Monday, June 24, 2024

New Search Feature for Select Digital Collections

In the final installment of our blog post series about searching State Library of Massachusetts Digital Collections (SLM Digital Collections), we’ll be sharing a few extra search tips plus showcasing a new feature for searching three frequently used collections.

Before we get into the main part of this instructional post, here are a few additional search pointers:
  • Looking for a specific keyword or phrase and want to return documents that only contain a specific keyword or phrase? Use quotation marks around the keyword or phrase to get results only containing that keyword or phrase.
  • Search specific fields by entering the field name (dc.title, followed by a colon and a keyword. This particularly helpful if you are looking for a document that has a title with a keyword anywhere in the title rather than using the searching by title feature. For example, typing dc.title:boat in the search box will return search results for documents with “boat” somewhere in the title.
  • Combining a search of specific fields can be done by using Boolean operators in the search box. For example, entering AND dc.title:test in the search box will give results for documents published in 2010 and that have “test” somewhere in the title.
  • It is also possible to do a wildcard search with an *. For example, entering boat* into the search box will return results for documents containing boat, boating, boathouse, and any other variants with the root boat-.

Now let’s dive into how to leverage the search skills we learned in earlier posts in the series plus the additional search tips above to make the most of the newest search feature!

Last week a new search feature was added to the following digital collections:

At the top of the main collection pages, you will see underneath the collection summary in the header a hyperlinked caption Click here to search the contents of this community. When you click the links on one of these main collection pages you will be redirected to a search results page where it is preset to search that specific collection. In the example here we navigated the main collection page for the Acts and Resolves collection by going to the Communities & Collections tab on the navigation menu and clicking on Acts and Resolves in the list.

Next we click on the link in the description to search all the Acts and Resolves 1692 to present day.

But what if we instead had a specific date or date range in mind? There are a few ways of going about this. First, we can simply navigate to a specific subcommunity or subcollection within the Acts and Resolves collection. The subcommunities and subcollections for the Acts and Resolves are organized by date. Here we’ve selected the subcollection for 1982.

The second way of going about this can be a little complicated but it is good to know about for collections without the handy search link in the description. To keep things simple, we will continue using the Acts and Resolves to demonstrate the second option to do a date range search. It is possible to do range searches for dates in specific date fields. The date field most useful for research is since this field refers to when a document was published by a government entity.

To do a search for a specific timespan format the search like[1978 TO 1997] to return results inclusive of dates between 1978 to 1997. After the search result page refreshes navigate over to the Settings on the lower far left and select in the Sort By dropdown menu Date Issued Ascending. This will sort the results in order from 1978 to 1997.

For a wildcard search for anything beyond a specific date which includes that year format the search like[1978 TO *]. In theory this should return results up until present day but occasionally the search will only return results up to certain point. In this instance running the wildcard search for a date range like 1978 to present only returns results for 1978 to 2010.

Other ways to search within a specific date range include filtering by date. Or if you are just looking for single date using it as keyword in your search is a good method.

If a specific issue or topic is being researched in the context of Acts and Resolves and the exact year may not be known but at least the chapter number is, a Boolean search can be a powerful tool when the chapter number is combined with a keyword or phrase. For instance, entering “Chap. 0523” AND boats in the preset search results page for the entire Acts and Resolves collection will give you all the relevant results that mention Chapter 0523 and boats.

Suppose we are looking for a specific act issued in 1982 for designating a boat ramp in Plymouth Harbor as The Leo F. Demarsh Memorial Boat Ramp. In this scenario we know which chapter in the 1982 Acts and Resolves we are looking for, Chapter 0523. To immediately return the exact result we are looking for we can enter the query in 1 of 4 possible formats:
  • “chap. #XXXX” (example: “chap. #0523”)
  • “Chap. #XXXX” (example: “Chap. #0523”)
  • “chap. XXXX” (example: “chap. 0523”)
  • “Chap. XXXX” (iexample: “Chap. 0523”)
Always be sure to include quotation marks around the query so a phrase search runs and returns results for a specific chapter. Without the quotation marks a keyword search will run in DSpace and provide more results that are less specific to what you are searching for. Here we can see entering “chap. 0523” gave us exactly what were we looking for in the 1982 Acts and Resolves.

Similar approaches can be taken to searching specific subcommunities and subcollections in Bills (Legislative Documents) and House and Senate Journals, and the Massachusetts Registers after selecting the search link in the description in the header. Like the ones for the Acts and Resolves these links are preset for searches for the entire collection or specific subcommunities and subcollections.

If you want to get started on a search in the SLM Digital Collections and want to review the steps on how to get started, read our blog post from March that gives instructions how to begin. You can also read a post where we took a closer look at applying a search refining technique called a Boolean search to your SLM Digital Collections searches to yield more precise results.

Be sure to check out this post from January about browsing basics if you’re stumped about how to use the browsing filters.

You can always reach out to our reference department for assistance by emailing them at or calling 617-927-2590. Or if you are visiting our reading room, come up to the reference desk and someone can help you.

Emily Crawford
Technical Services Librarian

Monday, June 17, 2024

Embracing the Beauty: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Massachusetts

A view of Walden Pond, a DCR state reservation
Welcome, nature lovers, to the celebration of Great Outdoors Month! As we get ready to embrace the beauty of the natural world around us, let's first look into the history behind this annual occasion.

Great Outdoors Month is a call to our deep-rooted connection with nature and a reminder to appreciate all the great outdoors has to offer. The history of Great Outdoors Month can be traced back to a time when Americans were beginning to realize the importance of preserving our natural landscapes and fostering outdoor recreation. It was President Bill Clinton who first recognized the significance of this movement by declaring the first Great Outdoors Week in 1998. This landmark proclamation laid the foundation for what would later evolve into a month-long celebration of all things outdoors.

Since then, every June has been dedicated to honoring our parks, forests, rivers, and trails. From the magnificent landscape of the Berkshires to the quiet beauty of Cape Cod, Massachusetts offers outdoor enthusiasts a wide variety of opportunities. Hike along the picturesque trails of Mount Greylock, the state's highest peak, or paddle through the calm waters of the Charles River. Whether you're a trained adventurer or a casual nature lover, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Additionally, Great Outdoors Month in Massachusetts isn't just about recreation; it's also a time to celebrate the state's ongoing commitment to conservation and environmental protection. Currently, one of Governor Healey’s priorities is “Climate & Clean Energy.” The Healey-Driscoll administration has created a new Climate Chief position and has goals of “doubling offshore wind and solar targets, quadrupling energy storage deployment, electrifying the public transportation fleet,” and much more. Read more about this initiative and others here.

Governor Healey highlights proposed clean energy investments in
Mass Leads Act at Ascend Elements, photo courtesy of massgovernor Flickr

Through other initiatives like the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's Park Serve Day, volunteers come together to clean up and maintain our beloved outdoor spaces, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come. 

Since we are the State Library, we wanted to bring your attention to some of the resources we have that can help you celebrate Great Outdoors Month and learn about the beauty surrounding you in New England.

Historical titles:

Browsing/travel titles: events and resources

If you’d like to take a look at any of the titles above, feel free to visit us. We’re located in Room 341 of the State House and are open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

We hope that you enjoy the remainder of Great Outdoors Month! Whether it's hiking through the forest, fishing in a sparkling stream, or basking in the warmth of the sun in your own backyard, there are plenty of adventures waiting for you. Happy Great Outdoors Month, everyone!

Jessica Shrey
Legal Research Reference Librarian

Monday, June 10, 2024

Pride Month Spotlights from the Special Collections Department

Special Collections houses numerous legislators’ papers pertaining to LGBTQ+ issues. Featured here are two of those collections in honor of Pride Month:

Ms. Coll. 138: Jarrett T. Barrios Papers, 1996-2005

Jarret Barrios image
courtesy of
Jarrett Barrios served as a member of both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate and became the first Latino and first openly gay man elected to the Massachusetts Senate. Barrios came to Cambridge at age 17 to study at Harvard University from his home state of Florida. After graduating, he worked as a legislative aide for Boston City Councilor David Scondras. In 1992, Barrios entered law school at Georgetown University where he graduated with honors. In 1998, he was elected as the State Representative for the 28th Middlesex District. He was reelected in 2000 without opposition. In 2002, the voters of his Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex District elected him to the State Senate, and he was re-elected without opposition in both 2004 and 2006. Barrios was the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and served on the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, Transportation, Housing, Public Health, and Municipalities and Regional Government committees.

Ms. Coll. 138 includes subject files on a variety of Barrios' legislative activities and interests, including the Community Reinvestment Act, bilingual education, insider trading, public housing, correction reform, breast feeding, emergency room interpreters, domestic partnerships, and same sex marriage. Materials include meeting notes, clippings, memoranda, press releases, agendas, schedules, correspondence, publications, photographs, and various reports and studies. Of particular interest is the material pertaining to same sex marriage, including information about the Defense of Marriage Act and civil unions, as well as correspondence from constituents protesting and supporting same sex marriage.

You can find more information about the Jarrett T. Barrios Papers in our digital repository here.

Ms. Coll. 165: Denise Provost Papers on Legislation Concerning Gender Identity and Nondiscrimination, 1997-2017, bulk 2014-2016

Denise Provost was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 27th Middlesex District in 2006 and served until 2020. Prior to being elected, Provost worked as Assistant City Solicitor and Alderman-at-large in Somerville. Provost received her bachelor’s degree from Bennington College and a law degree from Boston University. During her tenure as state representative, Provost served on numerous committees including the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Joint Committee on Revenue, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, and the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. As the representative for the 27th Middlesex District, Provost cosponsored a bill concerning gender identity and nondiscrimination with Representative Byron Rushing in 2015. Bill H.1577, known as An Act Relative to Gender Identity and Nondiscrimination, aimed to close a loophole in the 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Act, which allowed transgender people to be discriminated against in public accommodations. The language in this bill was ultimately signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on July 8, 2016.

Ms. Coll. 165 contains personal papers related to Denise Provost’s work on the Transgender Public Accommodations bill, including newspaper clippings, press releases, city ordinances, correspondence, publications, court decisions, and committee meeting material. Also included in this collection is the material Denise Provost used to research the bill, such as information relating to transgender rights in the United States and specifically in cities across Massachusetts. Drafts of the bill and amendments made to the bill are included in the collection.

You can find more information about Denise Provost’s Ms. Coll. 165 in our digital repository here.

Both Jarrett Barrios’ and Denise Provost’s collections are open for research in the Special Collections Department. If you are interested in accessing these papers, please contact us by email to schedule a research visit. Happy Pride from the State Library!

Alyssa Persson
Special Collections Processing Librarian

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Brown Pelican Swoops into the Library

It's summer time, which means it's time to share shorebirds in our Audubon case! On display from June 7 through July 11 is plate 421, the brown pelican. Those of us in New England states might not easily see the brown pelican in the wild, as it is more commonly found along the southern East and West Coasts, and into Mexico and South America. It is shown here perched on one leg along the shoreline, with a lighthouse in the distance.

The brown pelican had been placed on the United States endangered species list in 1970 because the use of pesticides was threatening its existence. However, with the banning of several pesticides, the brown pelican population increased to the point that it was removed from the endangered list in 2009 and is now considered a species of least concern. Efforts to protect the brown pelican date to the early 1900s, when then-president Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island in Florida as the first federal bird reservation.

From the look of this pelican, you can guess how it feeds! Pelicans fly low over water in search of fish and then swoop down and scoop them up. Read more about the brown pelican in the Audubon Field Guide and visit our reading room to see this print in person.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

State Library Newsletter - June Issue

It's June and there's a lot happening at the State Library! From Author Talks to seasonal displays to new reference resources, catch up on all our news in this month's newsletter. 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.

Monday, June 3, 2024

On Display in the State Library - The Massachusetts Mercury

Step back in time with this month’s Collection Spotlight item. On display for the month of June is a bound volume of The Massachusetts Mercury from 1796, open to show the front page from June 21 and the last page from May 24. Take a look at the pages to see the advertisements, news articles, and shipping departure schedules that Bay Staters would have reviewed themselves over 225 years ago!

The Massachusetts Mercury was a tri-weekly newspaper, founded in 1793 and published once every three weeks by Alexander Young and Thomas Minns from their office on State Street in Boston. Following The Massachusetts Mercury through time can be a little confusing, as over the years it changed names numerous times and merged with other papers. Young and Minns were the publishers for several years and the paper was known as The Massachusetts Mercury until 1800 when its name changed to The Mercury and New-England Palladium. It was then known as The New-England Palladium from 1803 until 1814, followed by The New-England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser until 1840, when it merged with other newspapers to become The Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser. At the time of the displayed 1796 publication, the nameplate included the Latin phrase “dulcique animos novitate tenebo” which one of our staff members was able to translate as “and I will possess an open mind towards unfamiliarity” which seems like a fitting motto for newspaper readers.

Since the volume is bound, it is displayed open to show both the last page of the May 24 edition and the front page of the June 21 edition. Because the paper was published only once every few weeks, the content spans a range of dates. The news section includes events that have occurred since the last printing, and the advertisements and notices of auctions are for upcoming dates weeks into the future. Looking closer at the content, the front page shows a surprising amount of information about ships, both listings of departure dates and destinations of passenger vessels, and advertisements to buy vessels, which emphasizes Boston's role as a port city. A fun detail is that each listing also includes a small etching of the ship mentioned! Beginning on the front page and continuing onto the interior pages are international and domestic news, with a heading reading "The foreign news in this day's Mercury will well reward an attentive person. The domestic news is all interesting." The last page is full advertisements, similar to the classified section of modern newspapers, along with a few marriage and death notices. The advertisements provide a glimpse into life in Boston at the end of the 18th century, letting us read first-hand about the types of goods and services that were offered. I've included an image below of an advertisement for watches and other jewelry.  

I like this listing because the address is 51 Newbury Street; in modern Boston, Newbury Street is known for its designer boutiques and elegant shopping, and would likely be your destination if you were looking for a fancy watch or jewelry.  But Newbury Street is part of Back Bay, which wasn't created until the 1860s. A little searching on the history of Boston streets revealed that in the 1700s, Newbury Street existed as part of what we now know of as Washington Street in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston. So even though it is not the same Newbury Street that exists today, it coincidentally would have still been the spot to visit if you were looking for fancy goods. 

As the Library’s Preservation Librarian, I love sharing items from our colonial newspaper collection as part of our outreach program, in part because they are often in remarkable condition given their age. Tour participants and social media followers are surprised to see items that are over two hundred years old in better condition than the 2004 Boston Globe that they saved to commemorate the Red Sox winning the World Series! We keep our newspapers in dark storage with controlled temperate and humidity, but the largest factor to their stable condition is that colonial newspapers were made of rag paper. Colonial paper was made from made from linen and cotton fibers or rags and is much more durable and stable than paper made from wood pulp and it doesn't become brittle or yellowed with age. It wasn’t a quick process, which is maybe why newspapers were only printed every three or four weeks!

Visit us throughout June to see The Massachusetts Mercury on display in our main reading room, and check out the full list of historical newspapers available in Special Collections here

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian