Bradford street
Bradford St. from
Lawrence, Mass. Before Urban Renewal Photograph Collection

One of our favorite contributors, Lawrence Public Library, added to several existing collections as well as added new collections in July.  One of which is the Lawrence, Mass. Before Urban Renewal Photograph Collection.  Lawrence hired a photography studio to document the first area targeted for urban renewal, so we have photos like the one of Bradford Street (Right) showing what was slated for demolition.

On a happier note, the Cambridge Historical Commission added 278 items to their Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection.  Sometimes the captions only add to the mystery of the photos.  One of my favorites is Cambridge “Sparks” and his radio scooter.  (Below left)

Cambridge Sparks and his radio scooter
Cambridge “Sparks” and his radio scooter from Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection

July also saw contributions to existing collections at the Boston Public Library, Harvard Law School Library, a major re-harvesting from Amherst College and a new collection from the South Hadley Public Library. (Below listings.)  We hope all Massachusetts cultural institutions will continue to contribute new and to existing collections.  It makes for a better Digital Commonwealth, which, as you can see, is already pretty amazing.

Amherst College
23 new collections re-harvested; 3,290 new items added to existing collections

Boston Public Library
The Liberator (Boston, Mass. : 1831-1865) – 261 items added to existing collection

Cambridge Historical Commission
Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection – 278 items added to existing collection

Harvard Law School Library
Sacco-Vanzetti Collections – 133 items many to existing collection

Lawrence Public Library
Ayer Mill Spinning Department – 1 item added to existing collection
Franklin Associates – 1 item added to existing collection
George P. Farrell – 1 item
Lawrence British Club, Lawrence, Mass. – 1 item
Lawrence, Mass. Before Urban Renewal Photograph Collection – 132 items
Lawrence, Mass. Engineering Department. Plans and associated papers – 39 items added to existing collection
Lawrence, Mass. Flood of 1936 – 2 items added to existing collection
Lawrence, Mass. Panorama Photographs – 4 items added to existing collection
Lawrence, Mass., Water Department – 4 items
Lawrence School Photographs – 1 item
St. Mary’s High School, Lawrence, Mass. – 1 item

South Hadley Public Library
South Hadley Postcard Collection – 101 items

Mount Holyoke, Summit House
Mt. Holyoke, Summit House from South Hadley Postcard Collection
House on Chester Hill
House on Chester Hill Granville Public Library

Too many people think history is as dry as dust.  All dates and wars and people in funny clothes with funnier hats.  Show them their street 100 years ago or a 50-year-old yearbook for their high school and you have their attention. Ask them if they can identify a house on their street or its former owner and you have a Watson and the game’s afoot.

With the Granville Public Library’s collection digitized, Dick Rowley took advantage of other services offered by Digital Commonwealth.  He took an Omeka workshop on creating online exhibits.   The Granville Historic Image Library is the result.  The images are the main attraction, but there’s also an ongoing project to upload the Catalog of Historic Document Collections and Books from the Granville Public Library’s Historical Room with links to already-digitized versions of the Historical Room collection on websites like Internet Archive.

Dick also started posting Mystery Monday and Flashback Friday photos to the Granville Forum on Facebook.  He encouraged Forum members to contribute information and photos.  He got both.  Posters identified one old house as the original Baptist church that was moved across the street, so the new church could be built.  Even better, this wonderful wedding photo shows multiple generations of Granville residents at the wedding of Helen Alvina Hansen and Charles Louis Drolett, Jr. Dick reports the photo owner had no idea who the people in the photo were.  By posting it, Granville’s “village elders” were consulted and able to identify everyone.  Amongst the “elders”?  One of the little girls in the photo.

Find A Grave is one of the most popular websites for genealogists and local history buffs.  Dick has used the website to spread the wealth of resources in the Granville collection.  A distant relation will be thrilled to find a photo of Nathan Fenn on his Find A Grave page.  Although, my favorite has to be the Weekly Report on the Conduct of… Melissa Phelps.  What a delight for any descendant of Melissa Phelps Gaines to discover this gem.

Some of the stories are more poignant.  In trying to locate the oldest house in Granville, Dick was sent a photo of a 1934 copy of the Granville Center News.  The News is a story in itself.  It was published by Newton kids who summered in Granville.  They report on a resident of the purported oldest building, Chapin Brown, who was “slightly crazy”.  A little research uncovered the man had served in the Civil War.  Post-traumatic stress disorder?  Perhaps.  We don’t always get the full story, but a lot more of Chapin Brown’s has been restored because someone asked about the oldest house in town.

Susan A. Phelon Barber, AEF, Army Nurse Corp
Susan A. Phelon Barber, AEF, Army Nurse Corp Granville Public Library

A more inspirational story comes as a result of Dick’s collaboration with the Woodlands Cemetery Association (WCA).  This is my favorite.  The Granville Historic Image Library, Historical Room, Granville Public Library provides the images and the WCA provides the profiles of the interred in their newsletter.  Susan A. Phelon Barber was born and raised in Granville.  She was educated in Westfield and became a teacher.  She moved to Maine to study nursing and joined the U.S. Army nursing corps during World War I.  She served in Europe until 1919.  She then moved to Los Angeles to serve as a private nurse. Eventually, she returned to live in Granville and work as a nurse in Westfield.  She married a high school classmate in 1930 at the age of 45.

These remarkable people lived in a small town, but hardly had small lives.  If they were lost for a while, they have now been restored.  You can do the same for your small Massachusetts town and Digital Commonwealth can help.  Give us a call.  Let’s restore some more stories.

1881 Lawrence High School football team
1881 Lawrence High School football team from Lawrence Public Library

 

April was a dark and gloomy month weather-wise.  Maybe that accounts for there only being three contributors this month.  The Boston Public Library added 1873 items to the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee collection, bringing that collection up to over 5,000 items.  Boston College re-harvested over 80 items.  Lawrence Public Library contributed many small collections and one large one.  The latter is the Lawrence High School Athletic Department collection of over 130 team photographs.  You can see a very solemn 1881 football team on the left.  Maybe it’s because they appear to have been forced to pose in their long underwear and watch caps.  And that football looks more like a basketball.  How things have changed…

 

 

 

 

Boston College

1 new collection; 84 new items re-harvested

Boston Public Library

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Prints and Drawings – 9 items added to existing collection
Press Photography from the Brearley Collection – 753 items added to existing collection
Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee – 1873 items added to existing collection

Lawrence Public Library

A.W. Stearns – 1 item
Americanization Poster – 1 item
Antebellum Citations – 5 items
Civil War Women, Summer Institute 2008 – 3 items
Donovan Park – 1 item
Franklin Associates – 22 items
Lawrence High School Athletic Department – 132 items
Lawrence High School Classes – 2 items
Lawrence State Armory – 1 item
Lawrence, Mass. Board of Health, Records – 10 items
Lawrence, Mass. Engineering Department – 7 items
Lawrence, Mass. Flood of 1936 – 76 items
Lawrence, Mass. Glass Plate Negatives – 14 items
Lawrence, Mass. Textile Strike of 1912 – 13 items
Leonard Bernstein Poster – 2 items
Massachusetts Mayors’ Club – 1 item
New Deal Seminar, April 2008 – 3 items
Religion in Massachusetts Seminar, May 2008 – 12 items
Revolutionary War, Summer Institute 2008 – 1 item
Schenk Family – 1 item
Southern Slavery Seminar, November 2008 – 7 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

Developing a Born-Digital Preservation Workflow

Presenters: Bill Donovan and Jack Kearney, Boston College

Bell Tower image
Postcard image of the Boston College Bell Tower, ca. 1930-1945. From the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection at the Boston Public Library.

Our presenters described the workflow followed to access records on an external hard drive included in the personal papers of Irish soprano and harpist Mary O’Hara, their first dive into the sea of digital preservation. They described how workflows start as baseline best practices. What happens when the unanticipated occurs? Hearing about the steps taken at Boston College to appraise, ingest and clear unanticipated hurdles along the way reinforced that processing plans/workflows are a starting point. What you find when you open the files can and will drive changes to workflows – sound familiar? Tags: Writeblocker, UNIX, 8.3 Constraint, Fixity (software), Identity Finder (software), XENA tool, Policy writing, FITS tool, JHOVE tool, LOCKSS, DP in a box, Digital Forensics.

Digital Commonwealth 2.0: It’s Alive!

Presenters: Steven Anderson and Eben English

Despite the migration to our new platform in Fedora and Hydra literally happening while we met, our intrepid presenters gave before & after comparisons of the repository website with its streamlined visual presentation and enhanced search capabilities. If you haven’t already, check it out!

Rapid Fire Inspiring Projects

Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping, ca. 1888. From the Francis Blake photographs at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping, ca. 1888. From the Francis Blake photographs at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Presenters: Christine Clayton, Worcester Art Museum (WAM); Abigail Cramer, Historic New England (HNE); Sean M. Fisher, Department of Conservation (DCR) and Recreation and Rebecca Kenney, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA); Larissa Glasser, Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library (AAHL); Nancy Heywood, Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS); Michael Lapides, New Bedford Whaling Museum; Sara Slymon, Turner Free Library

WOW! Our presenters offered up a smorgasbord of formats, collections and projects they undertook to make records available to their users. For some, their users were internal, like the WAM, which digitized exhibition catalogs, HNE digitized their collection of photographs by Nathaniel Stebbins, DCR and MWRA digitized 8800 images, the largest collection undertaken by Digital Commonwealth so far. AAHL digitized a collection of glass plate negatives…the results? Unanticipated revenue streams – from interior decorators, increased hits on websites, object provenance authentications, access to the identities of early American movers and shakers as reported in contemporary newspapers, accessible Town Reports and High School yearbooks. Several of these projects are still in the pipelines, so not yet searchable on the Digital Commonwealth website.

Submitted by guest reporter Elizabeth Cousins, First Parish in Brookline.