From the Digital Commonwealth Conference Committee

Don’t miss another great Digital Commonwealth conference and our 10th anniversary reception. The conference will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at the Hogan Center at the College of the Holy Cross.

This year’s keynotes addresses are:

Piles of Stuff: On the Challenges and Opportunities for Aggregating Digital Collections with Paul Conway

For the past 25 years, libraries, archives, and museums have been digitizing their collections for access and, increasingly, as a preservation alternative. The pace, scope, and scale of these activities have increased dramatically. So too have new efforts to combine digital collections from individual repositories into large scale aggregations that promise improved search and discovery capabilities.

The Archival Edge Revisited: Reflections on the Purpose of Archives in the Digital Era with Richard Pearce-Moses

Over the past several decades, archival practice has changed significantly to adapt to the digital information ecosystem.  The rise of born-digital records has raised interesting questions about the very nature of records, while also forcing archivists to rethink how they do their job. Cloud computing, data mining, open data, and other technologies have enormous potential for novel approaches to use.  As important, these new technologies reverse traditional archival questions of what to preserve: some individuals argue – seriously – that all information can be saved.

This year’s sessions include:

  • Brookline’s Wild-Sargent House of 1822: New life through digital and physical preservation
  • Community Scan Projects
  • Update on the Digital Commonwealth Repository
  • Privacy Panel with Library Freedom Project and ACLU of Massachusetts
  • Preservation/Digitization
  • Back to the future – Digitizing the Next Generation of Historic Maps
  • SHRAB (Mass. Historical Records Advisory Board) and Roving Archivist
  • Digital preservation projects
  • Creating online exhibits

The 10th anniversary reception will take place at the Hogan Center, immediately after the conference.

Registration is available on the Digital Commonwealth web site at:



Wonderful feature on NECN about the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth! Tom Blake, the Digital Projects Manager at the BPL and David Leonard, Interim President and Director of Administration and Technology, did a wonderful job describing the project, with well-chosen examples showing the digitization process, the Digital Commonwealth site, and some examples of items that have been digitized by Boston, from bathing suits to butterflies!

Boston Public Library Digitizing Cultural Treasures — Watch the video on the NECN website

Receipt to Thomas Aspinwall for money paid for soldiersGuest Post by Anne Clark, Brookline Public Library

In 2015 the Brookline Public Library was able to have their manuscript collection digitized thanks to generosity of the Boston Public Library. Over 400 pages have now been added to the Digital Commonwealth website!

The Manuscript Collection consists of collections of papers related to the town of Brookline, including family papers, letters, deeds, wills, account books, political and military history, church and school documents and various miscellaneous articles.

murivianIn addition, The Murivian (short for Muddy River Annual), the Brookline High School Yearbook (1923-2014) was digitized and is available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks look wonderful and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This was a project that was a long time coming, and well worth the wait!

What’s next? We hope to have our map collection and the Brookline High School newspaper (The Sagamore) join the yearbooks, photographs and manuscripts in digital form!

Make sure you check out the newest Digital Commonwealth collections, including images of popular Boston politician James M. Curley and a new medieval manuscripts from the BPL!

Boston Public Library

"Head shot waving hat."  Photograph.  1949.
Head shot waving hat.” Photograph. 1949.

Books from the Boston Public Library – 144 items

John D. Merriam Collection – 6 items

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection – 3 items

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

James Michael Curley Negatives – 956 items

Kingston Public Library

Emily Fuller Drew Collection – 209 items

Longmeadow Historical Society

Emerson Collection – 1458 items

Happy New Year! These awesome new collections were added to Digital Commonwealth in December. Check them out!

Boston Architectural College Library

Original works by Boston Architectural Club Members : 1 item

Publications of the Boston Architectural Club : 32 items

Boston Athenaeum

Hooded merganser duck from Yarmouth Town Libraries, West Yarmouth Library.
Hooded merganser duck from Yarmouth Town Libraries, West Yarmouth Library.

Boston Athenaeum, Cartographic Collection : 6 items

Boston College University Libraries

27 collections with 4950 items

Boston Public Library

John D. Merriam Collection : 16 items

Ziba B. Oakes Papers, 1852-1857 : 651 items

Fall River Public Library

Historical Postcards, c. 1880-1965 : 1312

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historical Site

Plans & Drawings, c. 1847-1979 (Bulk 1882-1970) : 68 items

Norwell Public Library

Norwell Historical Society Postcard Collection : 74 items

Perkins School for the Blind

Manual Arts and Vocational Training : 124 items

Physical Education at Perkins School for the Blind : 129 items

Westborough Public Library

Historical Records of the Town of Westborough: Administrative Documents, 1724-1929 : 134 items

Records of the Westborough Rifle Company, 1861-1870 :10 items

Records of Westborough’s Involvement in the American Revolution, the Massachusetts Militia, and the Continental Army, 1774-1792 : 45 items

Weymouth Public Libraries, Tufts Library

Harry C. Belcher Lepidoptera Collection : 177 items

Yarmouth Town Libraries, West Yarmouth Library

Castonguay Carved Bird Collection at West Yarmouth Library : 34 items



Here are two photographs from the Digital Commonwealth of special Christmas dinners for people who would not be home for Christmas.

This 1921 photograph by news photographer Leslie Jones and shows Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan loading his Christmas dinner onto the ship Bowdoin before sailing for the frozen North. It’s from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.


This 1969 photograph of the Apollo VIII Christmas menu is from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.10869601_10152461357361722_859047187704865844_o

Check out all of the wonderful content now available in the collections added to the Digital Commonwealth since September!

The Eastham Historical Society Inc. Postcard
The Eastham Historical Society Inc. Postcard [ca.1860-1980]
Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society

Nautical Chart Collection of the Chatham Historical Society : 40 items

Boston Public Library

Charles C. Perkins (1823-1886) Collection : 36 items

Charles H. Woodbury (1986-1940). Prints, Drawings, Watercolors, Oil Paintings, and Copper Plate : 1550 items

George Bellows (1882-1925). Prints and Drawings : 92 items

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts : 1 item added to existing collection

Stereograph Collection : 1624 items added to existing collection

Tupper Scrapbook Collection: Scrapbooks of mounted views, portraits, etc., relating to Europe and Egypt. 1891-1894 : 10 items

Eastham Historical Society

Eastham Historical Society Local History : 219 items

U.S. Army Natick Soldier System Center

Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection : 4012 items added to existing collection

Collecting Scrap
During World War II, the United States government promoted scrap drives to reduce shortages in basic materials such as metal, rubber and paper. In September, 1942, the War Production Board announced that scrap metal was urgently needed, and promoted a National Scrap Metal Drive in October. For three Saturdays, there were local scrap drives were organized that involved the whole community, including children. The metal that was collected was not all scrap, but often involved personal or community sacrifice, including wrought iron fences that surrounded the Boston Common and the State House.

These scrap drives promoted a sense of patriotism and involvement in the war effort, and according to the War Production Board, the October drive brought in almost eighty-two pounds of scrap per American.

Collecting ScrapCollecting ScrapRemoving bronze plaque for war drive

Photographs from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.

Maureen TaylorHow well are people discovering and understanding the photographs in your digital collections? There are currently more than 100,000 photographs in Digital Commonwealth. How can you improve the chances of users finding the ones that are relevant to their research?

Join the Digital Commonwealth at a special program called Enhancing Photograph Descriptions: Advice from the Photo Detective, which will be offered at three locations in different parts of the state.

Join us at one of these events, where photograph expert Maureen Taylor will show us how to create the best metadata we can for the photographs in our digital collections. Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, is an internationally renowned expert in historic photo identification, preservation and genealogical research. She is the author of several books on identifying, organizing and understanding photographs, and has been featured on television programs, newspapers and magazines.

Here are the details and registration links for the two sessions that have been scheduled so far:

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Time: 10:30 – 11:30 AM
Location: New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street, Boston
Members/Non-members: $25/$40

Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Forbes Library
29 West Street
Members/Non-members: $25/$40

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Time of event: 10:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Schedule: 10:00-10:15 – Registration;
10:15-11:30 – Tour of Nickerson Archives and discussion of its digitization projects
11:30-12:30 – Lunch on your own
12:30-1:30 – Maureen Taylor lecture
Location: Wilkens Library, Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable
Directions | Campus Map
Lunch options: Cafeteria on campus (in Grossman Commons); restaurants (Subway, Burger King, etc.) down the street