The Trustees of Reservations : a bulletin of news, comment and opinion in the field of conservation
The Trustees of Reservations : a bulletin of news, comment and opinion in the field of conservation

This post was written by Patricia Feeley, BPL Collaborative Services Librarian.

For a 126-year-old organization, the Trustees of Reservations is not that well-known for its cultural heritage collections.  People are often familiar with the properties they own – the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, World’s End in Hingham or Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke – but not the history they curate.  It is easy to imagine that an organization with so much history and so wide a scope would have amassed an impressive collection.

Alison Bassett and Sarah Hayes were members of the Trustees before they began working at the Trustees’ Archives and Research Center (ARC).  Alison had a background in documentary film that included researching in archives just like the one she now heads.  Sarah’s background included a library science degree, cultural heritage programs and experience as a member of Digital Commonwealth’s Metadata Mob.  In fact, Sarah worked on metadata for one of the Trustees’ collections as a Mobster before she was hired by The Trustees.

ARC staff knew what a terrific collection they had in their Archives and Research Center.  However, it was hard for staff across the state to access easily and virtually unknown to the public.  The decision was made to digitize records to preserve and promote them.  The preservation work began before Digital Commonwealth (DC) was involved.  But both Alison and Sarah agreed that DC would provide the next step in the process.

The Trustees wanted to have its digital collections available on a statewide site that mirrored its own statewide reach.  Alison and Sarah stressed the value in having complementary Massachusetts historical collections to search on one site for images that enrich your own research when that just right image isn’t in your own holdings.

Neither is shy about why they love Digital Commonwealth:

  1. It’s free.
  2. The Digital Commonwealth staff is easy to work with and they do excellent work.

It doesn’t get much better than that.  With a small staff, Alison was happy to take advantage of the larger DC staff, who could devote more time to digitization projects.  For the recently added Appleton Farms collection, there were many photo albums that needed to be broken down before scanning.  DC was able to do this and do it quicker than ARC staff.  Alison and Sarah appreciated consulting with DC staff about which albums were most representative and which would be easiest to work with.  It took about a year from first contact to seeing the Appleton Farms collection uploaded, but this was mainly due to workload issues at the Trustees.

The Trustees currently have three collections on Digital Commonwealth: Trustees of Reservations Institutional Publications, Photographs from Stevens-Coolidge Place and the Appleton Family Photo Album Collection.

The first collection is straightforward.  Already, Alison has referred a staffer in western Massachusetts to the digitized Annual Reports.  The staffer was thrilled to be able to do his own research and Alison was thrilled not to have to scan and send dozens of pages.

The most recent collection added, the Appleton Family Photo Album Collection, depicts the oldest continuously operating farm in America and the family that founded it in 1636. The property was turned over to the Trustees in 1998.  The farm’s last heirs and residents were Francis Randall Appleton, Jr. (1885-1974) and his wife, Joan Egleston Appleton (1912-2006).  Joan lived on the farm until her death.

Francis Appleton was a “gentleman farmer”.  His home was still a working farm, but limited in its operations.  Like many gentlemen farmers of the time, Appleton sent Christmas cards showing livestock (turkeys, cows, horses) and farm scenes.  The farm also ran the Barberry Kennels for a time.  One Christmas card shows that year’s litter of terriers, each one’s name beginning with the letter V.  One of this line would go on to win Best of Class at the Westminster Kennel Club Show.

Barberry Kennels, Appleton Farms, Ipswich, Mass. Merry Christmas, 1945, from J.R., Jr. & Joan E. Appleton
Barberry Kennels, Appleton Farms, Ipswich, Mass. Merry Christmas, 1945, from J.R., Jr. & Joan E. Appleton

The largest of the three collections is the Photographs from Stevens-Coolidge Place.  When the ARC staff first consulted with DC, they planned to start with a smaller collection.  DC staff urged them to think bigger and this collection of over 1800 images was the result.

ARC chose this collection in part because it contained a wide variety of photographic formats (daguerreotypes, tintypes, cabinet cards, cartes de visite, albumen prints, cyanotypes, collodion prints, silver gelatin prints, 35mm color prints, and Polaroids.)  It also contained great photos. The families were world travelers, so the scope of the collection is broad.  Also, Stevens-Coolidge Place house is usually closed to the public, so interior photographs offer access not often available.

Studio portrait of unidentified woman in black dress and monocle with cigarette posing with Great Dane; whip and glove on floor
Studio portrait of unidentified woman in black dress and monocle with cigarette posing with Great Dane; whip and glove on floor

This is also the collection that included Alison’s and Sarah’s favorite items to highlight.  Alison chose a wonderfully eccentric studio portrait of an unidentified woman dressed all in black.  Unlike the many other photos of women staring dreamily off into the distance, this woman looks straight back at the viewer through her monocle.  Yes, monocle.  She has an ungloved hand holding a Great Dane in place by her side and a gloved hand holding a cigarette.  At her feet lays her other glove and what the description identifies as a “whip”, but is perhaps more of a riding crop.  Either way, it is an unusual photo.

Alison admits the photo is intriguing on its own, but the ARC has no information on who the sitter is or why she chose to be depicted this way.  What delights Alison is that the one clue – the photographer’s name – leads to a different historical topic.  The photographer was a woman.

Emily Stokes appears in Frances Willard’s 1897 book, Occupations for Women: A Book of Practical Suggestions for the Material Advancement, the Mental and Physical Development, and the Moral and Spiritual Uplift of Women.  Here we discover that Mrs. Stokes is a British immigrant to America who had been a professional photographer in Boston for 16 years at the time of publication.  Child portraits are identified as her specialty.  Photography is promoted as an occupation for women because it no longer involves “dangerous chemicals” or as heavy equipment as in earlier years.  Ms. Willard emphasizes that electricity has made photography a good outlet for a woman’s “light touch.”

Portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi seated on throne
Portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi seated on throne

Sarah also highlights a photograph that originally seemed unremarkable, but led to a greater historical understanding of the Trustees collection.  It is a portrait of the Empress Dowager Cixi.  A separate project cataloguing objects in the collection led to a find of some textiles that were identified as Chinese.  Additional research connected these textiles to the Empress, who was known for promoting textiles created by Chinese women.   Sarah appreciates that this richer history is made possible by having these images available where connections can be made by researchers.

Alison and Sarah urge other cultural heritage organizations to take the plunge and add more collections to Digital Commonwealth.

Fragment of Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis, from the Incunbula Collection from the Boston Public Library
Fragment of Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis

Along with the new season, Digital Commonwealth also brings you many new collections of beautiful and historical content to explore.

Boston Public Library

Anti-Slavery – 22 items added to existing collection

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston – 4 items added to existing collection

Cuneiform Tablets – 9 items

Incunabula – 6 items

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts – 6 items added to existing collection

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 555 items added to existing collection

Record of animals delivered to the temple for sacrifice"  from Cuneiform Collection from the Boston Public Library
Record of animals delivered to the temple for sacrifice

Shakespeare – 1 item added to existing collection

Harvard Forest Archives

Harvard Forest Martha’s Vineyard Collection – 122 items added to existing collection

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Jamaica Plain Historical Society Photo Gallery – 1 item added to existing collection

Federal Civil Defense Administration, Harvard, Massachusetts," from Civil Defense Photographs from National Archives Boston
Federal Civil Defense Administration, Harvard, Massachusetts

National Archives at Boston

Civil Defense Photographs – 1112 items

USS Constitution Museum

War of 1812 - 8 items added to existing collection

Ephraim Williams, Jr. early will, 1748
Ephraim Williams, Jr. early will, 1748

This post was written by Patricia Feeley, BPL Collaborative Services Librarian.

Jessika Drmacich was hired for the newly-created Records Manager & Digital Resources Archivist position at Williams College five years ago.  Jessika’s career has included stops at Rolling Stone magazine in New York City and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge before landing in Williamstown.

Asking Jessika to pick a favorite digital collection is rather like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.  Each is special in its own way and she doesn’t like to single one out.  However, pressed to name collections that deserve more of a spotlight, and Jessika will name names:

The Ephraim Williams Project: Williams College has papers related to its first benefactor, Ephraim Williams, Jr., in various collections in the Williams College Library archives.  Digitizing these papers allowed Jessika to create a virtual Ephraim Williams collection that allows students and scholars to view the papers in a single collection.

Michael Reily receiving his diploma
Michael Reily receiving his diploma

The Davis Center Posters Collection: This collection of posters showcases the inclusivity and diversity of Williams College.  It shows the LGBTQ community that they are welcomed and even celebrated at Williams.  Jessika believes this message of inclusivity is an important one for the college community.

Reily Scrapbook: Jessika knows the poignant story behind this item appeals to everyone.  The scrapbook is leather-bound, containing photographs, newspaper clippings, ribbons, certificates, and ephemera primarily regarding Michael Reily’s activities in track and field, football, and wrestling from high school through college (Williams College Class of 1964).  Michael died in July 1964 due to Hodgkins lymphoma, just a few months after graduating.  According to his obituary, he had spent most of his last semester in the college infirmary.  His “fondest wish” was to graduate with his class.  The scrapbook was compiled by his mother after Michael’s death and donated to the college by his brother.

Anonymous Hymnal containing songs "Given by the Shepherdess in the Church at Shirley..."
Anonymous Hymnal containing songs “Given by the Shepherdess in the Church at Shirley…”

Shaker Song Books: These song books are part of the College Archives Shaker Collection.  The larger collection benefited from a donation from Edward Wight (Class of 1907), who collected Shaker-related works in Troy, NY, close to the original settlement of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (Shakers).  These wonderful song books from various Shaker communities include handwritten lyrics and musical notations.  It is unlikely any of these tunes were ever reviewed by Jessika’s previous employer, Rolling Stone.

Jessika’s next planned project is digitizing Williams College yearbooks and the student newspaper, The Record.

It is obvious that Williams College has a strong commitment to and history of digitization.  The college began digitizing collections in the 1990s.  Williams started a records management program in 2012 and the Trustees passed a college-wide records management policy in 2016.  Jessika can count on students and library staff to assist in digitization using the college’s camera, book and flatbed scanners.

With all that institutional support, why did she turn to Digital Commonwealth?  Jessika believes “access is as important as preservation”.  To reach a wider audience than the college website provided, Jessika knew she wanted Digital Commonwealth to harvest her digital collections, which she knew meant the Digital Public Library of America would harvest them, as well.  This gives the Williams collections at least a national audience.

Jessika found working with Digital Commonwealth staff was very easy.  She believes meeting the metadata standard was the key to a quick and successful harvest.  From first contact to full upload only took five months. She also believes “everyone should know MODS and Dublin core”: library staff, students, volunteers, etc.

Merchant of Venice gown with train
Merchant of Venice gown with train

But there are always glitches.  The wonderful Costume Archives collection was an early digitization effort that, unfortunately, did not meet today’s standard for metadata.  Jessika and her crew had to find the original images, assign accession numbers and then re-do the metadata. When she had questions, she found the Digital Commonwealth staff very helpful.

Jessika recommends that public libraries beginning a digitization program consult an archivist with metadata experience as a first step.  Happily for Massachusetts public libraries (or any Massachusetts cultural institution), they can call on the Boston Public Library’s archivist and metadata crew for free advice and assistance on their digitization programs. The BPL staff digitizes and harvests collections for Digital Commonwealth.

Jessika is constantly adding to the Williams College digital collections.  She looks forward to learning the Digital Commonwealth harvesting schedule so even more of her collections become accessible to an ever larger audience as quickly as possible.

"Allen C. Hinckley. Hagen in Gotterdammerung," 1903. From Philip Hale Photograph Collection
“Allen C. Hinckley. Hagen in Gotterdammerung,” 1903. From Philip Hale Photograph Collection

Even though February is the shortest month of the year, we still managed to get a lot of new items into the Digital Commonwealth! Don’t miss any of the amazing new collections, including Judge Garrity’s chamber papers on the Boston Desegregation Case and historic photos of  campus life at Mass Art in the 1800s.

Boston Public Library

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston – 2 items added to existing collection

Hugo Münsterberg Collection, 1890-1916 – 1772 items

Philip Hale Photograph Collection – 661 items

Duxbury Free Library

Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of the Winsor Family 1820-1915 – 226 items

Fitchburg Public Library

Books from Fitchburg Public Library - 1 item

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

"Doper than Dope". From Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive.
“Doper than Dope”. From Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive.

Campus Life – 286 items

The Trustees of the Reservation, Archives & Research Center

The Appleton Family Photo Album Collection – 184 items

University of Massachusetts Boston, Joseph P. Healey Library 

Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive – 231 items

Mosaic records and publication, 1980-1990 – 11 items

W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. chambers papers on the Boston School Desegregation Case – 568 items

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions

"Barberry Kennedy, Appleton Farms," 1947. From Appleton Family  Photo Album Collection
“Barberry Kennedy, Appleton Farms,” 1947. From Appleton Family Photo Album Collection

Thomas N. Kelley Papers – 6 items

 

We’re very excited to present our newest promotion effort: Bookmarks!
We have two styles of bookmark designed to raise awareness about our wonderfully rich online resources. The Digital Commonwealth exists to advance the dissemination of collections from Massachusetts to a wider audience through shared resources and a single website. These bookmarks are a fun way to let libraries and other cultural institutions raise awareness about this resource with users.

Bookmark Design 1
Bookmark Design 1, front and back
Bookmark Design 2
Bookmark Design 2, front and back

If you’d like to share these with your users, we will send you stacks of bookmarks in either or both of the two designs. Please contact the Outreach Committee at outreach@digitalcommonwealth.org  with your preferences.

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!

Want to get more involved with Digital Commonwealth? We’re looking for members to sit on the board, starting terms in July. If you’re interested in taking on this role, please send current Digital Commonwealth President Karen Cariani (karen_cariani@wgbh.org) a resume or short bio and a statement of interest.

Statements of interest should include:

  • A statement of commitment to be active on a committee (and which committee you are interested in, if you know )
  • A statement of commitment to attend at least half of the board meetings in person and others on the phone. Board meetings are once a month for about 2-3 hours at a time and location agreed to by everyone on the board, (currently last Monday of the month from 9-12)
  • A 2 year commitment to serve on the board
  • The possibilty of serving as an officer at some point

I am not a board member of the Digital Commonwealth. In fact, until the 2014 Annual Conference, I had never attended a Digital Commonwealth event. However, when I showed up, along with three other guests, at the May 2014 board meeting, I was welcomed quite warmly.

Board Members Margaret Morrissey, Jacob Edwards Library, Southbridge; Kim Cochrane; Henry Whittemore Library, Framingham State University; Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society; Karen Cariaini, WGBH; Elizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE network; Ellen Dubinsky, Clement C. Maxwell Library, Bridgewater State University and Joe Fisher, O'Leary Library UMass, Lowell. Photograph by Sadie Roosa of WGBH.— at American Antiquarian Society.
Board Members Margaret Morrissey, Jacob Edwards Library, Southbridge; Kim Cochrane, Henry Whittemore Library, Framingham State University; Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society; Karen Cariaini, WGBH; Elizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE network; Ellen Dubinsky, Clement C. Maxwell Library, Bridgewater State University and Joe Fisher, O’Leary Library UMass, Lowell. Photograph by Sadie Roosa of WGBH.— at American Antiquarian Society.

The term board meeting makes it seem like it should be extremely formal, possibly even stodgy; however, I got the distinct impression that, although everyone there took the proceedings very seriously, they weren’t just going through the formal motions. These were real people doing real work.

At the meeting we discussed the previous month’s annual conference, the activities of the outreach committee, a plan for debugging the integration of the repository’s new website with the older member site. Being right there during the conversation, it was very easy for me and my fellow guests to add our two cents or volunteer bits of our time to help out. I can guarantee that I would never have participated as much if I had only read about it in the newsletter; that extra barrier of sending even one additional email in response to a call for volunteers would be enough to stop me.

Now, clearly I’m very excited to be part of this whole process, but I can see why others might have reservations. That’s why I truly want to encourage you to sit in on even just one meeting. That’s not very much of a commitment, is it? And in that one meeting, you’ll be able to see the best way for you to participate based on your own schedule: whether it’s sitting on the board, volunteering for a committee, or helping out with only one local event. As a volunteer-run organization, we need our members to participate, and I hope you’ll consider doing so by sitting in on a future board meeting. The next meeting will be on June 23 from 9:30-12 at the MLS building in Marlborough (225 Cedar Hill Street, Suite 229 Marlborough, MA 01752). If you plan on attending, please contact Karen Cariani at karen_cariani@wgbh.org.

Submitted by Sadie Roosa, WGBH