Wonderful feature on NECN about the Boston Public Library and the Digital Commonwealth! Tom Blake, the Digital Projects Manager at the BPL and David Leonard, Interim President and Director of Administration and Technology, did a wonderful job describing the project, with well-chosen examples showing the digitization process, the Digital Commonwealth site, and some examples of items that have been digitized by Boston, from bathing suits to butterflies!

Boston Public Library Digitizing Cultural Treasures — Watch the video on the NECN website

Receipt to Thomas Aspinwall for money paid for soldiersGuest Post by Anne Clark, Brookline Public Library

In 2015 the Brookline Public Library was able to have their manuscript collection digitized thanks to generosity of the Boston Public Library. Over 400 pages have now been added to the Digital Commonwealth website!

The Manuscript Collection consists of collections of papers related to the town of Brookline, including family papers, letters, deeds, wills, account books, political and military history, church and school documents and various miscellaneous articles.

murivianIn addition, The Murivian (short for Muddy River Annual), the Brookline High School Yearbook (1923-2014) was digitized and is available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks look wonderful and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This was a project that was a long time coming, and well worth the wait!

What’s next? We hope to have our map collection and the Brookline High School newspaper (The Sagamore) join the yearbooks, photographs and manuscripts in digital form!

Here are two photographs from the Digital Commonwealth of special Christmas dinners for people who would not be home for Christmas.

This 1921 photograph by news photographer Leslie Jones and shows Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan loading his Christmas dinner onto the ship Bowdoin before sailing for the frozen North. It’s from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.


This 1969 photograph of the Apollo VIII Christmas menu is from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.10869601_10152461357361722_859047187704865844_o

Collecting Scrap
During World War II, the United States government promoted scrap drives to reduce shortages in basic materials such as metal, rubber and paper. In September, 1942, the War Production Board announced that scrap metal was urgently needed, and promoted a National Scrap Metal Drive in October. For three Saturdays, there were local scrap drives were organized that involved the whole community, including children. The metal that was collected was not all scrap, but often involved personal or community sacrifice, including wrought iron fences that surrounded the Boston Common and the State House.

These scrap drives promoted a sense of patriotism and involvement in the war effort, and according to the War Production Board, the October drive brought in almost eighty-two pounds of scrap per American.

Collecting ScrapCollecting ScrapRemoving bronze plaque for war drive

Photographs from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.

Maureen TaylorHow well are people discovering and understanding the photographs in your digital collections? There are currently more than 100,000 photographs in Digital Commonwealth. How can you improve the chances of users finding the ones that are relevant to their research?

Join the Digital Commonwealth at a special program called Enhancing Photograph Descriptions: Advice from the Photo Detective, which will be offered at three locations in different parts of the state.

Join us at one of these events, where photograph expert Maureen Taylor will show us how to create the best metadata we can for the photographs in our digital collections. Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, is an internationally renowned expert in historic photo identification, preservation and genealogical research. She is the author of several books on identifying, organizing and understanding photographs, and has been featured on television programs, newspapers and magazines.

Here are the details and registration links for the two sessions that have been scheduled so far:

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Time: 10:30 – 11:30 AM
Location: New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street, Boston
Members/Non-members: $25/$40

Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Forbes Library
29 West Street
Members/Non-members: $25/$40

Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Time of event: 10:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Schedule: 10:00-10:15 – Registration;
10:15-11:30 – Tour of Nickerson Archives and discussion of its digitization projects
11:30-12:30 – Lunch on your own
12:30-1:30 – Maureen Taylor lecture
Location: Wilkens Library, Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable
Directions | Campus Map
Lunch options: Cafeteria on campus (in Grossman Commons); restaurants (Subway, Burger King, etc.) down the street

Philadelphia Phillies player examines his glassesAugust is National Eye Exam Month, which seemed like a good enough reason to go looking through the Digital Commonwealth for pictures of eyeglasses — and there’s a lot to see.

The photo on the left shows Philadelphia Phillies player Morrie Arnovich examines his glasses in front of the dugout at Braves Field. It was taken in 1939 by news photographer Leslie Jones and is from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library. There are some other eyeglass photos in the Leslie Jones Collection, including an undated woman with giant eyeglasses (perhaps from a trade show?), a 1932 photograph of Commandant Finlay, Quincy Yacht club, wearing new type of glasses (which look like a cross between eyeglasses and binoculars, a fish wearing glasses and smoking cigar and a dog playing piano wearing glasses.
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Technical services librarians at the Newton Free Library

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is celebrating 125 years of service this year. Established in 1890 as the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, the MBLC is the oldest state library agency in the country. To honor the past and look forward to the future, the MBLC has created MBLC Celebrates 125 Years, a site with pages for each of the 125 years, giving highlights of Massachusetts library history and notes on historical, social and cultural events of each year to provide context. There are also lots of great images from the Digital Commonwealth and other sources, including the photograph of Technical services librarians at the Newton Free Library from the Newton Free Library, Old Main Library, Centre Street, 1880-1971, collection shown above, and the 1893 Massachusetts library map from the collection of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library shown below.

You can follow this site a year a day on Twitter or Facebook, or visit it anytime and browse your way through the decades — there’s a lot of interesting information here!

MBLC Celebrates 125 Years

Free public libraries of Massachusetts

It’s summer, which means it’s time for fun! There are many pictures in the Digital Commonwealth showing how people celebrated summer in Massachusetts in the past. Amusement parks were popular with people of all ages, offering rides and attractions from the Merry-Go-Round for the young and faint of heart to the Roller Coaster for the brave, and Massachusetts had several amusement parks in different parts of the state, often located or or near the waterfront.

Here are pictures of some popular Massachusetts amusement parks from the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection of the Boston Public Library:

“Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.”
Salisbury Beach developed a thriving entertainment center in the early 20th century, with hotels, a carousel and roller coasters as well as the Dodgem (bumper car) ride seen in this postcard. The amusement business declined after the 1960s, and the last roller coaster was pulled down in 1976.

Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.
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One hundred years ago, Booker T. Washington, the African-American educator, author, orator, and adviser to presidents of the United States, spoke at the Fiftieth Anniversary Commencement of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Washington delivered an address on the transformation which had occurred since 1865, when the passage of the 13th Amendment ended slavery.

Booker T. Washington at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in 1856. After his family was freed in 1865 they moved to West Virginia, where, at the age of nine, the young Washington went to work in a salt factory. Eventually he worked his way through Hampton Institute, one of the first all-black schools in America, and he began teaching. In 1881 he became the head the new Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, an institution that had a commitment to combining academic subjects with vocational training. Washington’s 1901 autobiography, “Up from Slavery,” became a bestselling and influential book. However, during the first decade of the 1900’s, many African American leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois rejected Washington’s emphasis on vocational education and economic development in favor of classical education and political action.

Just a few month’s after his appearance in Worcester, Booker T. Washington collapsed in New York and was taken back to Tuskegee, where he died on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59.

Booker T. Washington walking in the academic procession at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at Worcester Polytechnic Institute