Monday, January 27, 2020

The Thomas P. Kennedy Papers Are Now Open for Research

I am very pleased to be working on the Legislative Papers Processing Project for the Special Collections Department at the State Library. Not only do I get to call the State House my “office,” but I have had the pleasure of getting to know Massachusetts state legislators – through their papers - that represent districts other than my own.

One of the first things I learned on the project is that every collection is different, from the size of the collection to the type of records found within. The papers reflect each legislator’s unique districts, their areas of legislative focus, and their relationship with their constituents.  So far, I have processed the collections of Representative Carlo Basile, Representative Frank Smizik, Representative George Peterson, and Senator Richard Ross.  These collections are now open to researchers in the State Library’s Special Collections Department, in Room 55 of the State House.

Today, I want to tell you about one other collection that I have processed, the Thomas P. Kennedy Papers.  Thomas Patrick Kennedy was a long-time legislator and familiar face around the State House. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, he was the youngest child of Robert A. Kennedy, Jr. and Mary Louise Cruise Kennedy. 

Thomas Patrick Kennedy, 3 Months,
With Love from Your Father, Bob

After his high school graduation, Kennedy entered the Our Lady of Hope Seminary in Newburgh, New York. His intention was to become a priest, but an accident at the seminary in 1970 left him a quadriplegic. After some years of recovery and reflection, Kennedy redirected his ambitions to public office, where he could satisfy his need to be useful to his community.  His first government job was as the Brockton City Ombudsman, a role he held for several years. He followed that by becoming the Ward 2 member of the Brockton City Council.

Thomas Kennedy, Brockton Ward 2 City Council,
circa 1983

Certificate declaring Kennedy had won
his bid for Ward 2 seat on the Brockton City Council.

Kennedy and his mother Mary Cruise watching
the City Council election returns, 1978.

Kennedy soon cast his goals higher and ran for state office, representing his district for over thirty years, first as a Massachusetts State Representative and then as a State Senator. Sadly, Kennedy passed away in June of 2015 at the age of 63, due to complications from pneumonia.

State Representative photo shoot, 2004

The Kennedy collection, which was donated to the Special Collections Department by his family, is an interesting mix of professional and personal records. Some things that you will learn about Kennedy by studying his papers:
  • You will see his long career documented, perhaps by his mother, in scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings.
One of two oversize scrapbooks found in
the Kennedy collection.

  • His career began long before the internet, so in the correspondence you will find handwritten letters, notes, greeting cards, and postcards.  If you have some time to read the letters and thank- you notes, you will discover that Kennedy was well-liked by all who knew him.  His correspondence documents his many acts of kindness, help, and advice to his family, friends and constituents. Here you will also discover that his family and friends called him “Monty” - a nickname from his nephew, A.J. Kennedy, who as a young boy couldn’t pronounce the name Tommy, but could say Monty. 
  • Kennedy had planned to be a priest. Although that did not come to pass, you will find that he remained a man of deep faith. He considered his Honorary O.M.I (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) in 1978 to be one of his greatest honors. 

Invitation to Kennedy’s Honorary
OMI celebration, 1978

  • Kennedy was very interested in his Irish roots and surrounded himself with all things Irish. He had great love and pride in his family, especially his mother, who lived to be 101 years old. He invested time in genealogical research of his family in Brockton, Ireland, and Nova Scotia. And his signature color was green, which you will find in his campaign materials. 

Brochure from Kennedy’s
1992 State Rep campaign

Bumper sticker from Kennedy’s 2008 State Senate campaign

One of the things I love about being an archivist is the ability to preserve the voices of the past for the benefit of future researchers. In working on Kennedy’s papers, it became clear that I was not only preserving a record of his legislative career, but I was also preserving a glimpse into his big-hearted personality, his enduring faith, and his pride in his family and hometown. I am glad that I had the opportunity to “meet” this remarkable Massachusetts legislator. The collection is now open to researchers at the Special Collections Department if you would like to learn more about him too.

Kennedy with his cousin, Sean Cruise,
at the State House, 2006

Deanna Parsi
Special Collections Department

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Legislative Paper Processing Project at State Library

The State Library is proud to announce a new project to process the papers of legislators that we have in our collections. Two excellent contract workers have been with us since late last year: Deanna Parsi, who has already completed the processing and cataloging of the papers of Richard Ross, Carlo Basile, George N. Peterson, Frank I. Smizik, and Thomas P. Kennedy. She is currently working on a large collection of papers of Gloria Fox. Christopher Lewis has completed work on the Scott Brown Papers; his current project is  the papers of Jay Kaufman.

For each collection, their work includes biographical research on the legislator; an initial survey of the unprocessed papers; writing a processing plan, including deciding on series and arrangement; sorting the papers; re-housing materials when necessary; writing a finding aid; creating a record for our online catalog; and depositing the finding aid in our digital repository, DSpace. They will also write a blog post for each completed collection.

Watch our blog for information about the collections as they become available for research. The staff of the Special Collections Department will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Public Records Law Compliance: What the State Library can do for you

Three full years have passed since the “Act to Improve Public Records” went into effect on January 1, 2017 so where are we now with the effort to make state and municipal agency records available to citizens with just the click of a mouse? Not quite there yet, unfortunately, but moving in the right direction.  One vast improvement is that the new law required each state and municipal agency to designate a “Records Access Officer” (RAO) who would be in charge of answering all requests for public records in writing within 10 business days, thereby providing a legal framework for accountability and responsiveness.  The law also set limits on fees that could be charged by agencies for time and preparation of records to fulfill requests which previously could have been seen as prohibitive. 

The RAO also must report all requests made to the Secretary of State’s Public Records Division searchable repository, making it straightforward to find out what is being requested from each agency. The law also mandates that every agency “shall provide on a searchable website electronic copies, accessible in a commonly available electronic format, of the following types of records:”

  • final opinions, decisions, orders, or votes from agency proceedings
  • annual reports
  • minutes of open meetings
  • notices of proposed regulations and hearings
  • winning bids for public contracts and grant awards 
  • agency budgets
  • any information of significant interest that the agency deems appropriate 

This is quite a long and comprehensive list, so how can an agency that is already busy easily comply with the law?  Simple!  Just send your publications to the State Library and we will provide permanent access to them for FREE in our DSpace digital repository and relieve you of the custodial and archival burden of managing them!  All you have to do is link to your document collection on your website and leave the rest of the details to the State Library.

How can you do this? For more details check out our How-to Page on Submitting State Documents and upload via our handy submission form.  Questions?  Need help? Please feel free to call us or email us at

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Exhibit: The State Library of Massachusetts: Serving the Commonwealth since 1826

The State Library invites you to view our newest exhibit, The State Library of Massachusetts: Serving the Commonwealth since 1826. This exhibit follows the library’s history from its humble beginnings as a program to exchange statutes with other states to its official establishment by the General Court in 1826 to its current status as a research library focused on providing online access to its many resources. The exhibit describes how much the State Library has grown, changed, and improved, in its collection size and scope, administration and governance, staffing, users, physical location, and especially in the services it provides.

The exhibit runs from January 13 through July 3, 2020, and it can be viewed outside of the State Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can also browse the exhibit online through the library’s Flickr page

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Monday, January 6, 2020

On Display in the State Library

Almanacs provide a glimpse into the coming year, and as we turn the page to 2020, the State Library is looking back at some of the historic almanacs in our collection. On exhibit in the library through January 29 is a selection of Isaiah Thomas’s New England Almanac. Thomas published the almanac from 1775 through 1803, at which point his son continued publication through 1819.

Similar to today’s almanacs, these pamphlets look to the year ahead and provide tide, lunar, and weather data, along with important historical dates and general information or “anecdotes.” Anecdotes cover everything from human anatomy, to postage rates, to recipes for manure. Each month is depicted with an illustration and also includes a brief verse, poem, or narrative that continues as a serial from month-to-month. In an introductory letter from the editor in the 1797 edition, Isaiah Thomas wrote that “I have ever made it a practice to present you with something each year which should be worth more at the end of it than the price you gave for the almanac” and with all of the information provided, it seems as though he delivered on his word.

We are currently displaying the almanacs from 1797, 1800, and 1812. A close examination of the title pages of the 1797 and 1812 almanacs allow us to note the change in price over fifteen years – the almanac increased from 10 cents to 12 ½ cents for a single, and 75 cents to 87 ½ cents for a dozen. During this range of years, it is also important to note the change in publisher from Isaiah Thomas to his son, Isaiah Thomas, Jr. The 1800 almanac is on display opened to the January pages, in part so that we can compare our weather to what was predicted 220 years ago (snow on January 6-8, 13-18, and 25-29, along with “foul weather” on the 21 and 22).

Isaiah Thomas was born in Boston in 1749, where he was apprenticed at the age of seven to a printer named Zechariah Fowle. At the onset of the Revolutionary War, Thomas moved to Worcester where he continued his printing business. He was a participant in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, but he is also remembered as the founder of the American Antiquarian Society, a learned society and national research library that actively continues today. Thomas donated his papers, books, and newspapers to the AAS and served as its president until his death in 1831.

Frequently when an item goes on exhibit in the library, it needs a little bit of preservation work beforehand. But none of these almanacs needed any work by us because they recently underwent treatment at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). The State Library holds fourteen editions of the almanac, dating from 1797 to 1813. The conservators at NEDCC cleaned each one and mended any tears. The pages were resewn and then the pamphlet was digitized. The almanacs are now in much better condition, though they remain somewhat fragile and the library must limit their use and handling. We are thrilled for the opportunity to display a selection of them this month in our special exhibit case.

By Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian