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

These past two summer months, Digital Commonwealth has added some new collections. Check them out!

Cereus, by Mrs. Duffield.
Cereus, by Mrs. Duffield. From the new Botanical Prints collection, from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library.

Phillips Academy Andover

Sidney R. Knafel Map Collection at Phillips Academy : 2 items added to existing collection

Massachusetts Archives

Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works Photograph Collection : 92 items added to existing collection

Massachusetts Horticultural Society Library

Botanical Prints : 756 items

Bridgewater State University, Maxwell Library

204 items added to existing collections

Pine Manor College

Pine Manor College Photograph Collection : 2,923 items

Hatfield Historical Museum

Hatfield Historical Museum Civil War Collection : 2 items

Holyoke Public Library

Holyoke History Newsprint Collection : 2 items

Holyoke Public Library Books and Pamphlets : 2 items

Boston Public Library

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection : 2 items added to existing collection

Alphonse Legros (1837-1911). Prints and Drawings : 22 items

Stereograph Collection : 823 items added to existing collection

Mural Cycles at the Central Library in Copley Square : 56 items

Philadelphia Phillies player examines his glassesAugust is National Eye Exam Month, which seemed like a good enough reason to go looking through the Digital Commonwealth for pictures of eyeglasses — and there’s a lot to see.

The photo on the left shows Philadelphia Phillies player Morrie Arnovich examines his glasses in front of the dugout at Braves Field. It was taken in 1939 by news photographer Leslie Jones and is from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library. There are some other eyeglass photos in the Leslie Jones Collection, including an undated woman with giant eyeglasses (perhaps from a trade show?), a 1932 photograph of Commandant Finlay, Quincy Yacht club, wearing new type of glasses (which look like a cross between eyeglasses and binoculars, a fish wearing glasses and smoking cigar and a dog playing piano wearing glasses.
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Technical services librarians at the Newton Free Library

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is celebrating 125 years of service this year. Established in 1890 as the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, the MBLC is the oldest state library agency in the country. To honor the past and look forward to the future, the MBLC has created MBLC Celebrates 125 Years, a site with pages for each of the 125 years, giving highlights of Massachusetts library history and notes on historical, social and cultural events of each year to provide context. There are also lots of great images from the Digital Commonwealth and other sources, including the photograph of Technical services librarians at the Newton Free Library from the Newton Free Library, Old Main Library, Centre Street, 1880-1971, collection shown above, and the 1893 Massachusetts library map from the collection of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library shown below.

You can follow this site a year a day on Twitter or Facebook, or visit it anytime and browse your way through the decades — there’s a lot of interesting information here!

MBLC Celebrates 125 Years

Free public libraries of Massachusetts

By Molly Stothert-Maurer

Examples of the Tadoma Method of deafblind communication from the Helen Keller and Carmela Otero Collections, Perkins School for the Blind, both ca. 1930. Tadoma is a system of tactile lip-reading where the fingers interpret the movement of the lips, jaw, and vibrations from the vocal chords.
Examples of the Tadoma Method of deafblind communication from the Helen Keller and Carmela Otero Collections, Perkins School for the Blind, both ca. 1930. Tadoma is a system of tactile lip-reading where the fingers interpret the movement of the lips, jaw, and vibrations from the vocal chords.

The Perkins School for the Blind Archives recently added four new collections to the Digital Commonwealth Repository. These collections are important primary resources including photographs of Helen Keller, from childhood through adulthood, correspondence from Anne Sullivan (including her first letter describing her arrival in Tuscumbia, AL when she first met Helen Keller), and a look at deafblind education from the perspective of another Perkins student, Carmela Otero, whose life remained out of the public eye as Keller’s was.

Some notable items include:

A letter from Perkins Director Michael Anagnos to Arthur Keller, Helen Keller’s father, recommending Anne Sullivan as teacher for Helen

One of the earliest photographs of Helen Keller

A photograph of Anne Sullivan holding a dog while riding a horse in Hollywood

For more information please visit the Perkins School for the Blind Archives homepage:

It’s summer, which means it’s time for fun! There are many pictures in the Digital Commonwealth showing how people celebrated summer in Massachusetts in the past. Amusement parks were popular with people of all ages, offering rides and attractions from the Merry-Go-Round for the young and faint of heart to the Roller Coaster for the brave, and Massachusetts had several amusement parks in different parts of the state, often located or or near the waterfront.

Here are pictures of some popular Massachusetts amusement parks from the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection of the Boston Public Library:

“Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.”
Salisbury Beach developed a thriving entertainment center in the early 20th century, with hotels, a carousel and roller coasters as well as the Dodgem (bumper car) ride seen in this postcard. The amusement business declined after the 1960s, and the last roller coaster was pulled down in 1976.

Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.
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If your institution is looking for a presence in the digital world but you aren’t sure where to start, then this seminar is for you.  Join representatives from the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth Board in this practical 2-hour seminar that will answer:

  • What is Digital Commonwealth?
  • How does one apply for free digitization?
  • What free services does the Boston Public Library offer?
  • What kind of commitment does an institution have to make to get involved?
  • What are benefits of membership in Digital Commonwealth?

This will be the third in a series of free Introductory Workshops around the state. Registration is free to libraries and cultural institutions across the state of Massachusetts. Register here!

Event Details:

Presenters: Digital Commonwealth & Boston Public Library Digitization Team

Date: Thursday August 20th

Time: 10:00-12:00

Place: Lucius Beebe Library, 345 Main Street, Wakefield, MA 01880

If you can’t make this event, you can register for the final introductory event, which will be on September 22 in Whately.

This post was updated on July 7, 2015 to include the Amherst College collections. 

Several new collections were added to the Digital Commonwealth in June. Check them out!

Perkins School for the Blind

Helen Keller investigating statue, from the Helen Keller Collection from Perkins School for the Blind
Helen Keller investigating statue, from the Helen Keller Collection from Perkins School for the Blind

Carmela Otero : 21 items

Helen Keller Collection : 172 items

Condolence Letters and Clippings : 65 items

Sullivan / Keller / Anagnos correspondence, 1886-1895 : 88 items


Boston Public Library

Boston Pictorial Archive Collection : 4993 items

Winslow Homer Illustrations Collection : 182 items

Social and Political Cartoons Collection : 169 items

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts : 1 item

Stereograph Collection : 1567 items


Amherst College

Archives & Special Collections : 2221 items

Emily Dickinson Collection : 839 items

One hundred years ago, Booker T. Washington, the African-American educator, author, orator, and adviser to presidents of the United States, spoke at the Fiftieth Anniversary Commencement of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Washington delivered an address on the transformation which had occurred since 1865, when the passage of the 13th Amendment ended slavery.

Booker T. Washington at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in 1856. After his family was freed in 1865 they moved to West Virginia, where, at the age of nine, the young Washington went to work in a salt factory. Eventually he worked his way through Hampton Institute, one of the first all-black schools in America, and he began teaching. In 1881 he became the head the new Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, an institution that had a commitment to combining academic subjects with vocational training. Washington’s 1901 autobiography, “Up from Slavery,” became a bestselling and influential book. However, during the first decade of the 1900’s, many African American leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois rejected Washington’s emphasis on vocational education and economic development in favor of classical education and political action.

Just a few month’s after his appearance in Worcester, Booker T. Washington collapsed in New York and was taken back to Tuskegee, where he died on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59.

Booker T. Washington walking in the academic procession at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at Worcester Polytechnic Institute