As the school year starts up again, now is a great time to dive into Digital Commonwealth’s wonderful historical collections! Check out the latest collection that have been added from some of our truly amazing members!
This July brought us a lot of new collections, specifically from around the Boston area. Boston itself, Hingham, and Waltham are represented among the various collections we’ve added to the portal this past month. Check them out!
When I attended the Digital Commonwealth conference in 2014, I was focused on digitizing our Yarmouth town reports dating back to the 1860’s, but, I began re-thinking that by the end of the conference. Tom Blake talked about digitizing items other than text-only resources and it encouraged me to go back to my library and look for something “out of the box” to digitize.
As it turned out, a carved bird collection that had been donated to the town in 1955 in memory of Ann Castonguay by her parents, needed to be relocated from a school in town. The collection was placed in our West Yarmouth branch library, which was also donated to Yarmouth by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Castonguay. The collection of 40 miniature painted birds was carved by the renowned bird carver Russell Pratt of Hingham.
Thinking this collection would be perfect, I sent in my request to the BPL and soon received a visit from the BPL team to assess the collection. In June of 2015, they were packed up and transported to the BPL. By October, all the metadata (which sounds difficult, but it wasn’t) had been submitted and the carved birds were back at the West Yarmouth Library by the end of October. By December, the collection went live on the website and the photographs are beautiful.
To celebrate the Castonguay carved bird collection, there will be birding programs throughout 2016, including a bird carving demonstration, a presentation from an Audubon Naturalist, and children’s bird related programming, too. It was a very easy process and the BPL staff couldn’t have been more helpful. Start looking at your collections for a unique digitization project; you will be thrilled with the end product. Good luck!
On April 5 the Digital Commonwealth held its 10th annual conference and 10th anniversary celebration at the Hogan Center at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester MA. It was the largest conference in years and afterwards over 90 people joined us to commemorate the anniversary.
Thanks to the hard work of the conference committee and our excellent speakers and sessions, we had nearly 200 people at this year’s conference — the best attended conference in recent years. Many presenters’ slides and presentations can be found on the Digital Commonwealth conference web site. You can also download our final conference program to learn more about the speakers at this year’s event.
The anniversary reception gave us all the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the creation and growth of Digital Commonwealth. Digital Commonwealth President Elizabeth Thompson shared remarks prepared by Greg Pronevitz of the Massachusetts Library System, a key player in the formation of Digital Commonwealth. Carolyn Noah, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, and Bill Talentino shared memories of the growth of Digital Commonwealth. David Leonard, Director of Administration and Technology at Boston Public Library and Dan Cohen, President of the Digital Public Library of America, gave their perspective of Digital Commonwealth as partners on a common journey.
It was a great opportunity to gather together, reflect on what we have accomplished and set our sights on the future of the Digital Commonwealth and our partners. We thank you all our members and all those who attended the conference this year. If you attended the conference, and have not yet done so, please share your feedback by completing the online evaluation form.
We hope to see you all at the 2017 Digital Commonwealth Annual Conference!
By Michael Lapides, Director of Digital Initiatives at New Bedford Whaling Museum
Back in 2012 a team from the Boston Public Library, led by Tom Blake, came to New Bedford to recruit the Museum into the Digital Commonwealth. We are so happy they did! While we had and still have a massive online collections database (over 50,000 records and related images) it is essentially buried, not crawled by search engines, and therefore hidden from a wider public view. Participating in the Digital Commonwealth is a remedy to this lock-out.
Our digitization program started with our whaling logbook and journal collection, 223 are currently available via the Internet Archive, 152 of these are also available via the Digital Public Library of America. We will continue to contribute from our collection of more than 2300 volumes, the largest and finest collection of whaling logbooks and journals in the world. The bulk of these primary sources document American whaling (1754-1925) although British, Australian, Norwegian and Azorean voyages are also included.
Our cartographic collections number around 700 pieces including sea charts used by whaling masters, bound pilot charts and atlases, decorative maps, maps and charts of key geographical regions significant to whaling at different times in history as well as maps and charts of the local Old Dartmouth region. Currently the Digital Commonwealth has 10 examples, representing oceans and whaling cruising grounds. The zooming functionality makes study of their contents possible.
Our manuscript collections (over 140 distinct collections) help to complete the historical picture told through these digitized collections. Currently manuscripts are discoverable online via EAD Finding Aids. We hope someday to digitize and share choice manuscript collections through the good offices of the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth. These include late 17th century property deeds and indentures through the various mercantile investments and business practices of the agents of whaling and merchant voyages, church records, architecture, personal papers of significant (and lesser known) people of the 19th century and industrial, banking, and modern whaling documentation extending well into the 20th century.
This month we’ve added a lot of new items to already existing collections, and we harvested 25 new collections from the Provincetown History Preservation Project! Make sure you check out the great new photographs, videos, manuscripts, artwork, and other materials added this month!
By Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director and Curator of the Griffin Museum of Photography
The Digital Commonwealth has changed how Arthur Griffin is seen by our audience. Making Mr. Griffin’s images available on-line after digitizing of a portion of our archives has opened up interest by the public in ways we never thought would happen. We have had inquiries on images from the 1930’s – 1940’s like Connecticut Tobacco Farms, old Boston buildings, Boston Common nativity scenes, Mt Washington’s Weather Observatory to name just a few of the hundreds of requests we now get. We are grateful to the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth for their efforts and vision.
What we have learned from the efforts of the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth is that there is much opportunity located within our archives, that continued effort must be made to digitize the whole archive and that resources need to be put in place to manage and fulfill the image requests from the public. On-line our archive can now be enjoyed by everyone. Arthur Griffin would have enjoyed these times.