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.
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.
The Boston Public Library went to town in October, adding three new collections and adding new items to three existing collections, for over 1,000 items total. But Digital Commonwealth did not neglect its smaller members. Boston Latin School, Sturgis Library, Weymouth Public Libraries and Wilbraham Public Library all added from 1 to 952 items to the Digital Commonwealth universe.
This includes the image on the left. We know these five young men and two coaches were champions in 1917, but of what? No matter how much I enlarge the photo, I can’t make out the inscription. The athletes are wearing heavy wool sweaters with their shorts plus pretty gnarly socks. The only hint is the surprisingly-impressive-for-a-high-school trophy. The Roman (Greek?) god appears to be holding what looks to me like a crew oar crowned with a laurel wreath. I vote for crew champions. What do you think?
Those lazy, hazy days of August brought us some fascinating new collections. Appropriately, the Falmouth Public Library contributed over 2,000 postcards. If you’re missing the beach already, take a look. The Winsor School added close to 200 items from its Fine Arts Collection, including this Jacob Lawrence print of the school library (left).
The Brockton Public Library added 7 illustrations from the Shoe Industry in Brockton, Massachusetts. The Boston Public Library uploaded a few small collections plus over 2,000 photographs from the Richard Merrill Collection. Richard Merrill was fascinated by radio, which explains the interestingly titled photo below. Spreading New England’s Fame was a program on the old WNAC radio station in Boston.
Finally, the University of Massachusetts/Boston re-harvested over 12,000 items in 4 collections. Speaking of radio, the Lecco’s Lemma collection within the Massachusetts Hip Hop Archive is comprised of demo audio tapes for rap artists sent to the Lecco’s Lemma radio show as well as some audio tapes of the program. Not to mention the W. Arthur Garrity chambers papers on the Boston Schools Desegregation Case – always of interest to students and historians.
Digital Commonwealth uploaded several outstanding photograph collections in June. But it’s not all photos, there are maps from Phillips Academy in Andover and a painting from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum makes a splash with its inaugural contributions of photographs from the glass plate negatives of Frank Cousins and Herman Parker. Cousins’ larger collection began with photographic essays on Essex County, but soon expanded across the eastern seaboard of the US. Any fan of historic buildings will appreciate his elegant photos of exteriors and interiors, like the stairway inside the Governor Gore mansion (See top left.)
Parker also photographed Essex county, but focused on views from his home in Marblehead. I feel I could walk right in to the Views across Marblehead Harbor with boats (See bottom left.) at sunset photo – and I want to. What a great end to a summer day!
May is supposed to be the payoff for all those April showers. Only the showers kept coming in May. Digital Commonwealth was showered by harvested images from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (17,335 items), Boston TV New Digital Library (1,632 items) and the University of Massachusetts/Lowell (6,825 items).
Theophile Alexandre Steinlen is more than the cats for which he is most famous. But that didn’t stop me from using one of his sleeping cats to illustrate this post. (See left.) You’ll just have to go to the Boston Public Library’s Steinlen collection to see the rest.
Or go to the Malden Catholic High School class photos from 1936-2016. Everybody enjoys a good class photo, but let’s be honest. We enjoy the bad ones even more. Sorry, kids.
April was a dark and gloomy month weather-wise. Maybe that accounts for there only being three contributors this month. The Boston Public Library added 1873 items to the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee collection, bringing that collection up to over 5,000 items. Boston College re-harvested over 80 items. Lawrence Public Library contributed many small collections and one large one. The latter is the Lawrence High School Athletic Department collection of over 130 team photographs. You can see a very solemn 1881 football team on the left. Maybe it’s because they appear to have been forced to pose in their long underwear and watch caps. And that football looks more like a basketball. How things have changed…
The best, totally unique item added to the Digital Commonwealth in March was the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world. The section above does not do it justice. The full panorama is divided into four sections. To get the full affect, you need to click on each section and then click on the image again to enlarge and use your cursor to travel the entire panorama. Believe me, the effort is worth it. It’s easy to understand why it was a popular exhibition when it toured the country from 1849-1851.
But, if whaling voyages aren’t your thing, there are more of those wonderful Medford Historical Society & Museum Civil War photos, pre-presidential photos of John F. Kennedy from the Rocco Paoletta Collection at the Boston Public Library, photos and maps from the Sharon Public Library and historical town records from the Wayland Town Clerk. As always, a little something for every taste.
The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) headlined its A GOOD AGE column on January 21, 2019, “Discovering a 20th Century Boston ‘camera man’“. The ‘camera man’ is Leslie Ronald Jones of Digital Commonwealth’s extremely popular Leslie Jones Collection from the Boston Public Library. The Patriot Ledger highlights photos of interest to their readership, like shipbuilding in Quincy. But even they could not resist one of Jones’ more humorous Fenway Park photos – Jones himself with camera emerging from a tarp rolled up on the field. There really wasn’t anyplace he wouldn’t go for a good photo!
This month we welcome AgitArte, an organization of working class artists and cultural organizers, who added the scroll, one of their community art projects, at left. Almost unbelievably, the Medford Historical Society & Museum has added several hundred more Civil War photos and the Chicopee Public Library has allowed the harvest of two more collections.
As last month, I want to highlight one of Digital Commonwealth’s mainstays, the Boston Public Library. The Press Photography from the Brearley Collection has grown exponentially. The 1,222 items added this month nearly double the size of the collection. The BPL also added a new collection of 394 items, the Edmund Blampied (1886-1966) Prints and Drawings collection, which includes the exquisite crayon drawing, Beach Scene (10) below.
Agitating for the community or a virtual beach visit may warm you up this December. Happy holidays to all!