Blizzard of 1978
Blizzard of 1978 from Newton Free Library
Main St. after the blizzard of 1888
Main St. after the blizzard of 1888 from Lee Library Historical Collection

Every year there is a first substantial snow of the year.  As I type this, snow has just started falling in Boston.  Over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, the prediction has gone from “up to 12 inches” to 6-12″, to 4-6″ to “wintry mix”.  I have no idea how much snow we’ll get in the end.  It definitely will make a difference if you’re in the Berkshires, Greater Worcester or south of the Pike.

Two things I do know: media forecasters will talk as if this is a never-seen-before event in Massachusetts and drivers across the state will drive like they’ve never seen snow before.  Come on, people.  We have snow every year.  Some storms are historic, like the Blizzard of ’78 or the Blizzard of ’88.  This time, though, the timing is everything.  The Blizzard of ’78 occurred in February, in 1888 it was March.

This time it’s Thanksgiving weekend.  One of the busiest travel days of the year.  No matter how much snow we get, it couldn’t come at a worse time.  So be smart, slow down, be careful and be safe.

Old-fashioned snow blizzard, Boston. Coldest snow blizzard at its height on Tremont St.
Old-fashioned snow blizzard, Boston. Coldest snow blizzard at its height on Tremont St. from Boston Public Library’s Leslie Jones Collection
John Kennedy portrait
Portrait of John F. Kennedy from Historic New England. One of the politicians honored at Doyle’s.

Every town has one.  The general store where everyone discusses local politics.  The church where the community has potluck dinners.  The community center where the schools and amateur theater troupe put on shows.  They’re gathering places that you can’t imagine losing because they’ve always been there.  Until they’re not.

Someone retires, a weather disaster occurs, an owner gets an offer too good to decline and that local institution is gone.  What can you do to preserve it?  In Boston, the latest example was the closing of Doyle’s Cafe.  Doyle’s was an institution in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, known for attracting politicians and generations of families.  And for the memorabilia on its walls.  When the decision was made to close, the owners held an auction of its contents.

As reported on the Irish Central website, Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library are teaming up to digitize any item purchased at the auction.  So, if you are losing a local institution and you can’t add its contents to your collections, think about having them digitized.  Chances are you have an image, maybe a map, that includes the institution, why not have a digital image of the furnishings, the banners, the costumes?  Enrich the memories and your collections before they’re lost.

Champions, 1917
Champions, 1917 from Boston Latin School

The Boston Public Library went to town in October, adding three new collections and adding new items to three existing collections, for over 1,000 items total.  But Digital Commonwealth did not neglect its smaller members.  Boston Latin School, Sturgis Library, Weymouth Public Libraries and Wilbraham Public Library all added from 1 to 952 items to the Digital Commonwealth universe.

This includes the image on the left.  We know these five young men and two coaches were champions in 1917, but of what?  No matter how much I enlarge the photo, I can’t make out the inscription. The athletes are wearing heavy wool sweaters with their shorts plus pretty gnarly socks.  The only hint is the surprisingly-impressive-for-a-high-school trophy.  The Roman (Greek?) god appears to be holding what looks to me like a crew oar crowned with a laurel wreath.  I vote for crew champions.  What do you think?

 

Boston Latin School
Boston Latin School Photograph Collection – 15 items

Boston Public Library
Colonial and Revolutionary Boston (Collection of Distinction) – 2 items added to existing collection
George Bellows (1882-1925). Prints and Drawings – 158 items added to existing collection
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). Etchings – 114 items
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 1 item added to existing Collection
Thomas Prince Library and Collection of the Old South Church – 46 items
Victoria Woodhull Martin Papers, 1883-1927 – 776 items

Sturgis Library
Stanley Smith Deed Collection – 952 items

Weymouth Public Libraries
Weymouth Public Libraries Historical Photograph Collection – 3 items added to existing collection

Wilbraham Public Library
Wilbraham Town Archives Photographic Collection – 1 item added to existing collection

State Street looking toward Pleasant Street in the 1950s
State Street looking towards Pleasant St. circa 1950s from The Snow Photograph Collection

The Daily News of Newburyport recently published articles on October 22, 2019, Museum program focuses on historic photo collection, and October 24, 2019, Museum unveils extensive photo archive, about the  Historical Society of Old Newbury, Snow Historical Photograph Collection. Both articles report on a lecture on the highlights of the collection.  Both also mention that this extensive collection of photographs was donated to the society in an uncatalogued state.  The Society volunteer team sorted and catalogued the photos.  It was two years before they were able to send them to Digital Commonwealth for digitizing.

Now you can enjoy these wonderful photos on Digital Commonwealth at any time of the day or night.  Just follow the links…

Boston City Council meeting recording, April 15, 2015
Boston City Council meeting recording, April 15, 2015 from City of Boston Archives

We have no newly-added collections this month (the dreaded technical difficulty prevented this), but we do have formats that you may not have checked out yet.  Go to the Explore tab on the Digital Commonwealth home page and select Formats. These are arranged by the numbers, so Photographs are at the top of the list followed by Letters/correspondence and then Documents.

But scroll down and you soon come to Film/video.  Of the 28,400 items here, 23,135 are from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Collection.  This collection of public media was amassed by WGBH and the Library of Congress to preserve at-risk materials.  There are also tapes from local TV news programs and Boston City Council meetings.

Audio icon
Audio recording icon from Audio recordings (nonmusical) format

Next on the list are Objects/artifacts.  These range from clothing/costumes to furniture to jewelry to samplers.   Some items are unique, like the Aeolian harp from Historic New England or the Native American beaded pouch from the Perkins School for the Blind’s Tad Chapman Collection.

Proceeding further down, we come to Audio recordings (nonmusical).  These are easy to spot by their speaker icon (right).  Most of these are also from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Collection, but there are several local oral history collections, too.  What about music?  Well, keep scrolling.  That’s listed as Music (recordings).  While some of these also have speaker icons, some are pictured with images of old-fashioned audio cassettes.

Digital Commonwealth: it’s not just pretty pictures.

Northampton Station
Northampton Station from the BPL’s Along the Elevated collection

David Akiba, a local photographer and teacher, passed away on August 24, 2019.  The Boston Globe published a front page appreciation of his work and career on October 6.  After reading it, I, like many, felt the loss of an uncommon talent.  We at Digital Commonwealth are very proud that we host over 100 of Mr. Akiba’s photographs.  The Globe quoted Mr. Akiba saying he “…liked the railroad yards…” and spent time in “…half-destroyed urban parts of town…”

These interests and his role as mentor are represented by his participation in the Along the Elevated: Photographs of the Orange Line exhibit at the Boston Public Library (and now on Digital Commonwealth), which paired professional photographers with students.  Each pair was given the assignment to chronicle the elevated Orange Line public transit just before it was demolished.

If you spent any time riding the elevated Orange Line or living under it, you’ll want to take a look at what David Akiba captured with empathy and art.

 

Egleston Station between Egleston and Dudley
Egleston between Egleston + Dudley from BPL’s Along the Elevated collection
Egleston Station, outbound platform
Egleston Station, outbound platform from BPL’s Along the Elevated collection
Dover Station
Dover Station from BPL’s Along the Elevated collection
Dover Station abandoned building from the BPL's Along the Elevated collection
Dover Station abandoned building from the BPL’s Along the Elevated collection

 

 

Parker_00042
Herman Parker, about 1910 Herman Parker Collection of Glass Plate Negatives
Parker_00012
Boats Sailing, Marblehead, MA Herman Parker Collection of Glass Plate Negatives

Scenes from the yachting life of the early 20th century in Marblehead come alive through the Herman Parker Collection of Glass Plate Negatives (Parker Collection).  These images, along with the voluminous Frank Cousins Collection of Glass Negatives (Cousins Collection)  were recently added to Digital Commonwealth by the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). We spotlighted the Cousins Collection in a previous post and both collections are well worth perusing.

Herman Parker and his wife Lillian (Percival) were listed in the Social Register of Boston and were active in the active yachting scene in Marblehead which kept and still continues to keep Marblehead Harbor hopping. Parker was an architect and clothier in the Boston based Macullar Parker Company. His side pursuits included sailing and photography.

A defining feature of Parker’s photographs is the sense of movement and immediacy he managed to capture– which given the challenges of the glass plate negative process is all the more remarkable. Schooners and boats on the open sea almost appear to be flying and the water churning.  Yacht clubs are thriving and races are still going on in Marblehead. Current sailors should take a look at these vintage photographs.

Scene from the Pageant of Cape Cod, held on the banks of the Cape Cod Canal
Scene from the Pageant of Cape Cod, held on the banks of the Cape Cod Canal from Bourne Archives

Is yours one of the 175 Massachusetts communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA)?  Then maybe you, like Bourne, should consider applying for CPA funding.  The Bourne Enterprise on September 6, 2019 and Wicked Local Sandwich on September 9, 2019 reported that the Bourne Archives applied for $28,000 to train staff and volunteers and for new computers and software, specifically to continue to add material to Digital Commonwealth.  Wait, aren’t Digital Commonwealth’s services free?

Yes, Digital Commonwealth’s services are free.  And the Bourne Archives has contributed two collections to Digital Commonwealth already.  But they want to do more and they know their staff and volunteers need training to do more research and data creation before sending materials to Digital Commonwealth.  And who among us couldn’t use a new computer and up-to-date software?  The point is if you’ve been reluctant to add new collections to Digital Commonwealth because your organization lacks these same elements,maybe a CPA grant is the answer for you, too.

Check if your community has adopted the CPA here.  If it’s not, the Community Preservation Coalition overview will explain the steps it needs to take.

As always, you can contact Digital Commonwealth for advice and assistance.  We’re here for you, Massachusetts.

Written by Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives, New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is one of only a few surviving American moving panoramas. Panoramas were a popular art and entertainment form that reached their peak in the mid-19th century. In many ways, they were predecessors to the massive popularity of World Fairs in the latter half of the century, most notably those of Paris, London, Chicago, and New York. Much like the extraordinary adventure writings of authors like Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, panoramas played to the spectacle of the exotic and the unknown to eager audiences.

Completed in 1848 the Grand Panorama was painted by sign painter Caleb Purrington (1812-1876) and Benjamin Russell (1804-1885), a self-trained entrepreneurial artist and whaleman. It is a grand and rare example of American panoramic folk art, created as a commercial traveling public spectacle.

Painted in water-based paint on cotton sheeting, the Grand Panorama is over 1,275 feet long and 8 feet high, separated onto four spools. Its journey begins in New Bedford harbor and travels the route typical of Yankee whalers in the mid-19th century, landing spectators in the Azores, Cabo Verde, Rio de Janeiro and numerous ports of the Pacific. At one time there was an additional section, but it was lost before the artifact came to the Whaling Museum 100 years ago. The Grand Panorama, as displayed on Digital Commonwealth, and on our dedicated website (https://arcg.is/1fv9mm), was “stitched” together from 240 separate photographs captured over the course of two years, after textile and paint conservation processes had been completed.

The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world
The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world from the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The library
The library The Fine Arts Collection of The Winsor School

Those lazy, hazy days of August brought us some fascinating new collections.  Appropriately, the Falmouth Public Library contributed over 2,000 postcards.  If you’re missing the beach already, take a look.  The Winsor School added close to 200 items from its Fine Arts Collection, including this Jacob Lawrence print of the school library (left).

The Brockton Public Library added 7 illustrations from the Shoe Industry in Brockton, Massachusetts.  The Boston Public Library uploaded a few small collections plus over 2,000 photographs from the Richard Merrill Collection.  Richard Merrill was fascinated by radio, which explains the interestingly titled photo below.  Spreading New England’s Fame was a program on the old WNAC radio station in Boston.

Finally, the University of Massachusetts/Boston re-harvested over 12,000 items in 4 collections.  Speaking of radio, the Lecco’s Lemma collection within the Massachusetts Hip Hop Archive is comprised of demo audio tapes for rap artists sent to the Lecco’s Lemma radio show as well as some audio tapes of the program.  Not to mention the W. Arthur Garrity chambers papers on the Boston Schools Desegregation Case – always of interest to students and historians.

Accordion players  on Spreading New England's Fame radio program
Accordion players, Spreading New England’s Fame Richard Merrill Collection, BPL

Boston Public Library
Carte de Visite Collection – 2 items added to existing collection
Ellen F. O’Connor Collection – 144 items
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 8 items added to existing collection
Richard Merrill Collection – 2,289 items

Brockton Public Library
Illustrations from the Shoe Industry in Brockton, Massachusetts – 7 items

Falmouth Public Library
Falmouth Public Library Historical Postcard Collection – 2,296 items

University of Massachusetts Boston
Joseph P. Healey Library – 4 new collections; 12,673 new items re-harvested

The Winsor School
The Fine Arts Collection of The Winsor School – 185 items