Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Preservation Week -- A Glimpse into our Preservation Lab

Preservation Week is here, so it is my pleasure to share with you a little bit about what I do as a preservation professional. While I work in the Special Collections department as the Preservation Librarian, I oversee the collection maintenance and in-house preservation/conservation treatments for the whole library. My ultimate goal is to conserve, preserve and protect our circulating and non-circulating material to the best of my ability using the resources we have in our Preservation Lab. The tools that I have in the lab are critical to ensuring quality work, and that the collections get the best care possible. The lab is filled with tools ranging from document repair tape to a sizeable encapsulator. Each item is so important, and so useful, that they each deserve their own blog post!  However, in the interest of time, I would like us to take a look at the lab basics. These are items that I use almost every single day, and couldn’t produce quality work without.

Preservation tools

Much of the work my intern and I produce in the lab begins with surface cleaning. Before any type of material is re-housed, repaired or encapsulated, it has to be cleaned. In the image above you will see the tools we use to make this happen. Soft brushes sweep away dirt, grime, and debris. Surface cleaning sponges are two-sided tools that we can use to clean documents (with the white, soft side) or artifacts (with the blue, rough side). Q-tips can be used for small areas that need spot cleaning, and erasers are perfect for getting rid of stray pencil marks that we often times find in our atlases or directories.

Book cloth

Repairing books is a major responsibility of the Preservation Lab. Regular readers of our blog will know that we recently underwent a significant cataloguing project that entailed physically going through our entire collection. There are many books in the lab awaiting repair; loose pages, damaged spines, and missing cover boards are included in their ailments. These are the tools that I will go to constantly to make these books like new again (well, almost!): White adhesive, applied with a standard painting brush is a necessity, as is book cloth. In the above image you can see a large sheet of book cloth that can be cut to size, and a roll of self-adhesive book cloth, which is perfect for spine repairs. Tissue paper, when interleaved between pages and covers, helps keep the adhesive from sticking to any area that it should not. The small spray bottle of de-acidification spray is a handy tool and a necessity when items are becoming yellowed or fragile.

Book clamps

Once books are repaired, we can use weights or book clamps to hold them together until the adhesive dries. In the above picture, my intern Andra is setting up a book in a book clamp.

Bone folders

As in the images above,  these items, though they be small, are used several times a day for a number of different projects. Bone folders (left) are used to fold and crease mat board, smooth book cloth, and mark fabric. Micro-spatulas (right) are used for lifting tape, removing adhesives, book-binding, and for putting adhesive in those small, hard to reach areas.

These gadgets (above) are always accessible to Andra and me, as we use them on a daily basis as well. We have dozens of the weights at our fingertips for when we are binding books or flattening objects. Pencils, scissors, rulers, and utility knives ensure that we cut mat board, paper, and book cloth straight and even every time. A PH pen can let us know if material is turning acidic; this helps us figure out what conservation and preservation efforts should be taken so that the item does not deteriorate even more. Tweezers help lift fragile items for re-placement or to lay Japanese tissue paper down for mending. The blue handle with the round metal wheel is used to score mat board or fabric, so we know where to fold or cut.

One of the final steps in our conservation and preservation efforts is to make sure that the material that we repaired, and the rest of our collection, is properly housed. We do this by having archival quality, acid-free supplies on hand. Document boxes, folders, envelopes, and photograph sleeves are always on hand so that we can re-house our paper material, books, and photographs properly. If a book is in need of its own box, one can be fabricated, like the ones above, to suit its measurements.

I hope you enjoyed your glimpse into the lab. Check in with the State Library of Massachusetts every day on Twitter during Preservation Week to get tid-bits on how you can take care of your family documents, photographs, and scrapbooks at home!

Kelly J. Turner
Preservation Librarian

Monday, April 28, 2014

In Honor of Preservation Week: Preserving a Historic Album

In 1904, students of the Classical and English High School in Salem, Massachusetts created a historical photograph album depicting “Salem and Vicinity.” The unpublished manuscript is a compilation of write-ups, images, and photographs - all constructed and organized by the pupils. The outcome was a visually interesting and in-depth look at all of the historical landmarks and significant people of Salem and its surrounding areas. The album contained a preface written by then principal A.L. Goodrich, who described the book as a “collection of photographs of public buildings and places of historic interest.” Four students from Classical and English High School prepared the photographs used in the album: Harry Batchelder, Harry Bates, Edward Harlow, and Nathaniel Simonds. Harry Bates passed away before the album was completed, and his father stepped in and finished his son’s part of the project. Thirty-two upper classmen put an obvious amount of time and effort into this project, and it was part of our collection that deservedly needed some attention.

The damage on the album included a spine in poor condition, loose cover-boards, a detached signature (group of pages), and leather binding that has since decayed and flaked away. I began the conservation/preservation treatments by gently taking apart the cover-boards, spine, and text block with a scalpel. The spine, and what was left of the cover, was coated in Cellugel – a strong consolidant used for the prevention of leather deterioration. It’s important to salvage as much as you can from an original piece. As they dried, I moved on to cleaning the spine and covers. This included removing all of the material that will not be used in the construction of the new book – old tape, deteriorating book cloth, old batting, and spine mesh. I was left with a clean text block and book covers that were ready to be assembled.

Re-assembling the photo album began with applying fresh batting to the covers with archival quality adhesive. Batting was used as part of the construction of the original album, and we try to keep things as close to the original as possible. As they were setting, I cut some book cloth to size; this entailed measuring the spine of the book and cover-boards to ensure ample coverage. Once the batting was affixed to the cover-boards and the book cloth was properly measured and cut, I adhered the cover-boards to the cloth, leaving a space in-between them for the text block. The text block received a fresh strip of spine mesh – a reinforcement material for sewn spines. The text block was then placed in between the cover-boards, flanked with wax paper, and allowed to dry.

With the cover-boards, text block, and book cloth set-up, it was time to tip-in the loose pages. Tipping-In is a phrase used to describe the process of affixing an item to the text of a book. This process was completed by using a mix of Japanese tissue paper and adhesive, to paste the pages into the book. Once it was dry, I was able to move on to one of the final steps – reinforcing the cover boards with strips of archival paper.

Once all parts of the album were dry, it was time to focus on re-applying the original pieces of leather. The front was glued down with adhesive. The spine, given its fragile nature, would have been further damaged if I attempted to re-attach it. Instead, I constructed a four-flap enclosure – a protective container for permanently storing fragile items. This way, the album and the spine can be housed together safely.


Kelly Turner
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Adopting and Amending a Charter in Massachusetts

Chapter 4 Section 7 of the Massachusetts General Laws defines a charter as:
‘Charter’, when used in connection with the operation of city and town government shall include a written instrument adopted, amended or revised pursuant to the provisions of chapter forty-three B which establishes and defines the structure of city and town government for a particular community and which may create local offices, and distribute powers, duties and responsibilities among local offices and which may establish and define certain procedures to be followed by the city or town government. Special laws enacted by the general court applicable only to one city or town shall be deemed to have the force of a charter and may be amended, repealed and revised in accordance with the provisions of chapter forty-three B unless any such special law contains a specific prohibition against such action.
A charter works as a municipal constitution, acting as the authority on how a city or town’s government is structured and run; it is also subject to amendments and revisions by the municipality.  Municipalities have different options for plans of government:  “Model city charters” (A,B,C,D,E,F), which can be found in Chap. 43 of the M.G.L.; home rule charters (Chap. 43B); and “special act charters” granted by the Massachusetts legislature.  How are changes made to municipal charters?  There are three main routes through which a change can be made:

1. Electing a Home Rule Charter Commission:  Established by the 1966 Home Rule Amendment (Art. LXXXIX) to the Massachusetts Constitution, it allows a city or town, upon the initial petition of 15% of registered voters, to elect and create a 9-member charter commission to amend or prepare a municipal charter.  Once elected, the commission begins weighing the options for structural changes to the local government.  The process relies on the participation of the city or town’s residents through public meetings and public hearings, and both a preliminary and final report must be published by the commission.  When the charter proposal is submitted to the voters during a municipal election, it must be adopted by the majority of the voters.  Home Rule procedures can be found under Chap. 43B and in Article LXXXIX (89) of the MA Constitution.

2. Home Rule Petitions:  Some cities and towns have created their charters through special legislation passed through the Massachusetts General Court (“special act charters”).  Amendments to this type of charter are also usually submitted to the legislature, and when they are passed they become part of the group of statutes called “special acts.”  Before the adoption of the Home Rule Amendment in 1966, this type of petition was the only way for a city or town to make structural changes.

3. Bylaws and “permissive” legislation:  Any city or town can adopt enabling state legislation (“permissive” legislation) or create bylaws (ordinances) to make select changes to the administration, structure, or organization of the local government.  Various sections in Chap. 41 of the MGL offer options for permissive legislation, as well as in Chap. 40N and 43C.  These types of changes require a town meeting or town election vote.

Article I from Attleboro’s city charter.Currently, Attleboro is one of 20 Massachusetts cities,
or one of 90 Massachusetts communities total, that has adopted a “home rule charter”.

For more information, please visit the following web sites:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Dept.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Mayors of Boston who had been members of the General Court

Martin J. Walsh
On January 6th of this year, Martin J. Walsh became Boston’s 54th Mayor. Walsh had had a long career in state government, having served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 until his swearing-in as Mayor. He follows a long list of Mayors of the city who were also in the Massachusetts legislature. When he was in the House of Representatives, Walsh represented the 13th Suffolk District. He had been elected in a special election in 1997 and was in that seat until his resignation on January 3rd of this year.

Raymond Flynn
Mayor Raymond Flynn, elected in 1983, was the city’s 52nd Mayor. He had represented the people of the 7th Suffolk District in the House of Representatives from 1971 through 1979. In 1978 and for the years directly before he was elected Mayor, he was a member of the Boston City Council. Flynn became Mayor in January 1984 and served until he resigned his position after being appointed on July 1st, 1993 by President William Jefferson Clinton to serve as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See.

John F. Collins
Mayor John F. Collins was elected to two Mayoral terms and was in the office of Mayor from 1960 through January of 1968.  He was the 50th Mayor of the city.  Previously, he was a member of both houses of the General Court, in the House from January 1947 until January 1951 and in the Senate from 1951 through 1954. The House district was the 10th Suffolk and the Senate the 5th Suffolk. After leaving the Mayorship, Collins worked as a news analyst for Boston’s Channel 7 and became a Professor of Urban Affairs at M.I.T.

James Michael Curley
Perhaps one of the best known politicians from Massachusetts, James Michael Curley, served as 41st, 43rd, 45th and 48th Mayors of Boston. His years in that office were 1914-1918, 1922-1926, 1930-1934 and lastly, 1946-1950. During his last term, having been indicted for mail fraud, he was imprisoned for five months. Curley’s political path took him to the Governorship and to membership in Congress. His term in the General Court was short and covered the years 1902-1903. The District he represented at that time was known as District No.17- Ward 17.

Massachusetts is  known for its political culture and for a history deeply touched by the political process.

The State Library of Massachusetts is the perfect place to research Massachusetts officeholders, such as these examples of Mayors of the capital city.  To learn more about these four political figures and to garner much more about their careers, please visit us in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Brown Bag on the History and Collections of the State Library

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Thursday, April 17th,  2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear the State Library’s Head of Special Collections, Beth Carroll-Horrocks, talk about the Library’s history and its collections. She will bring examples of many of the formats, including maps, rare books, manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, and of course, state government publications.

To register, please visit: You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or send an email to to let us know you will attend.

Future Brown Bags planned for 2014:
  • May 22nd, 2014 - Nancy Lusignan Schultz, author of Fire and Roses: the Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834
  • June 19th, 2014 - Stephen Puleo, author of The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to the Civil War

Monday, April 7, 2014

Early Legislators’ Biographical Data: Manuscripts 138 & 151

Memorandum filled out by Senator Moody Merrill of the
1st Norfolk District in 1874.
The State Library is home to a collection of documents that provides important insight into the personal and political lives of mid-to-late 19th century Massachusetts legislators.  From 1868 through 1892 the editors of the Boston Journal compiled what they called “memoranda” as part of an effort to collect data about contemporary state legislators. Also known as Manuscript 138, the collection consists of sheets of questions that were originally mailed out to the House and Senate members annually in order to gather information about their lives, occupations, political views, past offices they held, and military service—among others.  What makes this collection so interesting and unique is that each of the memoranda is filled out by the legislators themselves during their terms in office. They were subsequently returned to the Journal editors, and then at some point were bound together by year.  In the letters that were distributed by the Journal in Nov. of 1868 it states:

Our object is to obtain statistical tables for present use, assuring you that no publicity will be given to the information, offensive in the slightest degree to you personally. 
Such information, when properly presented, is of great value to the officers of the two branches, and facilitates public business, by making members acquainted with the antecedents of their legislative associates.
Memorandum filled out by Representative
Henry Cabot Lodge of the 10th Essex
District in 1880.
The responses (or lack thereof), and how legislators chose to respond, are fascinating to look at.  Some answers are short and concise; others required additional pages to fit everything they wanted to say.  Some political platform-based questions were answered confidently and with long explanations; other legislators refrained from answering them altogether. It’s also not uncommon to find additional materials inserted with the memoranda, such as legislators’ business cards or newspaper clippings, which may have been included by either the legislators themselves or the Journal employees.

Although the Journal’s collection does not extend past 1892 (with 1874 being incomplete), it’s important to note that this was not the only effort undertaken to gather information about members of the Massachusetts General Court.

State Librarian Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast was driven to collect as much biographical information about as many past and contemporary Massachusetts state legislators as possible.  From 1884 to 1909, he mailed letters out to anyone he felt might be able to give him the information he was seeking:  town clerks, librarians, legislators and their relatives, etc.  In fact, he estimated that he had sent out more than 75,000 letters and questionnaires total.  This 35-box collection of correspondence, also known as Manuscript 151, is the prime source for our “Legislators’ Biographical File”—a index file that continues to be updated today.

For more information about our collection of legislative memoranda and correspondence, please contact our Special Collections Department at 617-727-2595.  The library is open 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian