A lot of new content was added in February–must have been the leap year effect! There’s something for everyone with maps, manuscripts, prints and photographs all ready for research  and enjoyment. The Leon Abdalian Collection, containing the work of self-taught photogapher Leon Hampartzoum Abdalian reminds me of the Leslie Jones Collection.
Both men turned their lens’ on the people of Boston, Jamaica Plain West Roxbury and surrounding communities and brought ordinary people into sharp focus. Leon and Leslie, good eye!  Travel back in time with them via Digital Commonwealth.
Arnold Arboretum

Boston Public Library

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston (2 items)*

Early, Rare, and Exceptional Items from Special Collections, Rare Books (3 items)*
French Artists (1 item)
Coast Guard Heritage Museum
D.M. Rowland Collection (40 items) 
 Lawrence Public Library 
 Massachusetts Archives



Written by Patricia Feeley

WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in military outfit
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in outfits from Lawrence Public Library
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll in mufti
WAFS Pilot 1 paper doll from Lawrence Public Library

The holiday season was celebrated at Digital Commonwealth by adding some interesting collections.  Our biggest contributors, Boston Public Library and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, of course, did their bit.  But let’s highlight our other two contributors.

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society performed a good deed for all Bostonians by sponsoring the digitization of the Doyle’s Café memorabilia.  When that 137-year-old institution closed in October 2019, many of the pub’s decorations and ephemera were auctioned off.  JPHS made sure a record was made before they all disappeared into private collections.  Thank you!

The Lawrence Public Library has been a frequent and welcome contributor.  This month’s collection, the Phyllis Tyler Paper Doll Collection, is another set of seldom seen ephemera.  If the fashions didn’t give away the fact that this set is from the 1940’s, the celebrity dolls – Betty Grable and Ava Gardner – would.  Perhaps most striking is the WAFS (Women’s Air Force) pilot dolls in both military and mufti (left and right respectively).  Yes, women did their bit in World War II, too.

My very first post on the Digital Commonwealth blog was an interview with Louise Sandberg of the Lawrence Public Library.  She was knowledgeable, encouraging and funny.  She was a perfect first interview.  I’ve interviewed other members since and they have been universally enthusiastic about their collections and digitizing through DC.

I am grateful to all of them, although maybe a little more grateful to Alison Basset and Sarah Hayes of the Trustees for introducing me to one of my favorite images (Studio portrait of unidentified woman in black dress and monocle with cigarette posing with Great Dane; whip and globe on floor, which has as great a backstory as it is a photo.) and to Dick Rowley of the Granville Public Library, a dedicated correspondent and proof, if you need it, that a small library can have a big impact thanks to social media crowdsourcing, the Granville Historic Image Library, partnering with local history organizations and more.

It’s been an honor to be editor of this blog for three years and it is a joy to know I’m passing the editorship on to someone who loves the collections and finds our members just as fascinating as I did.  (Good luck, Anne!)

You were all inspirational to me.  I hope I did you some justice in these postings.

Boston Public Library
Paintings and Fine Arts Collection at the Boston Public Library – 10 items added to existing collection

Jamaica Plain Historical Society
Doyle’s Cafe Memorabilia – 111 items

Lawrence Public Library
Phyllis Tyler Paper Doll Collection – 258 items

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives
27 new collections; 23,055 new items re-harvested

Broadway in Lawrence sewer map
Broadway, from Lawrence, Mass. Engineering Dept. City Sewers

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.)

Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society
Nautical Chart Collection of the Chatham Historical Society – 39 items added to existing collection

Boston Public Library
Celia Thaxter correspondence with Annie Fields, 1869-1893 – 289 items

Canton Public Library
Canton Historical Commission Photos of Canton – 170 items

Harvard Law School Library
Sacco-Vanzetti Collections – Harvard Law School Library – 80 items added to existing collection

Flowering crab along canal
Flowering crab, from Canal Park Committee Records

Lawrence Public Library
Engineering Department. City Sewers – 724 items

Malden Public Library
Local History Digital Collection – 2 items

New England Historic Genealogical Society
6 collections – 469 items harvested

South Hadley Public Library
Canal Park Committee Collection – 295 items
Scott Family Photographs – 86 items

Frozen  fountain on the Common, from the Stereo Slide Collection of the Lawrence Public Library
Frozen fountain on the Common from the Stereo Slide Collection of the Lawrence Public Library

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.

Boston Public Library

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 233 items added to existing collection

Hamilton Historical Society

Hamilton Historical Society Collection – 2,408 items

 J. V. Fletcher Library

Jubb Brothers Civil War Letters – 83 items

Lawrence Public Library

Advertisements – 10 items
Aerial Photograph – 1 item
Arlington Mills – 8 items
Art Work of Lawrence and Vicinity Photograph Collection – 19 items
Boston Bridge Works – 8 items
David Burke – 1 item
Forrest C. Hinckley Photograph Collection – 11 items
Gary Keating – 1 item
George H. Farrell Photograph – 1 item

Highway map, Hampden and Hampshire counties, Mass. from the Wilbraham Library Maps Collection
Highway map, Hampden and Hampshire counties, Mass. from the Wilbraham Library Maps Collection

John Deacy Photograph – 1 item
John J. Murphy – 1 item
John McCann Photograph Collection – 5 items
Kenneth Kerwin Photographs – 2 items
Lawrence City Mission – 1 item
Lawrence, Mass. School Committee – 1 item
Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States – 1 item
Massachusetts Legislature 1888 25th Anniversary Reunion – 1 item
Massachusetts National Guard – 1 item
Ora Beal Photographs – 3 items
Rendle Homestead – 1 item
St. Patrick’s School Class of 1931 – 1 item
Stereo Slide Collection – 108 items
United Textile Workers of America, Local 1113, Arlington Mills – 16 items

Wilbraham Public Library

Wilbraham Library Maps Collection – 21 items

USS Constitution Museum

War of 1812 Collection – 87 items added to existing collection