digitalconference

The Digital Commonwealth Board and Conference Committee
invite you to register for:
A Virtual Conference Contextual Conversations:Representation and Digital Practice
Join us for an exciting day as we explore the issues of representation, politics, ethics
and other important aspects of digital collections
with an outstanding group of scholars
When: Tuesday April 7, 2020, 9:00AM-4:00PM  Where: Zoom Webinar
Advance registration is required. This event is FREE to all attendees. 
Once you register you will receive a Zoom link to the event.
Register for Virtual Event
Conference Schedule (subject to revision), changes will be posted to the website.
Conference Schedule
Elaine L. Westbrooks, Vice Provost for University Libraries & University Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be the Keynote Speaker.
Ms. Westbrooks is a Board Member of the Digital Public Library of America. Her keynote address is titled “Representing the Others: Preserving Evidence and Knowledge for Equity”. 
An annual update on the Digital Commonwealth Collection will be presented by Eben English, Digital Repository Services Manager at the Boston Public Library.
A lot of new content was added in February–must have been the leap year effect! There’s something for everyone with maps, manuscripts, prints and photographs all ready for research  and enjoyment. The Leon Abdalian Collection, containing the work of self-taught photogapher Leon Hampartzoum Abdalian reminds me of the Leslie Jones Collection.
Both men turned their lens’ on the people of Boston, Jamaica Plain West Roxbury and surrounding communities and brought ordinary people into sharp focus. Leon and Leslie, good eye!  Travel back in time with them via Digital Commonwealth.
Arnold Arboretum

Boston Public Library

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston (2 items)*

Early, Rare, and Exceptional Items from Special Collections, Rare Books (3 items)*
French Artists (1 item)
Coast Guard Heritage Museum
D.M. Rowland Collection (40 items) 
 Lawrence Public Library 
 Massachusetts Archives

 

 

commonwealth_qr46s812w
Doll House Scrapbook
commonwealth_qr46sd09d
Card scrapbook

Digital Commonwealth ushered the new decade in with new collections from the Massachusetts Archives relating to the Quabbin Reservoir and the Swift River Valley, Boston Children’s Museum Scrapbooks as well as some additional items to existing collections. Engineers and geologists will be fascinated by the depth and breadth of the photographs of the Quabbin Reservoir and the Swift River Valley in the Masschusetts Archives haul.

Fans of turn of the century and early 20th century postcards, greeting cards and advertisements will be charmed by the Boston Children’s Museum scrapbooks from the American History Collection.  American History was a big part of the curriculum at the museum which was founded in 1913 by the Science Teacher’s Bureau. Each scrapbook is viewable either page by page or in spreads. The handwritten entries in some are really adorable.

Boston Public Library 

Boston Children’s Museum – Boston Children’s Museum Scrapbooks from the American History Collection (9 items)

Boston Public Library – Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) (1 item)

Boston Public Library–WHDH Collection (1 item)

Massachusetts Archives

Massachusetts Archives – Massachusetts Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission, Quabbin Reservoir, Photographs of Real Estate in the Swift River Valley, and of General Engineering of Quabbin Reservoir, 1927-1950 (2,795 items)

 

193X_15_60
Feeding Orphan Hawks
194X_05_20 (1)
Jaunters

Having been established in 1913 by the Science Teacher’s Bureau, the Boston Children’s Museum has grown in size, stature, and influence in those 107 years. What’s remained the same, however, is the mission to educate children about the world through exposure, interaction and observation.

In November of 2019, hundreds of lantern slides were added to Digital Commonwealth. This collection shows the early years of the museum, the second oldest of its kind.

Even before STEM became a commonly known acronym, the Children’s Museum was a pioneer in teaching about the natural world, offering lots of field trips and collecting specimens for identification and study. Jaunters Clubs filled with both boys and girls took their nets and jars and had a truly hands-on experience with the natural world.

Echoing the diversity found  in nature, the early Boston Children’s Museum mounted exhibits teaching about other countries and cultures. Dolls and dollhouses from all over the world delighted  thousands of kids. Many dolls were mechanical, sparking curiosity. Games and spontaneous play were encouraged. Visit the full collection of over 300 slides.

Written by Patricia Feeley

WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in military outfit
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in outfits from Lawrence Public Library
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in mufti
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll from Lawrence Public Library

The holiday season was celebrated at Digital Commonwealth by adding some interesting collections.  Our biggest contributors, Boston Public Library and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, of course, did their bit.  But let’s highlight our other two contributors.

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society performed a good deed for all Bostonians by sponsoring the digitization of the Doyle’s Café memorabilia.  When that 137-year-old institution closed in October 2019, many of the pub’s decorations and ephemera were auctioned off.  JPHS made sure a record was made before they all disappeared into private collections.  Thank you!

The Lawrence Public Library has been a frequent and welcome contributor.  This month’s collection, the Phyllis Tyler Paper Doll Collection, is another set of seldom seen ephemera.  If the fashions didn’t give away the fact that this set is from the 1940’s, the celebrity dolls – Betty Grable and Ava Gardner – would.  Perhaps most striking is the WAFS (Women’s Air Force) pilot dolls in both military and mufti (left and right respectively).  Yes, women did their bit in World War II, too.

My very first post on the Digital Commonwealth blog was an interview with Louise Sandberg of the Lawrence Public Library.  She was knowledgeable, encouraging and funny.  She was a perfect first interview.  I’ve interviewed other members since and they have been universally enthusiastic about their collections and digitizing through DC.

I am grateful to all of them, although maybe a little more grateful to Alison Basset and Sarah Hayes of the Trustees for introducing me to one of my favorite images (Studio portrait of unidentified woman in black dress and monocle with cigarette posing with Great Dane; whip and globe on floor, which has as great a backstory as it is a photo.) and to Dick Rowley of the Granville Public Library, a dedicated correspondent and proof, if you need it, that a small library can have a big impact thanks to social media crowdsourcing, the Granville Historic Image Library, partnering with local history organizations and more.

It’s been an honor to be editor of this blog for three years and it is a joy to know I’m passing the editorship on to someone who loves the collections and finds our members just as fascinating as I did.  (Good luck, Anne!)

You were all inspirational to me.  I hope I did you some justice in these postings.

Boston Public Library
Paintings and Fine Arts Collection at the Boston Public Library – 10 items added to existing collection

Jamaica Plain Historical Society
Doyle’s Cafe Memorabilia – 111 items

Lawrence Public Library
Phyllis Tyler Paper Doll Collection – 258 items

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives
27 new collections; 23,055 new items re-harvested

Brown, Cooley, Noble and Strong families
Brown, Cooley, Noble and Strong families from Granville Public Library

I’ve been fascinated by this photo ever since it was uploaded. Are we looking at the 19th century equivalent of Photoshopping?  The Brown, Cooley, Noble and Strong families pose very sedately in front of a raging river with a train crossing a suspension bridge in the distance. The subjects are definitely sitting on chairs on a rocky ground. It’s that raging river that does not seem to belong.

Here is where the wonderful enlarging function on Digital Commonwealth comes in handy. Click on the link in the caption to go to Digital Commonwealth. Now you can enlarge it. What a closer look will show you is that there’s an aura or halo around any figure positioned directly in front of the river. The figures in the center do not have it. Maybe these families were posed outdoors, but I suspect the river was not raging when they were. Surely if the river was threatening to breach its banks, someone in that happy little group would be looking apprehensively to their left.

When I talked to Dick Rowley, Granville Public Library volunteer, he was more suspicious of the little train on the suspension bridge. He’s right.  The trees, sky, bridge and train seem to be from a different photo taken at a different time of day. How many deceptions are there to uncover here?

We haven’t talked about the people in this photo. Dick points out that the earliest death date for any of them is 1888, so this photo was taken no later than that.  They are all prominent members of Granville society, well-dressed, respectable, stern even. Except for the woman seated in the foreground. Dressed all in black, she seems to be smirking. She knows what’s going on, but she’s not telling.

What do you think?

 Richard Schwarz Toy Emporium, 497 & 499 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.
Richard Schwarz Toy Emporium, 497 & 499 Washington Street, Boston, Mass. from Historic New England

Of the many holidays we celebrate at this time of year, Christmas is certainly the best marketed.  Chances are, whether you decry this or embrace it, you can’t escape it.  The images in this post are for the Richard Schwarz Toy Emporium.  First of all, we need more toy emporiums.  (Emporia?)  Who wants to go to a toy store when they could go to an emporium?

If the Schwarz name calls to mind an even more famous toy retailer, you are not mistaken.  Four German immigrant brothers came to America and started their own businesses, all importing and selling toys: Henry in Baltimore, G.A. in Philadelphia, Richard in Boston and F.A.O. in New York City.

Richard’s emporium was located at 484 and 486 Washington Street in Boston in 1895 when Moses King described it as follows:

Among the most fascinating of the stores on Washington St. is the great toy emporium of Richard Schwarz, at 484 and 486, by far the largest concern of its kind in the city.  Everything desirable in imported or domestic toys, games and fancy goods, from the tiniest to the biggest from the lowest-priced to the most costly, is shown here in endless variety. (King’s how to see Boston; a trustworthy guide book ..Boston: Moses King, 1895.)

The adjacent trade cards have the emporium located at 497 and 499 Washington St.  I’m not sure if Schwarz moved or if the street was renumbered, a not unheard of practice in 19th century Boston.  Another 19th century difference to note is that Santa has fewer reindeer pulling his sleigh (more like a sled on one card).  Santa also is dropping packages down the chimney (See left.) while staying on the roof himself, a much more practical approach if you ask me – especially if you’re wearing a black hoodie and carrying a whip like the Santa below.

Richard Schwarz, toy emporium, 497 & 499 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.
Richard Schwarz, toy emporium, 497 & 499 Washington Street, Boston, Mass. from Historic New England

May this holiday season find you and those you love in good health, good spirits and experiencing great joy.

 

108 Book Fair Exhibit 1940
108 Book Fair Exhibit 1940 from Boston Children’s Museum Lantern Slides

Let us give thanks for November’s new collections.  And additions to existing collections.  But I was most taken with two of our new collections: Boston Children’s Museum Lantern Slides and the Washington Historical Commission Collection.

Many of the lantern slides are hand-colored, giving unnaturally rosy cheeks to all captured in the image.   I never knew the Children’s Museum started in Jamaica Plain, but you can see in the image at left that it was still there in 1940.  Not that the museum was parochial – you’ll see Images of international exhibits on Egypt, China and Scandinavia for a few.

The Washington Historical Commission Collection is a wonderful collection of images, texts and ephemera.  The Reward of Merit (Below right) is something I’ve never seen.  Apparently, they were handed out by teachers to students.  Who wouldn’t settle down to their studies if they were given certificates like this?

 

 

Reward of Merit from the Washington Historical Commission Messenger Collection
Reward of Merit from the Washington Historical Commission Messenger Collection

Boston Children’s Museum
Boston Children’s Museum Lantern Slides – 350 items

Boston Public Library
Paintings and Fine Arts Collection at the Boston Public Library – 5 items added to existing collection

Harvard Law School Library
Sacco-Vanzetti Collections -153 items added to existing collection

The Medford Historical Society & Museum
The Medford Historical Society Civil War Collection – 320 items
The Medford Historical Society Civil War Photograph Collection – 95 items added to existing collection

Southeast Asian Digital Archive – 4 collections, 337 items re-harvested

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library – 80 items re-harvested

Washington Historical Commission
Washington Historical Commission Collection – 573 items

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.