Monday, April 26, 2021

Celebrate Preservation Week with the State Library

Happy Preservation Week! The American Library Association has designated April 25 through May 1 as a time to promote and advocate for preservation work. At the State Library, the work done in our preservation lab helps to maintain the integrity of the collection and ensure that historical resources will be accessible for generations to come. 

Each month, we select one collection item to share in our virtual display case and this month we’re combining that with Preservation Week to feature an item that needs a little bit of work. We’ve been working remotely since March 2020 so hands-on preservation work has been paused until we resume on-site, but one of the last items to be sent to the preservation lab was a small book published around 1774. In its current state, a past librarian made a cover out of regular office paper for this pamphlet, since it had lost its original title page, and the cover and book are stored together in an acid-free envelope. According to the handwritten cover, it is Letters Regarding Affairs in Boston, Mass. From the Point of View of the British Government, 1774. An additional notation reads that pages 1-2 and 119-end are missing. But with the original title page missing, we wanted to try and confirm the actual title of this pamphlet. While working remotely, we were able to use the few images that we had, and the text within those images, to search for and then compare our content with a digital copy of a pamphlet held in the collection of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. From that comparison, we believe that this pamphlet is Sagittarius's letters and political speculations. Extracted from the Public ledger. Humbly inscribed to the very loyal and truly pious Doctor Samuel Cooper, Pastor of the Congregational Church in Brattle Street by John Mein and Samuel Cooper, printed in Boston “By order of the Select Men and sold at Donation Hall, for the benefit of the distressed patriots.” Historian and author J.L. Bell has written about this collection of letters over on his blog Boston1775. While being an interesting and historically significant item, this pamphlet also highlights the need for preservation work within our library. 

Even though this pamphlet was housed in an acid-free envelope, it is still in poor condition and needs some preservation attention. Within our lab, we have the capabilities to clean, re-house, mend, and restitch items from our collection. If a repair is beyond our scope, we can send items off-site to the Northeast Document Conservation Center for more extensive work. While we will not be able to assess this item and determine its treatment plan until we’re back on-site, we can tell from the images that it is dirty, the edges are ragged, there is adhesive tape from a previous repair effort, there is page loss, and that some of the stitches binding it together are loose.

But what caused this damage in the first place? We can make a guess that general handling and poor storage largely contributed to the deterioration of this pamphlet. Dust, grime, and oil from hands can build-up over time and lead to the discoloration of the pages. Handling it too roughly can cause dog-eared pages and tears, and storing it in an improper enclosure, or without one completely, will expose the item to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, light, and dust. After the item has been repaired, we’ll try to limit any further damage by doing a little bit of preventative preservation. This comes in the form of training our library staff and researchers on the best practices for handling fragile Special Collections materials. And we’ll also try to digitize the pamphlet so that the original can remain safely stored while the content can still be accessed electronically.  

This week we’ll be posting preservation content daily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We hope that you’ll follow along as we celebrate Preservation Week 2021, and if you have any preservation questions, reach out to us by email or comment on any of our posts! 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

New Databases Now Provided by the State Library

The State Library is pleased to announce that it is now providing Massachusetts state government employees with remote access to and! Once the Library reopens to the public, on-site access will be available to all patrons.

***For state employees with a State Library card, you will be prompted to enter your library card # and password to access these databases remotely. See below if you have any questions.*** (Library Edition) is a great resource for those interested in their family history or for more in-depth genealogical research. Users will have access to millions of original US and international documents (vital and military records, census schedules, probate documents, criminal records, etc.), photographs, indexes and directories, oral histories, and much more. 

Note: Ancestry is currently offering remote access until the end of September and will evaluate if an extension is possible, after which only on-site access in the library will be offered. (Northeast Collection)’s Northeast Collection offers access to thousands of historical papers that were published in the northeast region of the United States between the 1700s and 2000s. Massachusetts newspapers include those published in Boston, Fitchburg, Fall River, Lowell, North Adams, and Pittsfield. The collection also includes newspapers for other then New England states, as well as New Jersey and Delaware.

Note: will continue to provide remote and on-site access. 

Need a library card? Have questions?

For state employees that do not have a library card or have a card that’s lost or expired, fill out our card application form and we’ll get back to you asap: 

If you have an active card but do not remember your password—contact us! We can reset it for you and show you how to manage your password from your library account. We can be reached via email at and are also happy to answer any additional questions you may have.

Reference Department   

Monday, April 12, 2021

Mike: The First Cat of Massachusetts

While exploring, I was delighted to stumble upon an article that is about a couple of my favorite subjects, cats and libraries. What was even more captivating is that the cat worked in the State Library!  The December 8, 1920 issue of the Boston Post featured Mike, one of the cats that lived in the Massachusetts State House. Mike was a special cat that made an impression on everyone he encountered in this large and bustling building. 

“The story of his remarkable rise from an abandoned-for-dead alley-way kitten to the stately boss of the State House is a story that every cat at present seeking out meagre existence from garbage boxes should know and draw courage from.” 

Mike was rescued by the State House boiler inspector, Harry Morton. He was nursed back to health and found a home in the State House. The cat earned his keep by hunting and killing the rodents that also occupied this historic building.  

Mike was known to roam the halls and visit all of the departments. Even Governor Calvin Coolidge enjoyed Mike’s company, as the cat would often curl up and sleep on the rug next to the Governor’s feet as he was working at his desk. Whenever Governor Coolidge was away, Mike kept his seat warm and would hold down the official chair. State House staff figured that Mike knew when Governor Coolidge was away and thought it was his responsibility to take the helm.

One day Mike got into a brawl with a very overbearing black cat, and this battle caused quite a stir in the State House. 

“Bits of black fur strewed the marble corridors of the State House, but the cat they came from was seen no more.”  

Then came a threat on Mike's life. The Sergeant-at-Arms of the State House decided there should be no more cats and ordered Mike killed. Despair fell upon Mike's many foster parents in the engine room. Finally, it was decided that Engineer Thompson should take Mike home.

“Word reached the library. Down came the librarian in fury. The State House simply could not get along without Mike. Since his arrival not a single book has had to be rebound. No rat or mouse lived long enough to set tooth in the precious tomes that contained the State's records. Mike had seen to that. Previously hundreds of dollars had to be spent in repairing books.”

The librarian saved the cat’s life, so Mike stayed! On his sixth anniversary with the State House, the engineers presented him with a collar on which was engraved, "Mike--State House."

Hopefully, Mike lived a long life and continued to help the librarians out with his special skills. If you want to read more interesting articles about Massachusetts history, the library will soon be getting and to complement its collections. We will let you know soon when these databases are available and give you more details. If you have any questions, please email us at

This article was clipped from the Boston Post, Boston MA- December 8, 1920, Wednesday, Page 7.

Coming soon to the State Library! 

Dava Davainis
Head of Reference and Information Services

Monday, April 5, 2021

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

This April we are highlighting one of the many maps found in Special Collections. Over the past few years, we have undertaken a large project to catalog and re-house our map holdings, which has consequently brought many great maps to our attention. One of those is this month’s virtually displayed item, a view of Boston and the surrounding suburbs from 1905.

One of the most notable aspects of this map is its orientation, which has Boston as a center focal point but with the eastern part of the state in the foreground, and the western part of the state extending into the background. From this vantage point, the viewer can easily see all of the Harbor Islands, and the coastline south to Nantasket Beach and Hull and north to Lynn Beach and Nahant. In addition to identifying important landmarks and locations, the map provides a good deal of additional illustrative details. For example, look closely to see a depiction of Boston Light on Little Brewster Island and Fort Warren on Georges Island. What other details can you spot in the harbor?

As the map moves inland, rolling hills, rivers, ponds, and forests are shown, and there is even a tiny Wachusett Mountain in the far reaches. Beyond landforms, the map also highlights the growing populations of Boston’s suburbs, as represented by dense illustrations of buildings. Boston and Cambridge are the most densely populated, but the map shows development in the surrounding towns, out to Braintree, Norwood, Natick, and Concord. Railway lines and major thoroughfares are also shown, illustrating how the towns are linked and emphasizing the ease in which one can get both to and from Boston and around the Commonwealth.

The map was published by George H. Walker & Co., a prolific lithographer based in Boston. Our collection includes several maps published by Walker, dating from the 1880s into the early 1900s and showing Massachusetts towns and other New England states. Be sure to click on the above image to examine all of the careful details included in this map.

This month marks one year of sharing our collection with our readers through our “virtual display case.” We remain grateful for the opportunity to highlight items from our collection even though we continue to work from home. To revisit our past exhibited items, be sure to check out our tags for FY 2021 and FY 2020.


Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter - April 2021

 The March issue of the Friends of the Library newsletter is out! Click here to download your own copy.