year’s conference — the best attended conference in recent years. Many presenters’ slides and presentations can be found on the Digital Commonwealth conference web site.  You can also download our final conference program to learn more about the speakers at this year’s event.

Digital Commonwealth President Elizabeth Thomsen poses with NDSR Boston residents after their presentation. Photo credit: Molly Stothert-Maurer
Digital Commonwealth President Elizabeth Thomsen posing with NDSR Boston residents after their presentation. Photo credit: Molly Stothert-Maurer

The anniversary reception gave us all the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the creation and growth of Digital Commonwealth.  Digital Commonwealth President Elizabeth Thompson shared remarks prepared by Greg Pronevitz of the Massachusetts Library System, a key player in the formation of Digital Commonwealth. Carolyn Noah, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, and Bill Talentino shared memories of the growth of Digital Commonwealth.  David Leonard, Director of Administration and Technology at Boston Public Library and Dan Cohen, President of the Digital Public Library of America, gave their perspective of Digital Commonwealth as partners on a common journey.

 

 

Digital Commonwealth President Elizabeth Thomsen speaking at the 10th Anniversary Reception. Photo credit: Jean Maguire.
Elizabeth Thomsen speaking at the 10th Anniversary Reception. Photo credit: Jean Maguire.

It was a great opportunity to gather together, reflect on what we have accomplished and set our sights on the future of the Digital Commonwealth and our partners.  We thank you all our members and all those who attended the conference this year. If you attended the conference, and have not yet done so, please share your feedback by completing the online evaluation form.

We hope to see you all at the 2017 Digital Commonwealth Annual Conference!

Logbook of the Gay Head of New Bedford Mass. 1856-1860.
Logbook of the Gay Head of New Bedford Mass. 1856-1860.

By Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives at New Bedford Whaling Museum

Back in 2012 a team from the Boston Public Library, led by Tom Blake, came to New Bedford to recruit the Museum into the Digital Commonwealth. We are so happy they did! While we had and still have a massive online collections database (over 50,000 records and related images) it is essentially buried, not crawled by search engines, and therefore hidden from a wider public view.  Participating in the Digital Commonwealth is a remedy to this lock-out.

Our digitization program started with our whaling logbook and journal collection, 223 are currently available via the Internet Archive, 152 of these are also available via the Digital Public Library of America.  We will continue to contribute from our collection of more than 2300 volumes, the largest and finest collection of whaling logbooks and journals in the world. The bulk of these primary sources document American whaling (1754-1925) although British, Australian, Norwegian and Azorean voyages are also included.

Our cartographic collections number around 700 pieces including sea charts used by whaling masters, bound pilot charts and atlases, decorative maps, maps and charts of key geographical regions significant to whaling at different times in history as well as maps and charts of the local Old Dartmouth region. Currently the Digital Commonwealth has 10 examples, representing oceans and whaling cruising grounds. The zooming functionality makes study of their contents possible.

Map of South Atlantic Ocean. 1857.
Map of South Atlantic Ocean. 1857.

Our manuscript collections  (over 140 distinct collections) help to complete the historical picture told through these digitized collections. Currently manuscripts are discoverable online via EAD Finding Aids. We hope someday to digitize and share choice manuscript collections through the good offices of the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth. These include late 17th century property deeds and indentures through the various mercantile investments and business practices of the agents of whaling and merchant voyages, church records, architecture, personal papers of significant (and lesser known) people of the 19th century and industrial, banking, and modern whaling documentation extending well into the 20th century.

 

This month we’ve added a lot of new items to already existing collections, and we harvested 25 new collections from the Provincetown History Preservation Project! Make sure you check out the great new photographs, videos, manuscripts, artwork, and other materials added this month!

Group Portrait With Cat, from the Glass Plates Collection from Provincetown History Preservation Project.
Group Portrait With Cat, from the Glass Plates Collection from Provincetown History Preservation Project.

Boston Public Library 

Anti-Slavery (Collection of Distinction) : 500 items added to existing collection

Costume & Set Designs : 21 items added to existing collection

Emily Dickinson Collection, 1862-1907 : 6 items added to existing collection

Lincoln Public Library 

Lincoln Town Archives : 3 items added to existing collection

Provincetown History Preservation Project

25 newly harvested collections : 4163 items

U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center

Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection : 6926 items added to existing collection

By Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director and Curator of the Griffin Museum of Photography
Nantucket, Mass. from the Griffin Museum of Photography
Nantucket, Mass. from the Griffin Museum of Photography

 

The Digital Commonwealth has changed how Arthur Griffin is seen by our audience. Making Mr. Griffin’s images available on-line after digitizing of a portion of our archives has opened up interest by the public in ways we never thought would happen. We have had inquiries on images from the 1930’s – 1940’s like Connecticut Tobacco Farms, old Boston buildings, Boston Common nativity scenes, Mt Washington’s Weather Observatory to name just a few of the hundreds of requests we now get. We are grateful to the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth for their efforts and vision.

 

L Street Brownies from Griffin Museum of Photography.
L Street Brownies from Griffin Museum of Photography.

 

What we have learned from the efforts of the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth is that there is much opportunity located within our archives, that continued effort must be made to digitize the whole archive and that resources need to be put in place to manage and fulfill the image requests from the public. On-line our archive can now be enjoyed by everyone. Arthur Griffin would have enjoyed these times.

Not only have we added some awesome new hosted collections in February, we’ve also harvested 99 collections from UMass Amherst! Check them all out!

 

1919 Victory Graduation at the Wilbraham School from Wilbraham Public Library
1919 Victory Graduation at the Wilbraham School from Wilbraham Public Library

Boston Public Library

Boston (Mass.) Overseers of the Poor Indentures, 1734-1805 – 18 items added to existing collection

Emily Dickinson Collection, 18962-1907 – 135 items

Fore-Edge Paintings – 214 items

Tupper Scrapbook Collection: Scrapbooks of mounted views, portraits, etc., relating to Europe and Egypt, 1891-1894 – 35 items added to existing collection

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Photo Gallery – 9 items added to existing collection

Nantucket Historical Association Research Library 

H. Flint Ranney Collection – 3990 items

Needham Free Public Library

Needham Historical Picture File – 787 items

Roll of Members Essex GAR from Town Of Essex.
Roll of Members Essex GAR from Town Of Essex.

Sudbury Historical Society

Soldier’s record, Town of Sudbury MA – 90 items

 Town of Essex, Massachusetts

Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, Civil War Collection – 11   items

Office of the Town Clerk, Civil War Collection – 196 items

 University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Specials Collections and University Archives

99 collections – 152,956 items harvested

 Wilbraham Public Library

Gertrude Smith Collection - 9 items

 

From the Digital Commonwealth Conference Committee

Don’t miss another great Digital Commonwealth conference and our 10th anniversary reception. The conference will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at the Hogan Center at the College of the Holy Cross.

This year’s keynotes addresses are:

Piles of Stuff: On the Challenges and Opportunities for Aggregating Digital Collections with Paul Conway

For the past 25 years, libraries, archives, and museums have been digitizing their collections for access and, increasingly, as a preservation alternative. The pace, scope, and scale of these activities have increased dramatically. So too have new efforts to combine digital collections from individual repositories into large scale aggregations that promise improved search and discovery capabilities.

The Archival Edge Revisited: Reflections on the Purpose of Archives in the Digital Era with Richard Pearce-Moses

Over the past several decades, archival practice has changed significantly to adapt to the digital information ecosystem.  The rise of born-digital records has raised interesting questions about the very nature of records, while also forcing archivists to rethink how they do their job. Cloud computing, data mining, open data, and other technologies have enormous potential for novel approaches to use.  As important, these new technologies reverse traditional archival questions of what to preserve: some individuals argue – seriously – that all information can be saved.

This year’s sessions include:

  • Brookline’s Wild-Sargent House of 1822: New life through digital and physical preservation
  • Community Scan Projects
  • Update on the Digital Commonwealth Repository
  • Privacy Panel with Library Freedom Project and ACLU of Massachusetts
  • Preservation/Digitization
  • Back to the future – Digitizing the Next Generation of Historic Maps
  • SHRAB (Mass. Historical Records Advisory Board) and Roving Archivist
  • Digital preservation projects
  • Creating online exhibits

The 10th anniversary reception will take place at the Hogan Center, immediately after the conference.

Registration is available on the Digital Commonwealth web site at: http://digitalcommonwealth.memberlodge.org/DCAC2016

 

 

Wonderful feature on NECN about the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth! Tom Blake, the Digital Projects Manager at the BPL and David Leonard, Interim President and Director of Administration and Technology, did a wonderful job describing the project, with well-chosen examples showing the digitization process, the Digital Commonwealth site, and some examples of items that have been digitized by Boston, from bathing suits to butterflies!

Boston Public Library Digitizing Cultural Treasures — Watch the video on the NECN website

Receipt to Thomas Aspinwall for money paid for soldiersGuest Post by Anne Clark, Brookline Public Library

In 2015 the Brookline Public Library was able to have their manuscript collection digitized thanks to generosity of the Boston Public Library. Over 400 pages have now been added to the Digital Commonwealth website!

The Manuscript Collection consists of collections of papers related to the town of Brookline, including family papers, letters, deeds, wills, account books, political and military history, church and school documents and various miscellaneous articles.

murivianIn addition, The Murivian (short for Muddy River Annual), the Brookline High School Yearbook (1923-2014) was digitized and is available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks look wonderful and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This was a project that was a long time coming, and well worth the wait!

What’s next? We hope to have our map collection and the Brookline High School newspaper (The Sagamore) join the yearbooks, photographs and manuscripts in digital form!