Aerial View of Norwood Hospital
Ellen F. O’Connor Collection
Men in convertible, including JFK
Harold & Marian Draper









Boston Public Library

Ellen F. O’Connor was an art teacher in the Boston Public Schools system, teaching at the Prince School and later West Roxbury High School. In addition to her work as an educator, she was a passionate participant in the cultural life of Boston. She was a gifted singer, a soloist at the Mission Church and a member of the Handel and Haydn Society, and also gave an annual lecture on Irish art at the Boston Public Library. An avid world traveler throughout her life, she took advantage of a progressive Boston Public Schools policy to take two sabbatical years to travel and to study and to learn about other cultures. Her personal enrichment served to inspire her many students during the course of her long career.

This collection includes small, medium, and large format negatives taken by Boston press photographers dating from the 1920s through the early 1970s. It was amassed by photojournalist Dennis Brearley during the course of his career as a working photographer. From 1978 to 2012, Mr. Brearley and his wife Susan ran a photo gallery in Faneuil Hall selling prints from his photographs and the work of other press photographers in his collection. In 2013, Hunt Auctions began the process of selling the collection in lots. The Ten Pounds Collection, as it is affectionately dubbed, was purchased at auction by John Booras, a local Boston collector and amateur historian. The nickname of the collection is derived from the lot description, which consisted of the remainders of the original collection that were not deemed marketable; the lot was described and sold by weight rather than content.

The Tichnor Brothers Collection contains approximately 25,000 office proofs of postcards of the United States published by the Boston firm Tichnor Brothers Inc. These are color postcards with a linen texture dated ca. 1930-1945. The concentration is on American vacation places.

Wayland Historical Society

Alfred W. Cutting (1860-1935), although born and educated in Boston, had a deep connection to Wayland. Five generations of Cuttings had lived in Wayland since the arrival of his great-great-great-grandfather in 1713. His father, Charles Cutting, owned considerable property along Old Sudbury Road and the family was often there despite the fact that both Alfred and his father worked in Boston (Charles as a stationer and Alfred as a bank teller). Alfred got to know many people in his neighborhood of Old Sudbury Road and Glezen Lane and frequented the home of his childhood idol, Lydia Maria Child — the noted abolitionist and author — and her husband David Lee Child. Later he and his sister, Marcia, lived in her former home.

Cutting’s contributions to Wayland are lasting. He served as Wayland’s unofficial historian in the early 20th century, giving speeches and writing pamphlets on its past. For many years he served as a trustee of the Wayland Public Library and was active in the First Parish Church. In 1905, he founded the Society of Wayland Arts and Crafts.

Children with basketball
Children with basketball, from Arlington Historical Photograph Collection

Wicked Local Arlington reported June 28, 2018 that they were going to have a Throwback Thursday feature this summer.  And where were they finding their Throwbacks?  The Robbins Library collections on Digital Commonwealth.  They were particularly taken with the photos from the Arlington Town Life series commissioned by the Robbins Library in Arlington from Norman Hurst.  The series contains everyday moments of life in Arlington, like the children with basketball photo on the left.

If you don’t have the patience to check back every Thursday, just hop on over to the Arlington Historical Photograph Collection, c. 1885-1992 from the Robbins Library on Digital Commonwealth.  With over 200 years of history, there should be a photo of interest for everyone!

Map of the Town of Weymouth, Norfolk County, Mass.Weymouth Room and Local History Collections
Map of the Town of Weymouth, Norfolk County, Mass. Weymouth Room and Local History Collections

Digital Commonwealth partners Weymouth Public Library and Lee Library Association were in the news last month.

Wicked Local Weymouth in an article entitled, Weymouth Public Libraries announces programs, reports on the Weymouth Public Libraries adding more digitized items from the Weymouth Historic Collections to the Digital Commonwealth.  Highlights include more items concerning abolitionism and the Civil War, as well as maps of Weymouth dating from 1854 and 1880. The map from 1853 (left) is especially interesting because it marks the locations of houses with the names the residents. The items featured on Digital Commonwealth are a selection of the materials in the Weymouth Room and Local History Collections. Finding aids describing the contents of the collections in detail are viewable online here.  Original materials are viewable in person by appointment.  What’s available on Digital Commonwealth is viewable anytime, anywhere you have Internet access.

South-western view of LeeLee Library Historical Collection
South-western view of Lee Lee Library Historical Collection

The Berkshire Eagle’s article, Lee Library Association: A history lesson, just a click away, extols the Lee Library Association’s efforts to identify, preserve and provide online access to its collection of photographs, postcards and prints.  Over 25 years ago, local volunteers organized and categorized the collection over 5 years.  When Mary Philpott, president of the Lee library, learned about Digital Commonwealth in 2013, she immediately signed up to begin what became a 4-year process of getting the collection digitized.  Digital Commonwealth staff really appreciated all the hard work done by the Lee volunteers.  The more data cultural institutions can supply, the faster Digital Commonwealth can process their collections.  For the Lee Library Association the reward was that their historical collections were no longer “sitting in boxes”. Now everyone with an interest in Lee history can see them.

 First Armenian Mirror Spectator writers and readers reunion from the Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection.
First Armenian Mirror Spectator writers and readers reunion from the Project SAVE Archives Banquet and Panoramic Photo Collection.

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator posted an article called, “Project Save hosts an afternoon of thanks for donors and supporters” on December 7, 2017.  You may remember Project SAVE from our October 9, 2017 blog post when we highlighted them as one of our new collections from September.  The article mentions, as we did, that Project SAVE had Digital Commonwealth digitize over 200 photographs from their collection as part of their effort to bring “awareness to our work beyond the Armenian community”.  Project SAVE also is collaborating with the USC Shoah Foundation to create educational resources for students of genocides.

Consider adding your collections to Digital Commonwealth if you, too, want to expand your reach beyond your core audience.

Index map, Town of Wellesley Wellesley Free Library Local Historical Maps
Index map, Town of Wellesley Wellesley Free Library Local Historical Maps



The Swellesley Report of September 19, 2017 chronicled Wellesley Free Library’s addition of 19 local maps to the Digital Commonwealth – with a little help from the New England Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).  The maps of Wellesley and surrounding communities span the years from 1853 to 1999.  After NEDCC took high quality photos of the maps, the library went looking for a host who could make the maps “…accessible to the most people…” and chose Digital Commonwealth.

We must be doing something right because the Wellesley Free Library plans to continue digitizing its maps and adding to its collection.  Take a look at what they’ve added so far!

Leominster Fire Department, Engine 1 from the Leominster Public Library
Leominster Fire Department, Engine 1 from the Leominster Public Library



Leominster Public Library got a little ink from the Leominster Champion for their 1915 Municipal Building (City Hall) time capsule digitization, which was among the new collections added to Digital Commonwealth in May.

If you have been in the news for your digitization project, be sure to send us a link so we can share the good news with all of Digital Commonwealth.

On March 21st, Digital Commonwealth was co-awarded the New England Archivist’s Archival Advocacy Award along with BPL’s Digital Services. The award was presented on Saturday morning at the NEA business meeting (part of the Spring NEA meeting).

NEA’s former president Alyssa Pacy presented the award and highlighted the work BPL’s Digital Services staff members have been doing to help institutions share content in Digital Commonwealth. Alyssa acknowledged the important work BPL’s digital services staff had been able to for cultural organizations because of federal funding (the initial grant funding), and ongoing state funding.  Amy Ryan thanked the New England Archivists for the award and said she was honored to accept on behalf of the BPL but wanted Tom Blake to say a few words because of all he has done with the work that was being recognized. Tom acknowledged that the BPL’s plan to assist others with digitization tasks when the BPL has over a million items to digitize is ambitious but he feels like it is important and he appreciated the fact that Amy Ryan has been so supportive of the efforts.  He acknowledged the work of all in his department and the receptiveness of the organizations they have assisted.  He thanked everyone from the NEA/MARAC meeting who had volunteered to help with geo-coding at the BPL on Thursday (3/19); this was the “Day of Service” activity offered in conjunction with the conference.

Nancy Heywood accepted the award on behalf of Digital Commonwealth.  Nancy complimented the BPL’s developers for their excellent work on the website and also the excellent work of Tom Blake’s department.  She also had the opportunity to mention that Digital Commonwealth’s partnership with the BPL (in which the BPL takes the lead on the repository and portal) is allowing Digital Commonwealth the non-profit organization to think about programming/events/training sessions that will help the people involved with digitization efforts become knowledgeable about relevant issues. Nancy also thanked everyone who worked at institutions who have contributed content to the Digital Commonwealth website.

MapVisitors to the Digital Commonwealth site can now browse the ever-growing collection using a number of different map views. These maps show the locations of cities and other landmarks depicted or described within items in the collection. By clicking on a marker on the map, visitors can search for all items from a specific location. Visitors can also use the map’s search button to find all items from within a particular geographic area displayed in the map window. This new feature offers a powerful and exciting way to explore the collections, and provides vivid evidence of the global scope and relevancy of the collections contributed by Massachusetts cultural institutions.
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This past year resulted in several members leaving the Digital Commonwealth Board. Anne Sauer, who served as vice president, left her job at Tufts for a new position at Cornell. Ryan Hanson, who took over for Anne as vice president, left his position at the Newton Free Public Library for a job with a company in the Back Bay of Boston.

Besides these unexpected and regretful departures, the normal matriculation of board members resulted in the resignations of Margaret Morrissey, Director of the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, and Kim Cochran, the ex officio representative from the Massachusetts School Library Association. Both of these board members served three years.

Nancy Heywood, past president of Digital Commonwealth, agreed to re-join the board as a temporary replacement for Anne and Ryan. Nancy has since agreed to remain on the board and serve as its new treasurer. Since Kim’s position is reserved for an MSLA member, the only remaining positions to fill by member application were those left by Margaret and Ryan.

Five exceptional candidates submitted applications for the two open board positions. It was a close vote, but the board decided on accepting Jean Maguire, Library Director of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Susan Stearns, who last year became the new Executive Director of the Boston Library Consortium.

Jean Maguire brings to the board a long and broad experience in libraries, beginning as a public library employee in 1987 and moving on to private and academic positions. She began working in the NEGS as a technical services librarian in 1999. Jean has a proven record of leadership in the region and should prove instrumental in helping Digital Commonwealth reach out to a larger membership constituency among smaller organizations not currently served very well, such as the many historical societies within the state.

With over 25 years serving in senior and strategic management positions, Susan Stearns offers the Digital Commonwealth extensive experience in marketing management and communication. At the other end of the member spectrum, Susan should help Digital Commonwealth attract more of the local area’s numerous academic institutions. In addition, she will provide enormous assistance with outreach — both to existing and prospective members. This is an area of concern that Digital Commonwealth needs to expand.

We welcome our two new board members and expect that they will provide enormous benefits to the organization.

For those who applied this year and were not chosen as well as others who might be interested, please consider that there is turnover on the board every year, so although your expertise might not have fit the board’s greatest needs this time around, it well might at another time. There are also many other ways to participate, and the board encourages interested applicants to consider a volunteer position on one of the committees. We can always use the extra help!