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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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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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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.

 

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John F. Kennedy

Before COVID-19 changed life and work as we know it, lots of new content was added to Digital Commonwealth including the voluminous photo archive of Dennis Brearley which chronicles the life of the City of Boston from the 1920s to 1970s.  From parades to protests, it’s all there providing the rich historical context that photographs can.

Boston Public Library

                                            Holyoke Public Library 

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Children in their Sunday best

C.R. Wilhelm Collection (203 items)

 

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Lillian Abdalian

Originally scheduled to take place Sunday, April 4, a program on the Remarkable Photography of Leon Abdalian at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library has been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.  While that talk will be re-scheduled at a future time, in the meantime we encourage you to visit Leon’s large body of work accessible via Digital Commonwealth.Born Leon Hampartzoum Abdalian in Armenia, Ottoman Empire in 1884, he came to the US as a 12 year old in 1896.

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Leon, Lillian,and Marian Abdalian

The Abdalian family settled in Jamaica Plain, a subject of thousands of his later photographs.  A train conductor by day with the Boston Elevated Railway, Leon was largely self-taught and took photographs as a hobby which expanded into a busy sideline. His photos were published in The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Traveler  and as a career highlight, in the March 1920 issue of  National Geographic magazine.

Besides his beloved hometown of JP, West Roxbury, Milton, Dedham, Lexington, Salem and Gloucester are featured subjects as our family groups in their living rooms, at picnics, weddings, and the Arnold Arboretum. The photos are clean and classically composed, and really fun to browse, especially when compared with the JP of today.

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Leo J. Costello, 234 South St. Jamaica Plain

After his death in 1967, his daughter Lilian donated several hundred negatives to the Boston Public Library and his entire body of work was bequeathed to BPL in 2003, a gift of the Arnold P. and Lillian A.Clough estate.