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Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Jean Maguire, member of Digital Commonwealth’s Outreach & Education Committee, recently interviewed Sharon Hawkes, Director of the Nahant Public Library about the Florence Johnson Herbarium Collection.

Could you please tell us a little about the history, acquisition, and contents of the Florence Johnson Herbarium collection?
Florence “Miss Flossie” Johnson was a school teacher here in Nahant from 1881 to 1927. She taught her pupils about botany by having them collect, identify, and press plants, many of which grew here in Nahant. The collection of 387 mountings and ephemera includes 181 specimens submitted to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s exhibit in 1897, winning a prize for being “most remarkable, both in point of numbers and in the quality of the mounting,” as the Society wrote. The Library acquired the collection at some point, housed in a small wooden chest of drawers. An additional selection of specimens was owned by the Nahant Historical Society, which voted to give their portion to the Library so that the collection would be in one place and could be digitized together.

How did your library come to choose this collection as a digitization priority?
The collection has been languishing in the library’s attic for many years, having become too brittle to be handled. It was important to preserve this piece of Nahant’s history before it deteriorated further. Digitization in Digital Commonwealth enables everyone to enjoy the collection, which is often artistically lovely as well as scientifically informative. In addition, Nahant has deep love of its natural spaces, in a town that has only one square mile of land. As Nahant considers restoring some of its spaces with native species, this collection can help inform them about what grew here 123 years ago.
Could you briefly describe how the process of working with Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library went? What steps did the Nahant Public Library have to carry out?

I love working with BPL and Digital Commonwealth! Everyone is very personable and helpful. I worked on numbering and describing each piece and submitted the metadata to Boston to be converted to a format that could be uploaded to Digital Commonwealth. Because our specimens were too fragile to transport, we hired a photographer to make digital images in house, and sent an external hard drive of the images to Digital Commonwealth for uploading.

What, if anything, did your library do to publicize the online availability of the collection?

Digitizing the collection is part of a larger “Nature in Nahant” project, funded by the federal Library Services and Technology Act and overseen by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The collection was featured in the local paper, the Daily Item, and on local cable and YouTube. We ran a town-wide read of The Stranger in the Woods and talked about our personal need for nature in our lives. And we have been partnering with nine other individuals or organizations, who helped us create a Walk Nahant brochure and publicized our activities among their friends and members.

Have you received any feedback about the collection from the public?
We created an exhibit of nine poster-sized enlargements from the collection along with photos of the plants as they grow here today. Residents from Nahant and surrounding communities have visited to see the exhibit and hear about the collection. Most recently, that included Nahant’s nonagenarian and local history expert, Calantha Sears, who enjoyed the exhibit and the tale of Miss Flossie.

Do you have plans to make other collections available online? If so, what is your process for selecting and prioritizing them?
I would like to do something similar with our art collection, which mainly consists of paintings of Nahant homes and locations from when the town was a vacation hub for Boston’s elite. We also have over 300 volumes of the Library’s original book collection, dating back to 1819, one of the oldest municipal library collections in the country. Finally, there is an archaeological collection of stone tools used by indigenous peoples who came to Nahant seasonally to fish. I think about criteria such as fragility and a need to preserve the items as well as their value to our patrons and to society at large.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Please go see the collection! You can also learn more about it on YouTube. Give us a call and make an appointment to see the exhibit, on display now. And follow us on Facebook to learn about what Nahant Public Library will do next to promote “Nature in Nahant” and its archival collections. I would like to thank everyone who has helped work on this project, which made it a pleasure to do.

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Raffi Freedman-Gurspan
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Shirley Chisholm
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Ayanna Pressley
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Lucy Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of special and timely interest in November’s New Collections are photographs from an exhibit, A Seat at the Table, held in 2019 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. This colorful and compelling exhibit was inspired by the pioneering firebrand Shirley Chisholm’s call for greater involvement of women, people of color and other activists in policy decision making.  “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”  Indeed, Shirley’s chair is a bright yellow folding chair. Conceptual artists created chairs to represent other voices, some from current times such as Congresswomen Ayanna Presley and Deb Haaland, and actress Yara Shahidi. Others depict heroes of the past like abolitionist Lucy Stone, and labor organizer Cesar Chavez.  See all 24 images here.

 

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate - A Seat at the Table (24 items)

Boston Public Library – Charles J. Connick Records: Gouaches (1 item)*

Boston Public Library - The Liberator (Boston, Mass. : 1831-1865) (837 items)*

Malden Public Library – Malden Houses (286 items)

Uxbridge Historical Society – Child Support Bond (1 item)

 

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Aerial View of Norwood Hospital
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Ellen F. O’Connor Collection
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Men in convertible, including JFK
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Harold & Marian Draper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Public Library

Ellen F. O’Connor was an art teacher in the Boston Public Schools system, teaching at the Prince School and later West Roxbury High School. In addition to her work as an educator, she was a passionate participant in the cultural life of Boston. She was a gifted singer, a soloist at the Mission Church and a member of the Handel and Haydn Society, and also gave an annual lecture on Irish art at the Boston Public Library. An avid world traveler throughout her life, she took advantage of a progressive Boston Public Schools policy to take two sabbatical years to travel and to study and to learn about other cultures. Her personal enrichment served to inspire her many students during the course of her long career.

This collection includes small, medium, and large format negatives taken by Boston press photographers dating from the 1920s through the early 1970s. It was amassed by photojournalist Dennis Brearley during the course of his career as a working photographer. From 1978 to 2012, Mr. Brearley and his wife Susan ran a photo gallery in Faneuil Hall selling prints from his photographs and the work of other press photographers in his collection. In 2013, Hunt Auctions began the process of selling the collection in lots. The Ten Pounds Collection, as it is affectionately dubbed, was purchased at auction by John Booras, a local Boston collector and amateur historian. The nickname of the collection is derived from the lot description, which consisted of the remainders of the original collection that were not deemed marketable; the lot was described and sold by weight rather than content.

The Tichnor Brothers Collection contains approximately 25,000 office proofs of postcards of the United States published by the Boston firm Tichnor Brothers Inc. These are color postcards with a linen texture dated ca. 1930-1945. The concentration is on American vacation places.

Wayland Historical Society

Alfred W. Cutting (1860-1935), although born and educated in Boston, had a deep connection to Wayland. Five generations of Cuttings had lived in Wayland since the arrival of his great-great-great-grandfather in 1713. His father, Charles Cutting, owned considerable property along Old Sudbury Road and the family was often there despite the fact that both Alfred and his father worked in Boston (Charles as a stationer and Alfred as a bank teller). Alfred got to know many people in his neighborhood of Old Sudbury Road and Glezen Lane and frequented the home of his childhood idol, Lydia Maria Child — the noted abolitionist and author — and her husband David Lee Child. Later he and his sister, Marcia, lived in her former home.

Cutting’s contributions to Wayland are lasting. He served as Wayland’s unofficial historian in the early 20th century, giving speeches and writing pamphlets on its past. For many years he served as a trustee of the Wayland Public Library and was active in the First Parish Church. In 1905, he founded the Society of Wayland Arts and Crafts.

 

 

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Ptelea Trilfoliata aka Shrubby Trefoil

Digital Commonwealth had a busy August with some new collections and additions to existing collections. Of the new offerings, Nahant Public Library’s Florence Johnson Herbarium  collection brings the specimens collected and painstakingly mounted by Miss Flossie Johnson and her grade school students over her long career (1881-1927). Most notable are the specimens stamped “Mass Horticultural Soc., Boston, Nov. 26, 1897.” These were entered into the Horticultural Society’s exhibition, winning a prize of $6 for being “most remarkable, both in point of numbers [184] and the quality of the mounting,” according to the Society’s booklet for that year. In today’s dollars, that prize is about $200.00.

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Lawrence Public Library

Nahant Public Library

Springfield College Archives and Special Collections

*item added to an existing collection

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from the Alison Laing Pin Collection
Kewpie Outside of Salon Kewpie
Kewpie Outside of Salon Kewpie
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Marie Høeg sitting with a cigarette
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San Diego Union article
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Akihiro Miwa in Black Lizard (1968)

by Anne Berard

Reference & Outreach Services Librarian, Milford Town Library

The Digital Commonwealth mostly archives materials relating to Massachusetts, harvesting and hosting content related to its residents, communities and institutions. Some collections, however, have a wider scope.

The hosted Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is one such repository.

Bringing together photographs, publications, clippings & ephemera from more than 60 academic, social, cultural and private archives, the DTA provides a kaleidoscopic and fascinating portal into transgender history.

DTA grew out of Project Director K.J. Rawson’s own frustrations while working on his PhD.  In an interview with them, Rawson explained .”When doing research, I had a hard time figuring out where to find significantly-sized collections of transgender historical materials. And it wasn’t just my limitations as a researcher; there are some structural barriers that make transgender history quite difficult. So I ended up trying to brainstorm a resource that could help people in a similar situation.”

Rawson, formerly taught at Holy Cross and now is an Associate Professor of English, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University.  He notes that ” the term ‘transgender’ is so ubiquitous in a Western context right now, but it’s also a really new term. Taken together, that actually creates a really difficult research situation for contemporary researchers, because few people are actually familiar with all of the other terminology that’s been used throughout history to describe experiences of transgressing gender norms. So part of what we’re doing is taking language that is commonly used, and using that as a gateway to find materials for which that language would never be used.”

The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) can be a powerful tool to expand awareness and educate people, especially during this time of expanding national conversation and re-examination of  how people talk about and treat one another.  Digital Commonwealth invites you to explore further.

 

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Sand diggers on the beach

Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection (1,461 items)*  items added to existing collection (re-harvest)

The Tichnor Brothers Collection contains approximately 25,000 office proofs of postcards of the United States published by the Boston firm Tichnor Brothers Inc. These are color postcards with a linen texture dated ca. 1930-1945. The concentration is on American vacation places.

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City Hospital roof garden

Boston City Archives 15 new collections; 3,075 new records) * 

The Boston City Archives preserves and provides access to the historic records of Boston’s city government.  Our collections include City Council records, mayoral records, and departmental records and our records document many of Boston’s significant historical moments.

Northeastern University Libraries (7 new collections; 17,918 new records) *

The Northeastern University Library supports the mission of the University by working in partnership with the University community to develop and disseminate new scholarship. The Library fosters intellectual and professional growth, enriches the research, teaching, and learning environment, and promotes the effective use of knowledge by managing and delivering information resources and services to library users.

Boston Public Library

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The Big Drum

Boston Pictorial Archive (Collection of Distinction (310 items)* added to existing collection

The Boston Pictorial Archive is one of the largest distinct collections of images related to Boston held by a public institution and the essential resource for Boston architectural, social, and neighborhood history. It includes more than 6,000 images on paper representing the visual history of the city of Boston from the colonial era through the 20th century, the majority of which are original photographic prints dating from the 1850s to the last decade of the 20th century.

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Townsend’s Patent Folding Globe

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection (12 items)* added to existing collection

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library is dedicated to the creative educational use of its cartographic holdings, which extend from the 15th century to the present. In pursuit of its mission, the Center collects and preserves maps and atlases, promotes research in the collection, and makes its resources available to the public through its website, exhibitions, publications, lectures, and other programs.

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By Andrew Begley

Archives Specialist, National Archives at Boston; Co-Chair, Digital Commonwealth Outreach and Education Committee

Over the last five to ten years, a number of archives and libraries in the Boston area have digitized rich collections of materials related to school desegregation and busing in the city of Boston. Collections at the Boston City Archives, UMass Boston, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, Boston College, and the Massachusetts State Library contextualize Boston’s 1970’s busing crisis and provide insight into the roles played by community organizations and local, state, and federal agencies. Northeastern University, which was instrumental in coordinating these digitization initiatives, provides a great entry point for exploring these records on its Beyond Busing: Boston School Desegregation Archival Resources site.

Until recently, one major collection that was not available digitally was the U.S. District Court case file for Morgan v. Hennigan. Held at the National Archives at Boston, this collection consists of 54 cubic feet of documents filed in the class action lawsuit brought in 1972 by the parents of African American children in Boston, alleging that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by a deliberate policy of racial segregation in the Boston Public Schools.

Several years ago, National Archives staff reached out to Digital Commonwealth about utilizing its member digitization services to tackle the digitization of the Morgan v. Hennigan case file. While Digital Commonwealth was enthusiastic about the project, the sheer size of the collection posed some additional challenges. Harvard Library Imaging Services agreed to partner with Digital Commonwealth and the National Archives on the project, offering their new high-speed document scanning services to quickly and safely handle the digitization of the physical records. The result of the project would make the digitized records available through Digital Commonwealth, Harvard Library’s online collection, and the National Archives online catalog.

As with any large-scale digitization project, there were many steps in ensuring the successful completion of the project. Staff and volunteers at the National Archives worked on document prep and metadata creation. Security protocols were established to ensure the safe transportation and storage of the records offsite (after a few trips transporting records to Widener Library, I can now say that I’ve parked my car in Harvard Yard). Staff at Harvard Imaging Services created scanning workflows for the project, seamlessly combining high volume digitization on their conveyer belt style scanner with separate workflows for oversized and bound materials. Once scanning was complete, Harvard staff worked with the Boston Public Library and Digital Commonwealth on harvesting metadata and making the records available through the Digital Commonwealth site.

The digitized images went live on the Digital Commonwealth site earlier this month (they can be viewed here), and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone that made this collaboration possible: Alfie Paul, Denise Henderson and the staff and volunteers at the National Archives in Waltham; Bill Comstock and everyone at Harvard Library Imaging Services; and Tom Blake and the metadata staff at the Boston Public Library. The Morgan v. Hennigan case file should complement and provide further context for the records on busing and desegregation digitized by other institutions throughout the Boston area, and hopefully this project will serve as a model for additional collaborative digitization projects in the future.

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Cross & Dimmitt postcard ca: 1930-1945

Boston Public Library

The Tichnor Brothers Collection contains approximately 25,000 office proofs of postcards of the United States published by the Boston firm Tichnor Brothers Inc. These are color postcards with a linen texture dated ca. 1930-1945. The concentration is on American vacation places.

National Archives of Boston

 This series consists of the civil action case file (72-911-G) of Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al., a class action lawsuit brought in 1972 by the parents of African American children alleging  that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by a deliberate policy of racial segregation in the Boston Public Schools. Included are the complaint, motions, briefs, transcripts of hearings, Boston School Committee meeting transcripts, enrollment records, memorandums, letters and other correspondence, judgments, affidavits, depositions, interrogatories, and other records. Records are arranged by document number assigned by the court.