This month, the Boston Public Library (BPL) added 36 items from its M.C. Escher prints and drawings collection. It also happens that this month the Museum of Fine Arts opened an exhibit of M.C. Escher prints. Great minds really do think alike.
In addition, the BPL added items to six existing collections as well as lithographs, etchings and drawings of James McNeill Whistler, a Commonwealth-born artist most famous for his mother’s portrait.
The Leicester Public Library has uploaded a collection of architectural drawings while the Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society and the Jamaica Plain Historical Society have added new items to existing collection.
It appears winter is not done with us yet, so let the wonders on Digital Commonwealth warm your day and inspire your spirit.
Written by Patricia Feeley, Interlibrary Loan Librarian, Boston Public Library
When I come upon an image that deserves A Closer Look, I am usually rewarded with a story that deserves telling as well. The giant whale on the beach of Ostende print led to a story of 18th century Europeans encountering strange and wonderful creatures. An 1895 photo of attendees at a rope pull led to a discussion of campus fashion. This photo from the Osborne Library of the American Textile Museum is just what it says it is: a frontal close-up view of two rams. The angle, looking up rather than down at the rams, adds stature to them. They almost seem to be standing at attention to review the herd.
The backstory here is really just the caption on the back. The description on Digital Commonwealth ends, “Written on reverse: ‘His Majesty’ and friend.” Assuming we are meant to read the photo left to right, His Majesty is the first ram on the left. The ram on his right is his nameless friend. I can’t help but feel sorry for his friend. What makes one ram more nameable than another? The nameless friend seems as woolly to me. His horns turn out more than His Majesty’s. His snout seems a little shorter. I really don’t see much to choose between the two. It’s an eternal diss to what seems to me to be a perfectly worthy ram.
I don’t know why the shepherd didn’t name the friend. Or why the photographer didn’t ask. I just know I am naming him “The Heir Apparent”.
Have you kept your New Year’s resolution to digitize your historical treasures? These institutions did. Anna Maria College’s The Travel Postcards of Charles Bumsack Collection includes this view of Smith College’s Observatory (left). If you explore more, you’ll also find views of the Crab, Dumbbell and Horsehead Nebulae. I kid you not.
If whimsy is not your cup of tea, the BPL has added some significant correspondence collections and Barre Historical Society has added maps. (See example below.) Wilbraham Public Library chips in some photographs of the Glendale section of town while the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) has added prints, sculptures, photos and more in its six collections.
Earlier this month Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we have six more weeks of winter. Plenty of time to visit all these great collections.
Digital Commonwealth partners Weymouth Public Library and Lee Library Association were in the news last month.
Wicked Local Weymouth in an article entitled, Weymouth Public Libraries announces programs, reports on the Weymouth Public Libraries adding more digitized items from the Weymouth Historic Collections to the Digital Commonwealth. Highlights include more items concerning abolitionism and the Civil War, as well as maps of Weymouth dating from 1854 and 1880. The map from 1853 (left) is especially interesting because it marks the locations of houses with the names the residents. The items featured on Digital Commonwealth are a selection of the materials in the Weymouth Room and Local History Collections. Finding aids describing the contents of the collections in detail are viewable online here. Original materials are viewable in person by appointment. What’s available on Digital Commonwealth is viewable anytime, anywhere you have Internet access.
The Berkshire Eagle’s article, Lee Library Association: A history lesson, just a click away, extols the Lee Library Association’s efforts to identify, preserve and provide online access to its collection of photographs, postcards and prints. Over 25 years ago, local volunteers organized and categorized the collection over 5 years. When Mary Philpott, president of the Lee library, learned about Digital Commonwealth in 2013, she immediately signed up to begin what became a 4-year process of getting the collection digitized. Digital Commonwealth staff really appreciated all the hard work done by the Lee volunteers. The more data cultural institutions can supply, the faster Digital Commonwealth can process their collections. For the Lee Library Association the reward was that their historical collections were no longer “sitting in boxes”. Now everyone with an interest in Lee history can see them.
Admit it. You took it easy last month. After exams or while planning office parties, you let some things slide. The digitization team working on the Lawrence Public Library collections added twenty three collections in December: 23. No slackers there. Take the Stereo Slide Collection for example. It contains 108 items, including the Frozen Fountain on the Common slide (Left). Is it too soon after our own deep freeze to appreciate this icy monument?
Maybe you would find the variety of the Hamilton Historical Society’s collection of photos of parades, historic houses, town celebrations and prominent citizens cozier. For Civil War students, we have letters from the Jubb brothers courtesy of the J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford. As always, we have maps. December saw the Leventhal Map Center add yet more to their collection while the Wilbraham Library’s Maps Collection included the Hampden and Hampshire highway map below.
The Armenian Mirror-Spectator posted an article called, “Project Save hosts an afternoon of thanks for donors and supporters” on December 7, 2017. You may remember Project SAVE from our October 9, 2017 blog post when we highlighted them as one of our new collections from September. The article mentions, as we did, that Project SAVE had Digital Commonwealth digitize over 200 photographs from their collection as part of their effort to bring “awareness to our work beyond the Armenian community”. Project SAVE also is collaborating with the USC Shoah Foundation to create educational resources for students of genocides.
Consider adding your collections to Digital Commonwealth if you, too, want to expand your reach beyond your core audience.
If you were a little sad to see your feathered friends head south last month, take a gander (pun intended) at the John James Audubon The Birds of America drawings digitized by the Boston Public Library in November. You won’t want to miss the weirdly wonderful Roseate Spoonbill below:
There is, once again, something for everyone in this past month’s additions: large collections and small; photos, letters, music; artwork, nature, history. You want it? Digital Commonwealth’s got it! Special mention has to go to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library’s Edward Hale Lincoln Collection of flora in nature photographs. The photos are in black and white, but are so sharp and clear that winter weary Bay Staters may find inspiration for their spring gardens in these photos. Never ask me to choose a favorite orchid, but the nearby Cattleya Snow Queen seems an appropriate choice for a December post. And if you need some color, try Mass Hort’s previously digitized Botanical Prints collection. Gorgeous, even to us non-gardeners.
The Digital Commonwealth Outreach and Education Committee is responsible for all the workshops and classes that Digital Commonwealth offers to the cultural institutions of Massachusetts. While DC has offered workshops on metadata, the digitization process and understanding copyright, the popularity of the digital exhibit workshops took us by surprise.
We started with a workshop on Digital storytelling introducing attendees to various options. As a follow up, we offered a hands-on workshop specifically on Omeka. The Building a Digital Exhibit workshop had to be limited in size to allow for the hands-on instruction and they filled up fast. Ken Liss, Brookline Historical Society president, attended the Omeka workshop in Worcester in October. He was so pleased with what he learned that he wrote the committee that he wanted to, “…share what I’ve done with Omeka.net thanks to what I learned at the workshop. I moved content from an old website into Omeka, where it will be much easier to maintain. (I actually created my Omeka account in 2014 with this project in mind, but was not able to make it work until I learned so much more at the workshop.)”
Another attendee suggested we follow up yet again with a showcase of the exhibits that attendees have organized since taking the workshop. This might be an option – if the conference committee doesn’t steal it for a session at the annual conference – but in the meantime, you can take a look at Ken’s exhibit on Blake Park, a Brookline neighborhood and the people who lived in it from its development after World War I until the end of World War II. It is still a work in progress and the photos are from BHS’ collection (i.e. not on Digital Commonwealth – yet), but it will give you an idea of what’s possible.
Our last Omeka workshop in December is fully booked. Let us take a breath and regroup, and then we hope to offer more of your favorite workshops in the New Year.
As we pack away the ghosts and goblins of Halloween and prepare for Thanksgiving, let us give thanks:
…to the Annisquam Historical Society for sharing a lovely sketch of the I Am Here schooner amongst its 86 historical documents.
…to the Boston Public Library – and especially to the Leventhal Map Center – for continuing to add too many wonderful items to mention individually.
…to the Medford Historical Society & Museum for adding a superb collection of Civil War photographs, ranging from cartes de visites to battle scenes to fortifications to the haunting photo of a devastated Charleston, S.C. (Left)
…to the Sharon Public Library for a wonderful variety of photos, including photos taken after the Blizzard of ’78. “Foot of my driveway” is exactly the kind of titles I give my photos, but the Cobb’s Corner photos give a better idea of the scale. (Below)
Take a look and let us know what you’re thankful for.
The title leads us to see the devil first: his nearly-crossed eyes, his black moustache, his Chiclet-like teeth and his black coat. He has an unusual hairline and the collar of his coat (or cape) hides his ears. From a distance, he appears to have rather sinister furrows and wrinkles on his face.
A great feature of Digital Commonwealth is the magnifying glass icon, which enlarges the image without affecting the resolution. When we click that on this image, the devil recedes. Instead we see two well-dressed women meeting in front of a theater. Their black skirts make up the devil’s coat; their hand muffs his mustache and their hats and feathers his pupils and eyebrows. His nose is a view of another female theatergoer walking away from us.
Interestingly, when the play was first staged in America in 1908, there were two dueling productions, each claiming to be the “sole authorized” version of the play. The reverse of this postcard indicates it is promoting the Henry W. Savage production. According to a 2009 lecture at the Library of Congress by Marlis Schweizer, Savage hired people to picket in front of his rival’s production wearing sandwich boards that said, “Thou shall not steal.” Was Savage making a sly reference to the twin productions in this postcard? I like to think so, but you may have a different take on it.
If you have a favorite photo as deserving of A Closer Look as this eerie postcard, please let us know. Send your Closer Look or a link to your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.