Boston City Council meeting recording, April 15, 2015
Boston City Council meeting recording, April 15, 2015 from City of Boston Archives

We have no newly-added collections this month (the dreaded technical difficulty prevented this), but we do have formats that you may not have checked out yet.  Go to the Explore tab on the Digital Commonwealth home page and select Formats. These are arranged by the numbers, so Photographs are at the top of the list followed by Letters/correspondence and then Documents.

But scroll down and you soon come to Film/video.  Of the 28,400 items here, 23,135 are from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Collection.  This collection of public media was amassed by WGBH and the Library of Congress to preserve at-risk materials.  There are also tapes from local TV news programs and Boston City Council meetings.

Audio icon
Audio recording icon from Audio recordings (nonmusical) format

Next on the list are Objects/artifacts.  These range from clothing/costumes to furniture to jewelry to samplers.   Some items are unique, like the Aeolian harp from Historic New England or the Native American beaded pouch from the Perkins School for the Blind’s Tad Chapman Collection.

Proceeding further down, we come to Audio recordings (nonmusical).  These are easy to spot by their speaker icon (right).  Most of these are also from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Collection, but there are several local oral history collections, too.  What about music?  Well, keep scrolling.  That’s listed as Music (recordings).  While some of these also have speaker icons, some are pictured with images of old-fashioned audio cassettes.

Digital Commonwealth: it’s not just pretty pictures.

Written by Anne Berard, Reference& Outreach Librarian, Milford Town Library

Trade card for Hunt's Remedy, the great kidney & liver medicine
Hunt’s Remedy, the great kidney & liver medicine, William E. Clarke, proprietor, Providence, Rhode Island, undated from Historic New England’s EP001: Ephemera collection
Malt Bitters - the purest and best medicine in the world for nourishing and strengthening and for overcoming dyspepsia, debility and wasting diseases. The house that Jack built
Malt Bitters – the purest and best medicine in the world for nourishing and strengthening and for overcoming dyspepsia, debility and wasting diseases. The house that Jack built. from Boston Public Library’s 19th Century American Trade Card
Ayer's Sarsaparilla, Dr. J.C. Ayer & Company, Lowell, Mass.
Trade card for Ayer’s Sarsaparilla, Dr. J.C. Ayer & Company, Lowell, Mass. from Historic New England’s EP001: Ephemera collection

While the earliest advertising cards first circulated in London, Lyon and Paris in the late 17th century, advances in color lithography and printing in the 19th century made them easier to produce and more ubiquitous. Everything from soap, thread, perfume, hats, shoes, coffee, candy and more were marketed in these stylized cards.  Digital Commonwealth has more than 3700 unique images in its collection. Some of the most entertaining and possibly alarming, cards were for tonics and health remedies that might belong in the annals of medical quackery. Blood-purifying agents were all the rage.

Hunt’s Remedy (above, left) claimed that it was“never known to fail” and cured dropsy (edema), liver, bladder, kidney and urinary problems. It was produced by William E. Clarke of Providence, Rhode Island. The graphics show a shirtless man fighting off the Grim Reaper.

Boasting of health and sunny hours, an Ayers Sarsaparilla (above, center) card from 1902 featured a lovely woman in Victorian dress holding a tot on her shoulder. Dr. J.C. Ayers operated in Lowell, MA. Sarsaparilla root is still used today in some herbal medicines to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Touting itself as the “purest and best medicine in the world” for overcoming dyspepsia, debility, and wasting diseases was Malt Bitters of Boston, MA.  (above, right) Their detailed card also promised “stimulation without intoxication.”  Playing off the theme of the House that Jack Built, the card has charming artwork, attractive lettering and tells a complete story.

In time, radio ads were a more modern means to reach a larger audience and trade cards fell out of fashion. Larger companies still produced catalogs and smaller enterprises converted to smaller business cards and matchbooks.

To see the complete collection of 19th Century American Trade Cards, begin here.

Architectural design for Henry Bowen cottage
Design for a cottage for Henry C. Bowen, Esq. from Historic New England General architectural and cartographic collection

The Boston Public Library continues to add to existing collections, although a brand new collection – 32 items from John Sullivan Dwight’s correspondence regarding Brook Farm – snuck in while no one was looking.  Needham Free Public Library added more than 3,500 items to its historical house collection as well.

The largest addition was from Historic New England (HNE) – 139 new collections, over 54,000 items.  Here be treasures: clothing, photos, architectural drawings (left), samplers (below right), quilts, furniture; everyday objects and priceless art. Browsing these collections is almost as good as touring the HNE collections storage facility in Haverhill – or one of the many HNE house museums.  I highly recommend doing both.  Until you can, though, browse these great collections.

 

Boston Public Library
American Civil War 20th Massachusetts Regiment (Collection of Distinction) – 1 item added to existing collection
Book of Common Prayer (Collection of Distinction) – 1 item
Carte de Visite Collection – 21 items added to existing collection
Colonial and Revolutionary America – 4 items added to existing collection
Colonial and Revolutionary Boston (Collection of Distinction) – 5 items added to existing collection
Early, Rare, and Exceptional Items from Special Collections, Rare Books – 9 items added to existing collection

Needlepoint alphabet sampler
Alphabet Verse Sample from Historic New England Digitized Museum Collections

Incunabula (Collection of Distinction) – 5 items added to existing collection
John Sullivan Dwight correspondence regarding Brook Farm, 1840-1848 – 32 items
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 17 items added to existing collection
Paintings and Fine Arts Collection at the Boston Public Library – 1 item added to existing collection
Spanish and Portuguese Literature (Collection of Distinction) – 1 item added to existing collection

Historic New England
139 new collections – 54,104 records harvested

Needham Free Public Library
Needham Historical House Collection – 3,583 items added to existing collection