Monday, June 5, 2023

Great Outdoors Month is here!

June brings with it the official start of summer and what better way to enjoy summer than to celebrate Great Outdoors Month?! This celebration was started as Great Outdoors Week in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. It grew over the years into what is now a month-long celebration honoring nature and its benefits to the world.

The State Library has all sorts of materials to help you learn more about the great outdoors or books that state employees can check out and enjoy while in the great outdoors. We’ve rounded up some items in our collection to highlight because who doesn’t love a good beach read or a travel guide to reference while exploring a new place? 

Quincy Shore Reservations, Quincy;
image courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

Feel free to browse the lists below for things that might spark your interest. If you aren’t a state employee and are interested in these books, you can borrow our books by submitting an interlibrary loan request via your local public library. You can also search WorldCat to see what other libraries might own that title.

Beach/park/backyard/anywhere reads

The great outdoors around New England

Southwest Corridor Park, Boston
image courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

Perhaps you’d rather not carry a book around on your hike or to a local park. Have no fear because we’ve got you covered with e-books! If you’re a state employee you can use your State Library card to download the Libby app which will allow you to access ebooks through CW Mars. If you aren’t a state employee, you can access ebooks through the Boston Public Library by signing up for a BPL e-card. BPL e-cards are available to all Massachusetts residents.

There are some other great resources produced by the state that can help you in your quest to enjoy the great outdoors this month. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has a guide to the 150+ state parks around Massachusetts, as well as self-guided hikes and walks, plus events and programs. DCR also has a set of trail maps you can print out or use on your smartphone.

Blue Hills Trail Map
courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

These resources should help you celebrate and appreciate everything about the great outdoors! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about any of the resources here and remember to enjoy the great outdoors, especially this month!

Jessica Shrey
Legal Research Reference Librarian

Thursday, June 1, 2023

State Library Newsletter – June Issue

From postcards of the Mohawk Trail, to gulls from the coast, and a map of Boston, you can travel the state with this month's newsletter! Pictured here is a preview, but you can read about all those items and more by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, May 29, 2023

On Display in the State Library

Happy June! Now that the summer months are upon us, Boston will become even busier with visitors. Whether you are a local playing tourist for the day, or an out-of-towner experiencing the city for the first time, our displayed item will provide some inspiration for things to do and places to see. Visit us throughout the month to see the Ernest Dudley Chase map Boston and Vicinity: A Pictorial Map on display in our main reading room.  

Ernest Dudley Chase was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1878 but lived most of his life in Winchester (which case be found at the top center of this map). He was an illustrator who was known for his greeting cards and his pictorial maps. Pictorial maps will not help you out very much if you are trying to figure out how to get from one location to another, but they will entertain you with their whimsical illustrations and depictions of an area. While many of Chase’s maps focus on New England, he did not limit himself to the region. The State Library holds several of Chase’s maps in our collection, and while not all of them have been digitized yet, you can explore a full list here. Many of Chase’s maps focus on New England, but you can see from our holdings that he did not limit himself to the region. Maps in our collection include world maps, other locations within the United States, European countries, and themed maps - like “love” and “peace.” You can also explore more of Chase’s life and work in our 2009 online exhibit Ernest Dudley Chase: A Worldview in Maps.

Our displayed map of the Boston metro area is so detailed that each time you look at it, you are bound to find something new. It is peppered with illustrations of buildings, landmarks, train routes and various modes of transportation, and bodies of water. The map extends north to Melrose, Lexington, and Concord, west to Wayland and Natick, and south to Needham, Mattapan, and Wollaston. Boston Harbor and Thompson’s Island, South Boston, East Boston, and Revere are shown to the east. Countless numbers of schools, churches, municipal buildings, and libraries are among the illustrated buildings,  along with recreational related sites like golf courses, yacht clubs, and beaches and amusement parks. For those who want a little bit of history included in their maps, Chase even included the route of Paul Revere’s midnight ride! He’s depicted on horseback leaving Old North Church, and then you can follow the horseshoe tracks all the way to Concord (the map does not address that William Dawes and Samuel Prescott were also part of this ride, and that Revere was detained and didn’t make it all the way to Concord!). 

Whether you are visiting the Boston metropolitan area for a week-long vacation or just looking for inspiration for a daytrip, you can find numerous destination suggestions in this map. And be sure to stop by one of the featured locations, the State House, to visit the State Library and see this map on display through June 27. 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Author Talk with Ilyon Woo

  • Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2023. 12pm - 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts - Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  • Livestream:

Please join us on Tuesday, June 6th at noon, in our historic reading room for an exciting author talk event with Ilyon Woo who will be discussing her New York Times Bestseller, Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom. We will also be livestreaming the talk on our Youtube channel, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the bookMaster Slave Husband Wife is the riveting, true story of Ellen and William Craft. The Crafts were a young, enslaved couple who, in 1848, made the perilous decision to flee from Macon, Georgia to seek freedom in the North. A journey like no other, Ellen disguised herself as an older, wealthy white man traveling with his slave, William. The book follows the Crafts as they make their way to Philadelphia, Boston, and eventually Canada. Along the way, the couple gained a certain celebrity status, joining the abolitionist movement with such leaders like Frederick Douglass. Woo’s well-researched book presents a story of the Crafts and antebellum America which reads almost like it could be a major movie with themes of freedom, self-emancipation, and love. 

About the author: In addition to Master Slave Husband Wife, Woo is the New York Times best-selling author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. She received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Writing Grant for Master Slave Husband Wife. Woo’s writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New York Times. Woo holds a BA in the Humanities from Yale College and a PhD in English from Columbia University. For more information on Woo and her work, visit her site:

If you are able to join us in person, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of the book. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us at

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site:

Monday, May 15, 2023

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month!

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month! This month celebrates the numerous Asian/Pacific communities within the United States. Initially introduced to Congress in the late 1970s as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, the first 10 days of May were selected to honor the cultures and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It was not until 1992, that the entire month of May was designated and annually proclaimed AAPI month. 

Image from Hawaiian Schools Photo Album

To celebrate and observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, the State Library has curated a selection of titles related to Asian American and Pacific Islander history, experience, cultures, and communities within Massachusetts and beyond. Please contact the Reference Department if interested in any of the below titles.

In addition, our Special Collections department has put on display in our main reading room images of Hawaiian schools, teachers, and students from a period between 1897-1922. The album of photographs was donated to the State Library in 1924. You can view the full digitized album on our Flickr account

Finally, on May 9th, the State Library hosted author, researcher, and Asian American activist, Michael Liu. Liu spoke on his book, Forever Struggle: Activism, Identity, and Survival in Boston's Chinatown, 1880-2018. You can view the entire recorded talk on our YouTube channel!

For more information and events happening this month, please visit

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Pigeons in the Library!

City pigeons sometimes make their way into public buildings with plentiful food scraps and multiple opening and closing doors – like cavernous and bustling train stations. From May 9 through June 6, pigeons have made their way into the library too – but in this instance it is in the form of Audubon’s print of the Band-Tailed Pigeon (plate 367)!

Shown here are the adult male and female, depicted perched in the blooming leaves of a dogwood tree. Read Audubon’s account of the pigeon here.   

Monday, May 8, 2023

What is a commonwealth and why is Massachusetts considered one?

Have you ever wondered what the term “commonwealth” means or why Massachusetts is considered one? You aren’t alone; we get that question fairly often here in the Reference Department! 

The short answer is: because of the Massachusetts Constitution. Let's dig a little deeper though and look at the history as to how this came about. From the years 1776 to 1780, the phrase “the State of Massachusetts Bay” was used at the top of all Acts and Resolves. Leading up to 1780, the term “Commonwealth” was popular when referring to “a whole body of people constituting a nation or state.” Some political writers even preferred this term and the usage of this term may also have been a reference to anti-monarchic sentiment. In 1780, however, the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect. Part 2 of the Constitution states “that the people ... form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state by the name of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts." From there on out, Massachusetts legally became known as a commonwealth because it was written in the Constitution as such. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky also called their states commonwealths.

Image of Massachusetts Constitution,
courtesy of Mass. State Archives

It’s important to note that commonwealths are states, but states are not commonwealths. States and commonwealths are equal, however, and one does not have any special political status or a different kind of legal relationship to the rest of the country than the other does. Being a commonwealth just comes down to the question of whether or not the term was used in a state’s constitution.

The Massachusetts Constitution, written by John Adams in 1780, is the oldest functioning written constitution in the world. It served as a model for the Constitution of the United States, which was written in 1787 and went into effect in 1789.

Check out our webpage to find out why this term may have been used and what John Adams’ thoughts may have been while framing the Constitution. Merriam-Webster has some information on this as well. If you’re interested to read more about the history of the Constitution and Massachusetts, be sure to check out this website. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at if you have any questions about this or another topic!

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian