Monday, February 26, 2024

Author Talk with Susan Wilson

The State Library of Massachusetts Author Talks Series returns this March for our 2024 season. We are excited to host author Susan Wilson during Women’s History Month!

Please join us on Wednesday, March 6th at noon, in our historic reading room to hear Susan Wilson discuss her 2023 book, Women and Children First: The Trailblazing Life of Susan Dimock, M.D. We will be livestreaming the talk on our YouTube channel for anyone who cannot make it into the library, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services

About the book: Women and Children First is the biography of Dr. Susan Dimock (1847-75). As the title notes, Dimock was a trailblazer for women in the medical field. Dimock was one of the first female physicians to treat women for their unique health care needs. Dimock became one of the first female surgeons in the country and was well known and respected for her skill. Dimock grew up in North Carolina, but would flee the south during the Civil War and would settle in Boston. Dimock studied medicine at the New England Hospital for Women and Children and at the University of Zurich.

About the author:
Susan Wilson is a photographer, writer, and  multimedia artist. Wilson is a public historian with a passion for Boston history; Wilson serves as the official House Historian for Boston’s Omni Parker House and a Scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center. Wilson holds a B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa), M.A., and A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) in history from Tufts University. In addition to teaching history on both the secondary and college level, Wilson worked as a journalist and photojournalist, her work appearing regularly in the Boston Globe between 1978 and 1996. For more on Susan, her books, photography, and information on her Dimock Project, visit her site.

If you are able to join us in person for this talk, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of Women and Children First. Books are $35.00; cash, check, and Venmo are accepted. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us.

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. Also follow us on Instagram, X, or Facebook for updates! For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site.

Author Talks Working Group

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Collection Highlight: Records of the Community Music Center of Boston

An unidentified student practices
her cello at the South End
Music Center. Photo undated.
In today's blog post, we’re featuring one of the State Library’s most melodious collections, the Records of the Community Music Center of Boston. This collection provides valuable insight into the evolution of the Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB), its educational programs, community engagement efforts, and overall significance within the cultural landscape of Boston. The Records of the Community Music Center of Boston include founding documents, program brochures, annual reports, newsletters, administrative records, scrapbooks, sheet music, film, and a wealth of photographs which capture student performances, classes, and community events. These visual records offer a glimpse into the center and its role in fostering a love for music within the Boston community.

Boston Music School 

The CMCB began as the Boston Music School Settlement, organized by Daniel Bloomfield in November 1910. Its aims were to cultivate musical appreciation, give children of limited means the opportunity to obtain a quality musical education, develop the musical resources of the neighborhood, and foster healthy recreation through music. The school opened with 111 children, 23 teachers, and 7 assistants, and teachers and assistants volunteered their services. The School was formally incorporated on January 16, 1912. Within two years of establishing the School, Bloomfield organized the People’s Orchestra and arranged a series of “Concerts for the People.” In 1920, the settlement purchased a twelve-room house at 41 Allen Street in Boston’s West End. In 1936, a branch school was set up in Mattapan, where pupils too young to travel alone to Boston were taught by members of the faculty. In 1940, the word “Settlement” was dropped from the name, and the charter’s wording was changed to include adults.

Above left: Jan Kabialka, age 7, and Deborah Posen, age 6.
Photo dated September 28, 1955. Above right: Rubin Yuan,
Frances Barnette, Lorraine Mindis, and Mary Barnette. Photo dated 1960.

In 1962, Boston Music School changed its name to Boston Community Music Center, and in 1967, plans were made to merge with the South End Music Centre. In 1968, the Boards of Directors of both schools voted individually to merge and to change the name of the institution to the Community Music Center of Boston.

South End Music School  

Above left: Unidentified music students instructed by a suspiciously young conductor.
Photo dated August 10, 1936. Above right: David Towner of Roxbury, Susan Soong of the
South End, and Nicholas Haddad of the South End, hard at work in a solfege class. Photo undated.

The South End Music School began as a minor activity of South End House, a settlement house. The House had been experimenting with providing musical instruction at a moderate price primarily to residents of Boston’s South End. Due to an increasing demand for lessons, the South End Music School was established as a separate entity in 1912 with the stated purpose of “providing musical instruction at cost or less for children and others of limited means in Boston and its vicinity, and to assist in the musical education of the public by means of concerts, lectures, and public gatherings.” The School gave lessons in singing, piano, violin, and other instruments to pupils ranging in age from four years to adulthood. A junior orchestra, trios, quartets, and a chorus provided a variety of musical experiences for the students. The School’s activities included a senior orchestra and a parents’ association.

Above left: George Foote, left, instructs a group of unidentified student musicians.
Photo undated. Above right: Executive Secretary Flora Gay meets children
outside the South End Music Centre. Photo dated July 30, 1964.

In 1950, it changed its name to the South End Music Centre. Finally, as previously stated, it was decided to consolidate the activities of the South End Music Centre and the Boston Community Music Center in 1968.

Community Music Center of Boston  

Above left: Rhythm demonstration led by Mrs. Erna Fisher. Photo undated. Above right: Christine
Rua leads a recorder group at the Milmore School as part of a CMCB program. Photo undated.

From the CMCB’s website today:

"The CMCB was established in 1910 in the settlement house tradition, founded to promote unity and equity in access to music education across greater Boston. Today, more than a century later, that original mission continues to flourish through the availability of music learning and enrichment to all citizens of greater Boston... CMCB welcomes, includes, and values all voices. These voices will continue to include those from different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, gender, abilities, faiths, nationality, age, and socioeconomic status."

Pictured above right is Leo Levy, age 4 ½, "the youngest pupil in school," photo dated May 1919. You can access the finding aid for the CMCB collection in the State Library’s digital repository, linked here. This collection is open to researchers who want to learn more about this celebrated musical hub for the Greater Boston community.

Alyssa Persson
Special Collections Processing Librarian

Monday, February 12, 2024

Collections Highlight and New Acquisitions: Town Reports!

Did you know that the State Library is the repository for the annual reports of all the cities and towns in Massachusetts? Our collection spans over 300 towns and centuries of local history!

We love looking at the different covers! Check out this sample of reports from 2023 - pictured are the towns of Falmouth, Franklin, Chelmsford, Duxbury, and Egremont.

Town reports offer a snapshot of what life was like in that town during a specific year and are vital contributions to the Commonwealth’s historic record. Compare these two from the town of Chelmsford, issued a hundred years apart from one another! Pictured are Town of Chelmsford Annual Town Report (2023) (top); Annual Report for the Town of Chelmsford (1923) (bottom).

Want to know what was going on in your town 150 years ago? Visit the State Library to see them or visit our digital repository where we have many of them digitized!

A special thank you to all the Town Clerks who have been submitting them!

Maryellen Larkin
Reference & Government Documents Librarian

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Geese in the Library!

We typically try to have our displayed Audubon print align with the time of year, or a month's special occasion or designation. For February, that would mean finding a print that is associated with love, like last year's swans. At first glance, geese might not seem like the most romantic symbol for Valentine's Day, but did you know that they are loyal birds and mate for life? According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), geese are protective of their partners and their offspring, which is shown in this print, with one goose standing guard over the other. And they are so loyal to their partner that after one dies, the other will grieve in seclusion, and might never mate again.

Visit us from February 8 to March 7 to see Audubon's Canadian Geese (Plate 201) on display in our reading room, and read more here and here.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, February 5, 2024

Bird's-Eye View of Cottage City, 1887

This February, in recognition of Black History Month, we are displaying “Cottage City, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, 1887” in our Collection Spotlight case. This map is bird’s-eye view that depicts the town we now know of as Oak Bluffs. From the 1800s onward, Oak Bluffs has been a residential and vacation destination for Black men and women.

The displayed map dates to 1887, which is twenty years before Cottage City was renamed as Oak Bluffs. Cottage City was originally part of Edgartown, which is located to its south, but it was incorporated as its own town in 1880. The name of Cottage City originates from its identity as seasonal destination, as most inhabitants were only living there during the summer. The name changed to Oak Bluffs in 1907 because the town was developing into a more full-time residential area. Since the name Cottage City was only used for twenty-seven years, that makes the map in our collection even more special, as it captures the area during a brief period.

The original inhabitants of Noepe (now Martha’s Vineyard) were Wampanoag and the name meant “land amid the streams.” Colonial settlers first arrived in the 1640s, cultivating the land in the area now known as Edgartown. The first Black individuals on Martha’s Vineyard were enslaved, before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783. After the Civil War, more freed Black people moved to the island to work in the fishing and whaling trade, and this in turn drew more Black men and women to the area from mainland Massachusetts. In the late 1800s and into the 1900s, some Black men and women came to the island to work as service staff to wealthy white families who owned summer homes there, and eventually some of those individuals stayed on the island and bought property in the Oak Bluffs area. As the 1900s progressed, more and more middle-class Black families began to visit Oak Bluffs, either buying or renting properties, and thus creating an increased sense of community. The Martha’s Vineyard African-American Heritage Trail was formed in 1998 in an effort to raise awareness of the island’s Black history. They have currently dedicated thirty-one sites throughout the island that show the contributions of the African-American community. Of thirty-one sites, seven of them are located in the town of Oak Bluffs. You can read much more about the Heritage Trail here and specifically about the seven sites in Oak Bluffs here.

Starting in the 1800s, one of the draws to Oak Bluffs was the Camp Meeting Association, or Wesleyan Grove (number 13, 14, and 15 on the map). This was part of the camp meeting movement, which were multi-day open air Christian religious services that featured sermons, singing, and community. Participants in the summer camp meetings would arrive on the island days before the event, and stay for a time afterward. Originally, they resided in tents, but then built more permanent cottage structures – hence the name “Cottage City.” According to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association website, Frederick Douglass spoke at the Campground in 1876. Both Black and white individuals owned or leased cottages in the Campground area, though segregation did occur. You can read more about the racial history of the Camp Meeting Association on their website.

The stretch of beach shown on the map is now known as Inkwell Beach. This is the town beach, and it was frequented by Black individuals, especially given that beaches in other parts of the island were predominantly white and Black beachgoers may have felt unwelcome relaxing there. The exact original meaning behind this nickname is not known, but one theory is that it was used negatively by white people commenting on the skin color of those enjoying the beach. The Black community, though, has rejected this negative connotation and has claimed the name as its own, thus taking something that might have originally been negative and turning it positive, and taking pride in an area that has a history of being a safe and enjoyable enclave for Black men and women.

Stop by the library from February 2 through February 29 to see this map on display in our main reading room. And for those who can’t visit us in person, a high-resolution version of the map an be accessed through our digital repository. Last February, we displayed a bird’s-eye view map of Nantucket, and highlighted some Black History locations found on it. Check out that blog post here.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, February 1, 2024

State Library Newsletter - February Issue

Happy February! Start your month by catching up with the State Library - from an upcoming Author Talk on 2/21 to new exhibits and books, there's lots of reasons to check us out this month! Read all about it in our newsletter, and then plan your visit. 

Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.