Monday, September 27, 2021

Online Guides to the Art Collections of the Massachusetts State House

Did you know that the State House Art Commission’s recent publication Women Subjects, Women Artists in the Massachusetts State House Art Collection, can now be downloaded as a PDF from our online documents repository? This guide offers a wealth of information about the history of female representation, as artist or subject, in the State House’s art collections. And for those who enjoy looking at pictures (as I do!), this guide is full of carefully curated color and black & white images of paintings, sculptures, murals, photography, portraits, and more!

Our online repository also has downloadable guides by the Commission, the Secretary of State, and by the State Library that cover other interesting facets of the State House’s art collections:

The legislature’s website also offers a virtual tour of selected locations in the Massachusetts State House, which allows online visitors to explore additional art pieces on display that might not be included in the publications above:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, September 20, 2021

Preservation Albums on Flickr!

Have you been to our Flickr page recently? Two albums made their debut there earlier this year: Collection Repair & Preservation and Preservation Tips

In Collection Repair & Preservation, we invite you to take a peek into the State Library’s preservation lab to see a compilation of past collection repairs and preservation measures taken to ensure the longevity of our collection. And in Preservation Tips, we share tips that can be easily applied to your own collection at home to make sure that books stay in tip-top shape! 

Additions will be made to both of these albums as new content is produced, so be sure to bookmark them and check back! And if you have any questions about our preservation practices, reach out to us by email to

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, September 13, 2021

Commonwealth Watch Party with Isabel Wilkerson and Conversation with Byron Rushing and Roopika Risam

Register Online

You’re invited to a statewide watch party! Join us on Wednesday, September 22, at 7pm to watch Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson as she discusses her new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, in a video recorded for the National Book Festival. Then you’ll get the chance to join in a live community conversation led by former Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing and Salem State University Professor Roopika Risam

This free online event is brought to you by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and libraries across the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the Library of Congress and the National Book Festival 2021. Open to all, this “Festival Near You” event promises to be a lively and informed discussion of the diversity, equity, and inclusion issues sparked by Wilkerson's analysis.  

Isabel Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize and the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. Her second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, made its way to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. In 1994 she received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her work with The New York Times, and in 2016 President Barack Obama awarded Wilkerson the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history."

Byron Rushing served for 36 years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a leader in the Boston delegation, rising to the position of Majority Whip. During his tenure, Representative Rushing advocated for and sponsored bills in the areas of health care, civil, human and gay rights, justice reform, drug addiction, and gun safety, among other initiatives to promote social and economic justice in the Commonwealth. He was a founding member of the Library Caucus in the Legislature and served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library. Prior to his time in the legislature, Rushing was active in the civil rights movement, working for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and also served as director of the Urban Change Program at the Urban League and as President of the Museum of African American History. 

Roopika Risam is Chair of Secondary and Higher Education and Associate Professor of Education and English at Salem State University. Widely published, supported, and cited for her scholarship in postcolonial and African diaspora studies and humanities knowledge infrastructures, Dr. Risam is developing “The Global Du Bois,” a data visualization project on W.E.B. Du Bois. She also serves as editor or officer of numerous organizations promoting social justice, feminism, digital humanities, ethnic studies, and change in higher education. Her latest collection is The Digital Black Atlantic. She also cohosts “Rocking the Academy,” a podcast featuring interviews which explore the future shape of higher education. In 2018, the Massachusetts Library Association awarded its inaugural Civil Liberties Champion Award to Dr. Risam for her progress in promoting equity and justice in the digital cultural record.

You may participate fully in the live community conversation without having read Caste in its entirety. For background, you may wish to consult the information below: 

To register, please visit: 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Labor Day Legacy

Today, Labor Day is generally when many Americans take a break from working and enjoy a nice long three-day weekend. But why are we able to enjoy leisure on Labor Day, and how did this holiday come to be? The state and then federally approved holiday was created during a long battle for workers’ rights throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

During the period now known as the Industrial Revolution, many states moved from a primarily agrarian economy to that based on industry and manufacturing, and business was booming. In Massachusetts, textile manufacturing became the dominant industry, and many of the commonwealth’s current towns originated as mill towns: settlements that developed around a mill or factory. Lowell, Massachusetts was the first large scale factory town in the United States and it was originally praised as the “cradle of the American Industrial Revolution.” Demand for textiles and other manufactured goods continued to rise during the 19th century, and production superseded working conditions in importance. Many workers would work 12 or more hours each day in crowded and cramped factories. As conditions continued to decline, factory workers began to organize and ask for higher pay, better and safer conditions, and shorter hours. Often, factories would employ children and new immigrants to the United States who would work for less and were generally less likely to strike.

Female mill workers (1910).
Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

As more and more workers joined together to fight for better conditions, the labor movement grew throughout the country. Activists and organizations wanted not only better conditions in the factories, but also recognition for the workers who were the backbone of the new industrial economy. In 1882, union leaders in New York organized the first Labor Day parade, where 10,000 workers marched through the city streets and enjoyed festivities such as speeches, fireworks, and dancing. In February 1887, Oregon became the first state to designate Labor Day as an official holiday, and Massachusetts was right behind them, passing their own holiday designation a few months later in May.

Chapter 263 of the Acts and Resolves of 1887 designating
the first Monday of September as Labor’s Holiday, or Labor Day.

However, the creation of Labor Day did not end the worker’s rights and labor movements – far from it. Strikes continued throughout the United States, and often the suppression of these strikes broke out into violence. In May 1886, the Haymarket Riot in Chicago saw days of demonstrations marked with violence between workers demanding an eight-hour day and police ordering the crowd to disperse. On May 4, a bomb detonated, killing both civilians and police officers. This violent event inspired many socialist activists to declare May Day, not Labor Day, the holiday honoring worker’s rights. However, the background of May Day was perceived as too radical, and President Cleveland urged state legislatures to recognize the September Labor Day instead.

Lawrence strike, strikers, 1912. Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

Despite these holidays, strikes, demonstrations, and clashes with local government and law enforcement continued throughout the United States. In an attempt to placate strikers and activists, the U.S. Government made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894, but many activists saw the holiday designation as little more than a conciliatory act. The labor movement continued to grow, expanding throughout factories, mills, and other industries. Massachusetts would continue to be a battleground for workers’ rights, with the most famous events being the Bread and Roses Strike (or Lawrence Textile Strike) in 1912 and the Boston Police Strike in 1919. You can find more information on these strikes and others in the State Library’s exhibit One Hundred Years Ago: Massachusetts in 1919. In response to many of these events, the Massachusetts state government created commissions such as the Minimum Wage Commission, which published reports on wages in different industries. Read our blog post about the minimum wage in Massachusetts here.

The United States would finally pass the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, in which the federal government created a minimum wage, mandated shorter work weeks, and created restrictions on child labor. Labor Day remains on the American calendar as an early testament to the workers who built the United States and fought for the rights and benefits that we enjoy at our jobs today.

Further Reading: 

Related State Library Blogs and Collections:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter - September issue

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