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.



Ptelea Trilfoliata aka Shrubby Trefoil

Digital Commonwealth had a busy August with some new collections and additions to existing collections. Of the new offerings, Nahant Public Library’s Florence Johnson Herbarium  collection brings the specimens collected and painstakingly mounted by Miss Flossie Johnson and her grade school students over her long career (1881-1927). Most notable are the specimens stamped “Mass Horticultural Soc., Boston, Nov. 26, 1897.” These were entered into the Horticultural Society’s exhibition, winning a prize of $6 for being “most remarkable, both in point of numbers [184] and the quality of the mounting,” according to the Society’s booklet for that year. In today’s dollars, that prize is about $200.00.

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Lawrence Public Library

Nahant Public Library

Springfield College Archives and Special Collections

*item added to an existing collection

from the Alison Laing Pin Collection
Kewpie Outside of Salon Kewpie
Kewpie Outside of Salon Kewpie
Marie Høeg sitting with a cigarette
San Diego Union article
Akihiro Miwa in Black Lizard (1968)

by Anne Berard

Reference & Outreach Services Librarian, Milford Town Library

The Digital Commonwealth mostly archives materials relating to Massachusetts, harvesting and hosting content related to its residents, communities and institutions. Some collections, however, have a wider scope.

The hosted Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is one such repository.

Bringing together photographs, publications, clippings & ephemera from more than 60 academic, social, cultural and private archives, the DTA provides a kaleidoscopic and fascinating portal into transgender history.

DTA grew out of Project Director K.J. Rawson’s own frustrations while working on his PhD.  In an interview with them, Rawson explained .”When doing research, I had a hard time figuring out where to find significantly-sized collections of transgender historical materials. And it wasn’t just my limitations as a researcher; there are some structural barriers that make transgender history quite difficult. So I ended up trying to brainstorm a resource that could help people in a similar situation.”

Rawson, formerly taught at Holy Cross and now is an Associate Professor of English, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University.  He notes that ” the term ‘transgender’ is so ubiquitous in a Western context right now, but it’s also a really new term. Taken together, that actually creates a really difficult research situation for contemporary researchers, because few people are actually familiar with all of the other terminology that’s been used throughout history to describe experiences of transgressing gender norms. So part of what we’re doing is taking language that is commonly used, and using that as a gateway to find materials for which that language would never be used.”

The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) can be a powerful tool to expand awareness and educate people, especially during this time of expanding national conversation and re-examination of  how people talk about and treat one another.  Digital Commonwealth invites you to explore further.


Sand diggers on the beach

Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection (1,461 items)*  items added to existing collection (re-harvest)

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.

City Hospital roof garden

Boston City Archives 15 new collections; 3,075 new records) * 

The Boston City Archives preserves and provides access to the historic records of Boston’s city government.  Our collections include City Council records, mayoral records, and departmental records and our records document many of Boston’s significant historical moments.

Northeastern University Libraries (7 new collections; 17,918 new records) *

The Northeastern University Library supports the mission of the University by working in partnership with the University community to develop and disseminate new scholarship. The Library fosters intellectual and professional growth, enriches the research, teaching, and learning environment, and promotes the effective use of knowledge by managing and delivering information resources and services to library users.

Boston Public Library

The Big Drum

Boston Pictorial Archive (Collection of Distinction (310 items)* added to existing collection

The Boston Pictorial Archive is one of the largest distinct collections of images related to Boston held by a public institution and the essential resource for Boston architectural, social, and neighborhood history. It includes more than 6,000 images on paper representing the visual history of the city of Boston from the colonial era through the 20th century, the majority of which are original photographic prints dating from the 1850s to the last decade of the 20th century.

Townsend’s Patent Folding Globe

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection (12 items)* added to existing collection

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library is dedicated to the creative educational use of its cartographic holdings, which extend from the 15th century to the present. In pursuit of its mission, the Center collects and preserves maps and atlases, promotes research in the collection, and makes its resources available to the public through its website, exhibitions, publications, lectures, and other programs.

By Andrew Begley

Archives Specialist, National Archives at Boston; Co-Chair, Digital Commonwealth Outreach and Education Committee

Over the last five to ten years, a number of archives and libraries in the Boston area have digitized rich collections of materials related to school desegregation and busing in the city of Boston. Collections at the Boston City Archives, UMass Boston, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, Boston College, and the Massachusetts State Library contextualize Boston’s 1970’s busing crisis and provide insight into the roles played by community organizations and local, state, and federal agencies. Northeastern University, which was instrumental in coordinating these digitization initiatives, provides a great entry point for exploring these records on its Beyond Busing: Boston School Desegregation Archival Resources site.

Until recently, one major collection that was not available digitally was the U.S. District Court case file for Morgan v. Hennigan. Held at the National Archives at Boston, this collection consists of 54 cubic feet of documents filed in the class action lawsuit brought in 1972 by the parents of African American children in Boston, alleging that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by a deliberate policy of racial segregation in the Boston Public Schools.

Several years ago, National Archives staff reached out to Digital Commonwealth about utilizing its member digitization services to tackle the digitization of the Morgan v. Hennigan case file. While Digital Commonwealth was enthusiastic about the project, the sheer size of the collection posed some additional challenges. Harvard Library Imaging Services agreed to partner with Digital Commonwealth and the National Archives on the project, offering their new high-speed document scanning services to quickly and safely handle the digitization of the physical records. The result of the project would make the digitized records available through Digital Commonwealth, Harvard Library’s online collection, and the National Archives online catalog.

As with any large-scale digitization project, there were many steps in ensuring the successful completion of the project. Staff and volunteers at the National Archives worked on document prep and metadata creation. Security protocols were established to ensure the safe transportation and storage of the records offsite (after a few trips transporting records to Widener Library, I can now say that I’ve parked my car in Harvard Yard). Staff at Harvard Imaging Services created scanning workflows for the project, seamlessly combining high volume digitization on their conveyer belt style scanner with separate workflows for oversized and bound materials. Once scanning was complete, Harvard staff worked with the Boston Public Library and Digital Commonwealth on harvesting metadata and making the records available through the Digital Commonwealth site.

The digitized images went live on the Digital Commonwealth site earlier this month (they can be viewed here), and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone that made this collaboration possible: Alfie Paul, Denise Henderson and the staff and volunteers at the National Archives in Waltham; Bill Comstock and everyone at Harvard Library Imaging Services; and Tom Blake and the metadata staff at the Boston Public Library. The Morgan v. Hennigan case file should complement and provide further context for the records on busing and desegregation digitized by other institutions throughout the Boston area, and hopefully this project will serve as a model for additional collaborative digitization projects in the future.

Cross & Dimmitt postcard ca: 1930-1945

Boston Public Library

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.

National Archives of Boston

 This series consists of the civil action case file (72-911-G) of Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al., a class action lawsuit brought in 1972 by the parents of African American children alleging  that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by a deliberate policy of racial segregation in the Boston Public Schools. Included are the complaint, motions, briefs, transcripts of hearings, Boston School Committee meeting transcripts, enrollment records, memorandums, letters and other correspondence, judgments, affidavits, depositions, interrogatories, and other records. Records are arranged by document number assigned by the court.


MHS1948_01_2074aDigital archives thrive on collaboration and the Medford Historical Society’s Civil War Photo Collection  bears that out in  an especially meaningful and inspiring way. This massive collection of more than 3600 well preserved albumen prints was amassed by General Samuel Crocker Lawrence who commanded the Lawrence Light Guard during the Civil War. He went on to serve as Medford’s first mayor.

A feature article in Tufts Now traces how these prints were discovered on a second floor of the Medford Historical Society Museum in 1990 and came to be given very special care from the society, Civil War scholars, then Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, the New England Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Digital Lab at the Boston Public Library.

The range of images includes portraits of military officers and their wives, camp scenes, battlefields, cannons, cities in ruin and more. The work of notable Civil War photographers George Bernard and Andrew Russell and those who studied under Matthew Brady (the seminal Civil War photographer) are included in the archive. Not surprisingly, some are untitled and dated simply 1861-1865.  The collection is a valuable tool for researchers, students, teachers and history aficionados.



Boston Children’s Museum Scrapbooks from the American History Collection (1 item)*

Boston Public Library

Coast Guard Heritage Museum

Historical Society of Old Yarmouth Archives and Local History Collection (3,257 items)*

Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Doyle’s Cafe Memorabilia (24 items) *

*  items ingested into existing collection