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

This post was written by Anne Berard, Reference & Outreach Librarian, Milford Town Library

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, 1923 from the Sacco-Vanzetti Collection, 1915-1977
Search spectators for weapons at trial of Sacco and Vanzetti
Search spectators for weapons at trial of Sacco and Vanzetti from the Sacco-Vanzetti Collection, 1915-1977
Paris France petition, Sacco Vanzetti
Paris France petition, Sacco Vanzetti from the Sacco-Vanzetti Collection, 1915-1977
Huge crowds attend Sacco-Vanzetti funeral from the Sacco-Vanzetti Collection, 1915-1977
Huge crowds attend Sacco-Vanzetti funeral from the Sacco-Vanzetti Collection, 1915-1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say the names of the infamous duo, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and most people immediately think of the bank-robbing couple and their fatal shootout with police. Their guilt and defiance were never in doubt for either the public or the law.  Another of history’s infamous duos, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, conjures up far more complicated associations.  There’s the 1920 armed robbery and double murder at a shoe company in Braintree, the contentious trial in Dedham with blatant anti-immigrant bias and a hostile judge, the lengthy incarceration in Charlestown, and finally, their execution in 1927.

The case of these two Italian-American anarchists gripped the nation and the world in real time and has continued to be debated and studied by scholars nearly 100 years later.  The Aldino Felicani Sacco-Vanzetti Collection available via Digital Commonwealth is a massive compilation of photographs, court documents, correspondence, and protest materials all related to Sacco and Vanzetti.  More than 1000 items are available for either browsing by topic or for doing a deep dive into the world of these men. Governor Michael Dukakis in 1977 – on the 50th anniversary of their execution – issued a proclamation in both English and Italian stating that the pair had not received a fair trial and that lessons should be learned from their unusual case.

Among the most poignant pages in the collection are the hundreds of letters Sacco and Vanzetti wrote to their families, compadres, and each other while imprisoned.   Also worth a look for the sheer size of the crowds are the photographs of their funeral procession where over 200,000 people poured into Boston streets in a show of solidarity with the men.  The funeral route passed by the State House before arriving at Forest Hills Cemetery where the bodies were cremated.

After being sentenced to death by electric chair by Judge Thayer, Nicola Sacco spoke out in court, declaring, “You know I am innocent. Those are the same words I pronounced seven years ago. You condemn two innocent men.”

 from the Public Works Department Photographs collection
105 State Street, Boston from the Public Works Department Photographs collection

Strike up the band, fire the confetti cannon and release the balloons!  Digital Commonwealth is celebrating the half million item mark.  Thanks, in part, to the large and small collections below, Digital Commonwealth by the end of August was able to offer access to 529, 444 items.

On August 23, you could commemorate the 90th anniversary of Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution by perusing the 285 additional items added to the Boston Public Library’s Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee Collection.

Or you could remember your summer vacation trips around Massachusetts by comparing your GPS maps to the more than 400 1794 town plans in the Massachusetts Archives’ Town Plan Collection.  Wait, school is starting and your brain is working and you know Massachusetts only has 351 cities and towns.  What gives?  In 1794, Massachusetts still had a province in what is now Maine, so be careful when you look for Falmouth.  There are two of them.

Or you could play the “then and now” game with the City of Boston Archives Public Works Department Photographs Collection, one of twenty and including over 1,000 photos by itself.  My how you’ve changed, 105 State Street.

So whether you are partial to the early daguerreotypes included in Historic Newton’s collection or the Town of Rockport’s maps, there’s something for everyone in the 85 collections added in August or the over half million total items on Digital Commonwealth.  Enjoy!

Boston Public Library

Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 3 items added to existing collection

Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee (Collection of Distinction) – 285 items added to existing collection

Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953). Prints, Drawings, and Paintings – 577 items

Huntington family from the Historic Newton Early Photograph collection
Huntington family from the Historic Newton Early Photograph collection

 

Cape Cod Community College

Cape Cod Association Collection, 1851-1969 – 80 items

 

City of Boston Archives

20 collections – 3,750 records harvested

 

Historic Newton

Historic Newton Early Photograph Collection – 279 items

 

 

Plan of Greenwich from the  Mass. Archives Town Plans, 1794 collection
Plan of Greenwich from the Mass. Archives Town Plans, 1794 collection

Massachusetts Archives

Town plans, 1794 – 403 items

 

Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation

Laws, Regulations and Commerce Collection – 3 items

NCCHP Museum Collection – 2 items

Noble & Cooley Business Correspondence Collection – 2 items

Noble & Cooley Employee Collection – 7 items

Trade Catalog Collection – 4 items

 

Town of Rockport

Rockport Town Clerk, Street, Roads and Maps – 228 items

 

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives

53 collections – 26,759 records re-harvested

 

Letter to the United Mine Workers Convention, September 20, 1921
Letter to the United Mine Workers Convention, September 20, 1921

This post was written by Patricia Feeley, BPL Collaborative Services Librarian.

Kimberly Reynolds, Curator of Manuscripts at the Boston Public Library, wanted to recognize the 90th anniversary of the deaths of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants and anarchists who were arrested and convicted of murder during the Red Scare of the 1920’s. The two men were executed on 23 August 1927. The conduct of the trial has been criticized ever since on legal and political grounds. Opinion is still divided over the guilt of these men.

The Aldino Felicani Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee Collection is one of the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) Collections of Distinction. Collections of Distinction are among the most outstanding and renowned of the BPL’s collections. The collection contains correspondence, meeting minutes, trial notebooks, financial records, legal documents, photographs, and scrapbooks. Broadsides, the armbands mourners wore at the funeral, Sacco and Vanzetti’s commingled ashes and their death masks are also included.

It was the correspondence of the two men that Kim chose to commemorate this anniversary. Sacco and Vanzetti wrote more than 200 letters while imprisoned. They wrote about their innocence, the effects of imprisonment, and their gratitude for the work of their defenders. They also wrote to each other about their friends and family. The correspondence, she points out, has significant research value.

<a href="https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:tm70rj393">Letter from Sacco to Vanzetti, 18 June 1925</a>
Letter from Sacco to Vanzetti, 18 June 1925

The Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee Collection is one of the most used collections at the BPL. After the letters were digitized, Kim supplied links to researchers outside of the Boston area who were “thrilled” to have access to the men’s letters.

Kim had worked with the Digital Commonwealth (DC) team before when the BPL’s collection of Emily Dickinson letters to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the Anti-Slavery Collection and the Margaret Fuller Papers, 1837-1884, among others, were digitized.  Kim always finds working with the team “excellent”.

It only took 5-6 months to get this latest collection fully digitized. Kim says the DC team taught her “how to look at collections digitally, so” she can now “prepare manuscripts both physically and virtually”. And she plans to keep working with the team. Sacco-Vanzetti collection memorabilia, photographs and – Kim’s personal favorite – posters are up next on the digitization agenda.

“My metadata might get changed to more appropriately describe an item the way it needs to virtually,” Kim says, but, “I trust them completely.”

Just months before his execution, Nicola Sacco instructed his attorney to cease trying to save his life. Regardless of guilt or innocence, it is a strong, poignant letter. You can read it here:

Letter to William G. Thompson, 6 April 1927
Letter to William G. Thompson, 6 April 1927