Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Massachusetts Women in Politics Now on Flickr

During the winter of 2010, the State Library displayed an exhibit on women in politics in Massachusetts. The exhibit profiled sixteen women politicians who have worked in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in such roles as Mayor, Representative, Senator, and Lieutenant Governor. The exhibit is now available for viewing on the State Library's Flickr site.

If you are interested in learning more about the women who have served in the Massachusetts Legislature, the State Library holds the legislative papers of fifteen women legislators, occupying approximately 200 linear feet. These materials are located in the Special Collections Department in Room 55 of the Massachusetts State House, open 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

The Massachusetts Women in Politics exhibit was co-presented by the State Library of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators during their 75th Anniversary year. Thanks to Bruce DiLoreto and Mark Kasianowicz for many of the photos and to Marietta Carr for her research.

- The Marketing Committee

Monday, December 19, 2011

State Library Receives National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

The State Library is happy to announce that it has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for 2012! The Preservation Assistance Grant provides funding for the continuation of the Massachusetts Room Preservation Project, a multi-year project that began in 2009.

A previous NEH Preservation Assistance Grant in 2010 supported the systematic repair and preservation of several important sub-categories of collections within the State Documents Collection (the Massachusetts Room, 20th Century Massachusetts maps, legislators' papers). The 2012 grant will continue this work, focusing on ephemeral materials housed in the Massachusetts Room.

For more information about the grant award, please see the National Endowment for the Humanities' press release. For more information about the preservation work performed as part of this multi-year project, please click on the "Massachusetts Room Preservation Project" label in the gray box at the bottom of this post.

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Swift Action, Strong Bonds: the Origins of a Holiday Tradition in Boston

Have you ever pondered the origins of Boston’s official Halifax Christmas tree tradition? The story behind the generously lit tree displayed in Boston Common, marking the beginning of the holiday season, is one that originates from the horrors of a devastating accident that shook Halifax, Nova Scotia one wintery morning in December, 1917. 

On Thursday, December 6, 1917, Halifax, Nova Scotia experienced a powerful explosion—one that is still considered the largest man-made, non-nuclear accidental explosion in history. A French munitions ship, the Mont Blanc, transporting 2,300 tons of pyric acid, 35 tons of benzene, 200 tons of dynamite, and other chemicals collided with the Belgian Relief steamer, Imo, as the steamer maneuvered down the wrong side of the Bedford Basin to avoid other vessels. The Mont Blanc caught fire immediately, and soon after the crew, aware of the extremely dangerous situation, was ordered to abandon the ship. As it drifted toward the piers and the city’s residential and industrial north end, a series of small explosions drew the attention of Halifax citizens preparing for the day. A few minutes after 9:00am the Mont Blanc exploded entirely, causing a fiery mushroom cloud to rain hot iron fragments from the destroyed ship down onto the city. 

The force of the explosion sparked a series of chain reactions. A tidal wave crashed down over nearby neighborhoods; men, women, and children were swept from the lower streets into the harbor where they drowned. Fires raged uncontrollably, tremors could be felt as far away as Prince Edward Island, and blasts of wind caused by the explosion fractured and toppled buildings throughout. A day after the accident the Halifax Herald vividly described the destruction: “Buildings over a great area collapsed, burying men, women and children. Tug boats and smaller vessels were engulfed and then a great wave washed up over Campbell Road. Fires broke out and became uncontrollable, stopping the work and rescue. Not a house in Halifax escaped some damage, and the region bounded on the east by the harbor, south by North street (sic) and west by Windsor street (sic), is absolutely devastated. The wounded and homeless are in different institutions and homes over the city … Hundreds of the bodies which were taken from the ruins are unrecognizable and morgues have been opened in different parts of the city.” (Friday, December 7, 1917) It is estimated that about 2,000 people died as a result of the explosion. A vast number of those who survived suffered injuries, many of which were disfiguring, and thousands were left homeless. Property damage climbed above $30,000,000. 

The Massachusetts State House received news about the accident at approximately 11:00am. Under the leadership of Governor Samuel W. McCall, Massachusetts, especially Boston, began immediate work to organize relief efforts. McCall sent a series of messages, including the following, to the Mayor of Halifax: “Understand your city in danger from explosion and conflagration. Reports only fragmentary. Massachusetts ready to go the limit in rendering every assistance you may be in need of. Wire me immediately.” “Since sending my telegram this morning offering unlimited assistance, an important meeting of citizens [Massachusetts Public Safety Committee] has been held and Massachusetts stands ready to offer aid in any way you can avail yourself of it. We are prepared to send forward immediately a special train with surgeons, nurses and other medical assistance, but await advices from you.” With his previous messages left unanswered, and fully aware of Halifax’s urgent and dire need for medical assistance, McCall made the decision that Halifax could not afford any delay:“Won’t you please call upon Mr. Ratshesky for every help that you need. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will stand back of Mr. Ratshesky in every way. Respectfully yours, Samuel W. McCall Governor P.S. Realizing that time is of the utmost importance we have not waited for your answer but have dispatched the train.” A train carrying a corps of surgeons, doctors, nurses, and medical supplies pushed through blizzard conditions and reached Halifax on December 8th. 

In a report written for Governor McCall by A.C. Ratshesky, the Governor’s representative and Commissioner-in-Charge, he describes his first encounter upon arrival with C.A. Hayes, General Manager of the Canadian Government Railways and West Springfield, MA native: “He was so affected that tears streamed down his cheeks. He arose and greeted me with: ‘Just like the people of good old Massachusetts. I am proud of them.’” (December 8, 1917) A meeting was held by the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee at Faneuil Hall, resulting in the establishment of a relief fund which raised $100,000 on the first day alone. Supply ships loaded with donated goods were sent from Boston to Halifax, and arrived at their destination 3 days later. Boston and other cities around Massachusetts continued to tirelessly pull together to raise money and collect provisions that were soon after delivered to the devastated city. 

 In 1918, Halifax gifted to the city of Boston a giant Christmas tree as a token of appreciation and remembrance for the immediate assistance that the Boston Red Cross, the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee, and the citizens of Boston provided during the most critical and darkest period after the 1917 explosion. In 1971, the practice was reinstated and has since continued as a yearly holiday tradition that signifies humanity and selflessness in times of disaster. Two of the digitized images above were adapted from original photography that can be found in Manuscript Collection 90, located in the State Library’s Special Collections. Also included in this collection are reports prepared by the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee and other officials, meeting minutes, records of aid distribution, letters, and photographs that document the damage in Halifax and efforts to rebuild. 

Kaitlin Connolly 
Library Technician, Reference Dept.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kindle Downloads Now Available!

The State Library of Massachusetts is pleased to announce that e-book downloads are now available for the Amazon Kindle through the C/W Mars consortium. Permanent state employees with a State Library card may borrow a book for their Kindle reader or another electronic device equipped with the free Kindle app.

Please visit the C/W Mars Digital Catalog to browse the titles available for the Kindle and the Kindle Help page to get started borrowing your first e-book today!

-Libby Johnson, Reference & Outreach Intern

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seals of Massachusetts Cities and Towns

One of the treasures in the Special Collections Department is a scrapbook titled Seals of Massachusetts Cities and Towns. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture donated it in 1924 but it is not clear who originally began the collection. Alan Fox, an Assistant Librarian at the State Library, included additional seals in 1967. Seals in the first section are embossed and generally on white paper which makes it difficult to appreciate the amount of detail included. However there are some on metallic and colored papers that show details more clearly. The other section of the volume contains printed seals which generally include a white background and one other color for text and pictures.

These seals are used to authenticate official documents and all of them include the name of the city or town and the year it was incorporated. The majority also have, in the center space, a picture related to the city or town’s beginnings. A useful reference for understanding the significance of the depictions used for these seals is Town and City Seals of Massachusetts (State Street Trust Company, 1950-1951) which is available in the State Library.

This is a selection of seals used in Massachusetts since the 1600’s. Find the remainder of the collection at the State Library's Special Collections Department.

Kate Boutin, Special Collections Intern

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Halloween Storm of 1991

Twenty years ago, the interaction of three meteorological events produced an extreme nor'easter that became known as the Halloween Storm of 1991. The subject of much media attention at the time, interest in the storm was renewed after the 1997 publication of of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. The book tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a swordfish boat that was lost at sea attempting to return to Gloucester in the midst of the storm. While the exact fate of the three men aboard is unknown, their story was later dramatized in the 2000 film adaptation of Junger's work.

Through the collections at the State Library of Massachusetts, one can revisit the history of this devastating storm from multiple perspectives. In addition to Junger's book, library patrons can also explore newspaper articles that report on the storm's destruction and process of recovery in coastal communities. Proquest is an excellent electronic resource for accessing full text articles from the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald is available via the Library's microfilm holdings. At the time, news reports drew the comparison between the Halloween Storm and the Blizzard of '78, an issue examined in a 1994 report by the Army Corps of Engineers. The report, titled Coastal Storm Evaluation Halloween Storm of 1991 offers a wealth of information about the storm itself, as well as the significant impact that it had from Nantucket to Portland, Maine. The damage experienced by each community is described in detail and illustrated in striking color photographs.

Combined, these State Library resources offer a depth of information on an event that touched the lives of many Massachusetts residents. Please contact the Library if you are interested in viewing these items or learning about what else the collection has to offer.

-Libby Johnson, Reference & Outreach Intern

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Large Exhibit, Two Small Cases

With a dazzling array of binding colors, lettering styles, and subjects, the seven-case exhibit Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1840 to 1930: Collections from the State Library of Massachusetts was extraordinarily popular, but had to come down eventually to make way for the new exhibit, Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth. Although the full bindings exhibit is still available digitally on the Library's Flickr site, the library wanted to continue to display a selection from this exhibit on a much smaller scale. The question was, how?

This is where I came in! As a preservation intern beginning in September, my first assignment was to help the Preservation Librarian, Lacy Stoneburner, take down the full exhibit and design a much smaller one using the same materials. First, I looked at the approximately eighty books from the original exhibit, knowing that I had to pare these down to about ten. I also realized that the large text panels that "told the story" were too large to keep with the books and fit in the smaller cases. So, what essence of the original exhibit could I retain?

While the two small display cases did not have enough room for one volume from each decade from 1840 through 1930, I wanted to maintain a wide range of publication dates, and to include one 1938 paper-covered book representing the end of the era of decorative publishers' bindings. I chose covers in cloth and wood veneer, in red, black, green, blue, and yellow, and many with eye-catching gilt lettering. Finally, I wanted the volumes to represent the wide variety of the books' subject matter, which included almanacs, histories of places or battles, and educational books covering topics from steam to nature studies.

How did I do? Come visit the two exhibit cases just inside the entrance to the State Library, Room 341 of the State House, and you can decide!

Posters of the original exhibit are available for $8 in both the library administration office (Room 341) and in the Special Collections department (Room 55). Shipping options are also available. Please let us know if you have any questions by calling (617) 727-2595.

-Colleen McGhee-French, Preservation Intern

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Celebration of Facial Hair in the Legislature

Anyone who has been on a library tour I've given in the last four years will know that one of my favorite library collections is Photograph 361, which contains approximately 3,000 images of state legislators from 1855 through 1908. While my love for old photographs plays a part in my devotion to this collection, the anthropological study of facial hair trends presented in this collection is really the draw for me.

Changes in facial hair styles have a long history, and until recently were primarily guided by the ruling monarch or clergy, some even specifying in law or edict which class of men should shave and which should grow their beards. The last true heyday of facial hair in the United States occurred in the last half of the 19th century when, heavily influenced by European trends, men grew all styles of moustaches, sideburns and beards. In fact, from Abraham Lincoln's presidency (1861 - 1865) through Grover Cleveland's second term (1893 - 1897) only one President lacked some form of facial hair: the clean-shaven Andrew Johnson.

Members of the Massachusetts legislature did not escape these trends. For example, in the 1880 House of Representatives photograph album, 230 of the 244 representatives pictured wear some sort of facial hair! The diversity of styles worn is truly amazing and I highly recommend visiting the Special Collections department to look through these albums.

As shaving technology advanced (led by Massachusetts-based King C. Gillette) beards began to fall out of fashion. By the early 1900s a safety razor with disposable blade made it easier, safer and less expensive for men to shave regularly. The impact of this technology can be seen in the 1915 volume of Who's Who in State Politics. When facial hair is present, it is predominantly relegated to a well-trimmed moustache. Very dapper, but quite the contrast to the free-wheelin' 1880s styles.

Today there is a resurgence of men growing full and intricate moustaches and beards. With the second annual National Championships of Beard Team USA set for this weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania I thought it appropriate to comb our digital collection for a few fine examples of beards and moustaches from the past. Please click over to the State Library's newest Flickr set, "A Celebration of Facial Hair Trends in the Legislature" to see some amazing styles and learn a bit about the men who wore them so elegantly.

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

African Americans in the Massachusetts Legislature Exhibit Now on Flickr

In the winter of 2009 the State Library displayed an exhibit called "African Americans in the Massachusetts Legislature." This exhibit is now available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

The exhibit documented the lives and contributions of noteworthy people who have served the General Court of the Commonwealth and changed Massachusetts history. Legislators highlighted include Lewis Hayden, Royal Bolling, Sr., Royal Bolling, Jr., Bill Owens, Shirley Owens-Hicks and Mel King, among others.

Please visit the State Library (State House - Room 341) Monday through Friday, 9am to 5 pm to view the library's current exhibit, "Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth," open though January 27, 2012.

- The Marketing Committee

Saturday, October 1, 2011

State Polka Turns Thirteen

Did you know that Massachusetts has an official polka song?

On October 1, 1998 acting governor Paul Cellucci signed “An Act Designating the Words and Music of "Say Hello to Someone in Massachusetts” the Official Polka of the Commonwealth”. Paul E. Caron introduced the measure as H.B. 5472 and it was enacted by the House of Representatives on September 17, 1998 and the Senate on September 21. The words of the song are particularly fitting this time of year as the leaves start to change color:

“So they say you booked a flight and you’ll be leaving.
Is it business, is it pleasure, is it both.
And they say that you’ll be landing in New England,
What a perfect time of year you chose to go,
The weather’s fine out there, this time of year is lovely.
With all the color and the mountainside to view...”

From electronic resources like InstaTrac to our extensive print collection, the State Library of Massachusetts has a wealth of resources to offer individuals interested in legislative history. Please contact the Library if you think we can be of assistance with your research.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth

You are invited to visit the library's newest exhibit, Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth.

In this exhibition, materials from the State Library of Massachusetts' collections highlight the history of Worcester and its contributions to Massachusetts and America.

The exhibit runs through January 27, 2012 and can be viewed outside of the library, room 341 of the State House. Can't make it to the library? View the digital exhibit on the library's Flickr site!

Image adapted from Birdseye View of Main Street, circa 1900.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Massachusetts Book Awards Must-Reads Arrive

This was an exciting week for the bibliophiles at the State Library with the arrival of the Must-Read Books of 2011 from the Massachusetts Center for the Book. These books represent the best of the best of writing by Massachusetts authors or on a Massachusetts theme. With works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and even children's and young adult literature, there really is something for everyone. Please come by the library to see these wonderful additions on display or even check one out for your own leisure reading. Don't forget to stay tuned on October 20th when the winners in each category are announced at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Center for the Book and Mass Book Awards Celebration, right here at the State House!

For more information about the Massachusetts Book Awards, please visit the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

-Libby Johnson, Reference & Outreach Intern

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Decorated Bindings Exhibit Extended

Due to popular demand, the Decorated Publishers' Bindings exhibit has been extended. The exhibit will remain open through Tuesday, September 20th.

Love the exhibit? Take home a memento! Posters are available for $8 in both the library administration office (room 341) and in the Special Collections department (room 55). Shipping options are also available.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brown Bag with Noah Berger from Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center

Brown Bag on the
Budget and Policy
The State Fiscal Crisis: Short Term and
Long-Term Causes, and the Consequences

Join us for a BROWN BAG LUNCH on
Tuesday, September 20th 2011
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442 State House
12 noon until 1:30 PM
Bring your lunch and hear Noah Berger, President of The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), provide in depth analysis on our state fiscal crisis examining the immediate and longer term causes.
The presentation will also examine how fiscal policies in Massachusetts compare to those in other states, and how the performance of our state economy stacks up.
MassBudget is widely viewed as a go-to resource for accessible, independent research and analysis of state budget and tax policy, as well as economic issues with particular attention to effects on low and moderate income people in Massachusetts.
The presentation will also include a short demonstration of MassBudget’s unique and user-friendly Budget Browser, an online interactive budget tool for searching state budget information from Fiscal Year 2001 to present.
Learn more about MassBudget before the Brown Bag Lunch by visiting http://www.massbudget.org/
To RSVP, please go to : http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2F5C2HY
You may also do so by calling the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or by e-mailing Reference at reference.department@state.ma.us

Sponsored by the Friends of the State Library

Monday, August 29, 2011

Love that Dirty Water? Not Quite

Earlier this year a library staff member brought me a badly water-damaged item. What follows is a photo essay of the preservation process. Here's how the item looked when it first arrived in the preservation lab:
It kind of looked like a topographic map had been added to the cover. The item was dry when I received it, and my best guess is it had been in the path of a periodic leak. The drying and subsequent wetting of the item could cause rings of varying sizes. A close up of the title and images:Sediment from the water was left at the edges of the puddles as the water dried, creating dark rings of hardened sediment. The rings from a slightly different angle:

The cover of the book has a glossy finish which both saved this item from being destroyed and allowed for cleaning. Using a cotton swab dipped in distilled water, I carefully tested one small area of the cover to see if it would come clean. This test showed positive results and I began slowly cleaning the entire cover. After a bit of cleaning, this was the result:

The top layer of dirt was removed from the majority of the cover and many cotton swabs were used in the process. Blotter paper was put on both sides of the front cover and the item was placed under weights overnight. This process helped to draw out any remaining dampness from the cover and help prevent further warping from water absorption.

After the remaining area of dirt had been cleaned, I was left with only the toughest areas of residue to clean.
The first layer of dirt had been easy to lift with just a damp cotton swab. However for this next phase of cleaning, I swabbed on a bit of distilled water and let it sit for about one minute before I began lifting the dirt with a damp cotton swab. This technique proved quite effective, though I was careful to keep the water used on the item to a minimum. If I had to leave the item for any substantial amount of time I would sandwich it between blotter paper and put it under weights.

The result of this detailed work is an item that looks remarkably beautiful when compared to its pre-preservation state:
There is still a bit of staining along the top edge where the water was able to migrate between the glossy top layer and the backing paper. Removal of a section of the glossy layer might aid in further cleaning, however I am reluctant to remove it as it includes the grid design seen throughout the cover. A custom phase box will be the last step in preserving this item. I leave you with one final shot of the title and images:

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Thursday, August 25, 2011

91st Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States constitution, granting women the right to vote, became law. Here in Massachusetts the state legislature had approved in June "An Act to Enable Women Voters to Vote at Primaries and Elections When Qualified." You can read the preamble to that Act on the right, and the full text of the Act is available through the State Library's website.

A celebration of Women's Equality Day will take place on Friday, August 26, from 11am to noon at the Swan Boats Pavilion of the Boston Public Garden. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will be the guest speakers. You can find more information about this event at the Attorney General's website.

Happy Women's Equality Day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brown Bag on the Massachusetts State Archives

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
On Thursday, August 25th, 2011
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442 State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Dr. John Warner,
Archivist of the Commonwealth, speak about resources
and programs of this important division of the Secretary
of State’s office. He will provide handouts and will answer
questions about the historical documents available for researchers
at this Columbia Point, Boston, location.
To register, RSVP to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H2NTJXB
You may also let us know you will attend by calling the Reference
Department at 617-727-2590 of e-mailing to reference.department@state.ma.us

Sponsored by the Friends of the State Library

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Slight Diversion

Work on the Massachusetts Room Preservation Project is moving at a swift pace, with the lab preserving over 3,900 items in fiscal year 2011. One of the items that came across my workbench in this time was a series of four reading lists published in 1919 by the library of the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst (now UMass Amherst). Each card is approximately three and a half inches by five inches and includes numerous titles on a given subject. The reading list shown at left is on the topic of sports and recreation. Other topics in the reading list series include flower arranging, gardening and the domestic arts. These reading lists can be found in the Mass. Room under the call number 630.72M3J A27r. In these hazy days of August, I encourage you to heed the words of H. More:

The mind ought sometimes to be diverted, that it may return the better to thinking.

Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

World War I Scanning Project Completed

As part of a long-term State Library project to make as many collections as possible available to the public through the web, we have been at work since late 2007 digitizing a collection of World War I portraits given to the State Library by the Boston Globe in 1935. With over 8,000 photographs and three times as many corresponding biographical cards, we have also created a database that includes basic information about each soldier – assignment, rank, merit awards, and sometimes even extra facts from newspaper clippings.

On July 20, scanning was finally completed—8,487 New England soldiers yielded over 11,000 images! The final photograph is of J.W. Zwinge, member of the 101st Field Artillery, Battery A. Although the last photo scan suggests the end of an era, the database will continue to grow with over 25,000 biographical cards that have yet to be added. In addition, over the coming months these images will be added to our digital repository. To view a selection of photos from the collection, please visit the State Library's Flickr page.