It’s the quirky collections that will delight you if you give them a chance. Not that there isn’t incredible value in six collections added by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Canton Public Library’s Canton Historical Commission Photos or the Boston Public Library’s Thaxter/Fields correspondence. Some people will be so pleased yet more nautical charts have been added by the Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society or yet more Sacco-Vanzetti materials – this time from the Harvard Law School Library.
For my money, though, there’s a certain fascination with the Lawrence Public Library’s 724 items from that city’s Engineering Department on city sewers. It sounds ridiculous and then you look at them. They’re maps of the sewer system. (See left.) You get to see the city’s streets at a micro level. They even show where the manholes [sic] are! They’re hand drawn with lovely, legible script. There are notes on why the sewer was laid on this street, at this elevation. What a wealth of detail. File it under things you never knew you wanted to know.
Now, I don’t want to leave you down in the dumps, so let’s welcome the South Hadley Public Library to the Digital Commonwealth by highlighting their two new collections: Canal Park Committee Collection and Scott Family Photographs. While the latter is a pretty traditional, but still wonderful collection of 19th century photos, the former is a collection of slides the Canal Park Committee used for talks on the history of the Canal and related sites and institutions. The images cover a range of historical eras and subjects. In addition to locks and gates, power plants and buildings, there are some lovely landscapes. Let us leave the industrial behind and spend a few moments with nature. Ah, the flowering crab – much more attractive than its name suggests. (See below.)
Although summer slips away too quickly for some of us, those of us who wilt in the heat and humidity are happy to see the end of July. If you’re not, don’t fret. August is promising more of the same.
The Boston Public Library was busy this month, adding to the Leslie Jones Collection as well as adding over 100 items of Thomas Wentworth Higginson Correspondence. Fans of the 2013 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Anders Zorn exhibit will be happy to see the BPL’s Zorn etchings. Allow me to draw your attention to the Stow Wengenroth Prints and Drawings, though. The exquisite Two Small Birds on a Bough (left) is from this collection, which includes other bird drawings and some lovely Maine scenes.
Medford Historical Society & Museum has added significantly to its already impressive Civil War Photograph Collection. The Lawrence Public Library has also added more photographs plus a new collection of World War I-related items. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library began the harvesting season early with 64 new items to their collections.
The heavy hitters this month are the Massachusetts Historical Society (4,161) and Springfield College Archives and Special Collections (5,181), who re-harvested 4 new collections. I’m not sure that the Arthur and Madeline Slicer Turnvereine Stein Collection is one of the newly-harvested collections, but I offer the jovial barrel-shaped character stein image below because we all need a cool drink of something during the dog days of August.
All of May’s contributors are return customers. The Boston Public Library has added significant holdings of prints and drawings. The Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society has contributed more nautical charts while the Wilbraham Public Library has digitized more photographs. Special mention has to be made of the Lawrence Public Library, which has added fourteen collections ranging from 1 to 68 items.
Most striking are the photographs of the aftermath of the “Great Cyclone” of 1890. Eight people died and 65 were injured. The tornado did $60,000 worth of damage. ($1.5 million in today’s money) The house on the left is just one of many that did not survive the storm.
On a happier note, Lawrence Public Library also digitized a collection of sheet music. It almost doesn’t matter how tuneful the songs are when the covers are this colorful. (See below.)
Admit it. You took it easy last month. After exams or while planning office parties, you let some things slide. The digitization team working on the Lawrence Public Library collections added twenty three collections in December: 23. No slackers there. Take the Stereo Slide Collection for example. It contains 108 items, including the Frozen Fountain on the Common slide (Left). Is it too soon after our own deep freeze to appreciate this icy monument?
Maybe you would find the variety of the Hamilton Historical Society’s collection of photos of parades, historic houses, town celebrations and prominent citizens cozier. For Civil War students, we have letters from the Jubb brothers courtesy of the J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford. As always, we have maps. December saw the Leventhal Map Center add yet more to their collection while the Wilbraham Library’s Maps Collection included the Hampden and Hampshire highway map below.
This September, Digital Commonwealth added many new collections that you can now search for on the website! These collections consist of many type of materials including photographs, personal paper, maps, and even a scrapbook! Make sure you check them out!
This post was written by Patricia Feeley, BPL Collaborative Services Librarian from an interview she conducted with Louise Sandberg of the Lawrence Public Library.
Louise Sandberg of the Lawrence Public Library began working with archival materials the “minute I was hired,” so she recognized a great opportunity to expand the reach of her collection after attending a Digital Commonwealth presentation in Wakefield. The library currently has 17 collections uploaded to the Digital Commonwealth website.
Among them, the Lawrence Public Library Collection includes over 700 photographs that were used as part of a Northeast Massachusetts Regional Library System digitization project. The photos range from historical street scenes to Spanish-American War soldiers to parades honoring God and country, Independence Day and the National Recovery Administration! In retrospect, Louise recommends breaking down collections of this size and diversity into smaller collections.
Most delightful of all the collections is the National Child Welfare Association Fairy Tale Pictures posters from the Home and School Series. These wonderful watercolors were created by illustrator Elizabeth Tyler, who was born in Newton, Massachusetts. The Lawrence Public Library has 11 of the 12 originally issued in the 1920’s. Only Chicken Little is missing and, with Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack of beanstalk fame present, you don’t really miss her.
Louise Sandberg reports that she loves the final result: the images are sharp and the website presentation attractive. She has 30 collections she’s hoping to add, including 19th century images of a cyclone that blew through Lawrence. Scanning, she notes, allows the eye to see more, picking up on objects that fade into the background at first glance on the original. And when the Digital Services team is ready, she has some large-scale, hand-drawn street plans and maps that she is eager to see online. The process of putting collections on Digital Commonwealth has also made Louise think about what she can do and what she should do with the time she has.
Best of all, Louise is so pleased with the Digital Commonwealth; she has recommended us to other community organizations. As she says, uploading collections, “only helps all of us” by making our materials available and accessible to a much wider audience than we can ever serve in person.