Thanksgiving History at Massachusetts Libraries

Family Celebrates Thanksgiving
A family celebrates Thanksgiving (Courtesy of the Digital Commonwealth)

Between basting the turkey and mashing the potatoes in preparation for Thanksgiving on Thursday, why not take some time to view some of the historic documents that set the stage for the annual holiday? Plymouth Massachusetts was home to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, and Massachusetts libraries have the resources to provide insight of that special celebration.

The Massachusetts State Library located in the State House has a digitized copy of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation.  A State Library blog post outlines the interesting history of Bradford’s famous account of early life in Plymouth:

“The volume’s history is long and complicated, but can be summarized in a few points: between 1650 and 1726 the manuscript remained in the hands of the Bradford family until the family loaned it to Thomas Prince, Rector of Old South Church in Boston.  Prince died before volume could be returned to the family. Legend has it that British soldiers removed the manuscript from Old South Church during the Revolutionary War. In 1855, Massachusetts historian William Barry discovered the volume in the Library of the Bishop of London in Fulham Palace, and then for the next forty years individuals and historical organizations in Massachusetts negotiated for its return. In 1897 the volume was returned to Massachusetts and placed in the custody of Governor Roger Wolcott; Governor Wolcott authorized the State Library to care for the volume.” (http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2015/03/william-bradfords-manuscript-volume-of.html)

In 2012, with support from an LSTA grant administered by the MBLC, the document was preserved at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts. In addition to Bradford’s book the library has digitized copies of the Mayflower Compact, the list of Mayflower Passengers, and an account of “Thanksgiving 1621”. All of these digital resources are easily accessible to download and view here: http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/208249.

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in Plymouth, you can stop by the Plymouth Public Library’s local history room to find out more about the first settlers and their histories. The Bartlett Room “houses the Plymouth Public Library’s collection of over 1200 items relating to the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims, as well as the many other immigrants who settled in the area.” In addition, the library’s website has digitized photos of the Plymouth Tercentenary Celebration. The photos and more information about the Bartlett room can be found here: http://pplma.omeka.net/welcome.

On behalf of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Revolutionary History at a Massachusetts Library

A photograph and a replica of the flag sit outside the room where the original is stored.

By Outreach Coordinator Matthew Perry

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere took his famous ride through Middlesex County warning the residents that British troops were marching west towards Lexington and Concord. The following day, the American Revolution began with battles fought in those two towns. We remember that famous date and year on the 3rd Monday of April, now known as “Patriots Day”. Although it may be better known today as “Marathon Monday”, Patriots Day is still marked with parades and reenactments in both Lexington and Concord, as well as a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride in Boston’s North End.

You don’t have to settle for just a reenactment however, because at the Bedford Free Public Library, there is a piece of history that links back to that day sitting upstairs. As Minutemen from the surrounding towns gathered to help in the fight against the British, Bedford’s Nathaniel Page took what is now known as “the Bedford Flag” with him to the Old North Bridge in Concord. According to the library’s website, it “is the oldest complete flag known to exist in the United States.” The exact origins of the flag are unknown, but it is believed to be a cavalry flag produced in Massachusetts sometime in the early 1700s.

The library’s website elaborates on what the flag looks like:

The flag is a piece of crimson silk damask measuring about 27” long by 29” wide.  This small square shape indicates that it was a cavalry flag.  Into the rich red damask is woven a pattern of pomegranates, grapes, and leaves.  The design is painted on both sides of the flag, mainly in silver and gold.  The emblem consists of a mailed arm emerging from clouds and grasping a sword.  Three cannonballs hang in the air.  Encircling the arm is a gold ribbon on which the Latin words “VINCE AUT MORIRE” (Conquer or Die) are painted. On the reverse of the flag, the design is slightly different: the sword extends in front of the ribbon instead of behind; it is held left-handed; and the motto is read from bottom to top instead of top to bottom.

The library has been in possession of the flag since the late 1800s. In 1998, it was taken to the Textile Conservation Center in Lowell Massachusetts to be restored and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“Bedford is very proud of the Flag” says library director Richard Callaghan, adding “when the Library addition was completed in 2000, funds were donated to display the flag properly, so now it has its own climate controlled, secure room.”

Any visitor to the library is allowed to view the flag in its secure room during the library’s normal hours. In order to see it, stop by the main desk and in exchange for your ID, you are given a magnetic key card to the room where the flag is held. Only five people can be in the room at a time, and no flash photography is allowed.

This year, as you’re getting ready to celebrate our Country’s push for independence, consider stopping by the Bedford library and seeing a flag that was there to witness it all first hand. The Bedford Flag is one of many great treasures found in Massachusetts Libraries. For more information about the flag, and the Bedford Library’s hours, visit their website at http://www.bedfordlibrary.net/.

Libraries in the news (August/September 2016)

Millis library a finalist for historic documents grant

Home to numerous aging documents dating back to the 1700s, the Millis Public Library is in the running to win a grant to digitize the documents for future generations. “When you’re in Boston or Concord, you think, of course, the Revolutionary War happened here,” said Alexander Lent, library director. “But it also happened in Millis.” That is the kind of history Lent wants to protect from future damage by using funds from the Hopkinton-based EMC Heritage Trust Project. (Boston Globe)

Editorial: Keep the light at Brooks Library

It has been a difficult time for Brooks Free Library, the municipal library in Harwich Center, with technical problems that have nearly crippled the institution over the past couple of weeks. With failed lighting circuits, the library has had to shut off access to the building at a time of year when that library is the center of this community, serving more patrons that other libraries of similar size on the Cape. It is the oversight of that library which makes it so popular. Library Director Ginny Hewitt does a tremendous job on a daily basis there. (Cape Cod Chronicle)

SouthCoast programs help keep kids safe, active until school reopens

Libraries that see high usage in the summer are often an obvious choice for free programs while school is out. On a busy Saturday last month, parents and their children participated in a reading project and made ring tosses at the New Bedford Public Library downtown. One-year-old Dylan Kish tossed a paper ring onto a small pole as his mother Meghan Kish and brother Alex Kish looked on. Library Director Olivia Melo said each library has different programs and all are free to the public. A live calendar is available online. The last two weeks had about 17 children participate downtown. (SouthCoast Today)

On your mark, get set, read at Lynn Public Library

On your mark, get set, read. That’s the theme of this summer’s statewide reading program and fit nicely with Lynn Public Library’s bike giveaway Thursday. “I was just very excited because I really needed a new bike,” said 9-year-old Sadiejon Galland, who won a new bike. “My old one is starting to fall apart a lot.” Ten bicycles and two big wheels were distributed as part of the Read and Ride program of the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Massachusetts. (Itemlive)

Jayson Pereira checks the new bike he wonat the Lynn Public Library
Five-year-old Jayson Pereira, of Lynn, checks out the new bike he won in a raffle at the Lynn Public Library. (Photo credit: Paula Muller)

State officials inspire kids to read

This summer, the MBLC challenged all Massachusetts residents to choose four books to read over the summer and share them on social media to encourage others to read as well. The “What’s Your Four?” campaign launched because children who read just four books over the summer fare better on reading comprehension tests in the fall, compared with their peers who read one or none. (MBLC News)

mayor walsh's summer reading list - leonard: my fifty year friendship with a remarkable man by william shatner, a lucky irish lad by kevin o'hara, bound for the promised land by kate clifford larson, and waking up white by debbie irving
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh shared his summer reading picks. It’s not too late to join in and tell us: #WhatsYourFour?

Too poor to afford the Internet

All summer, kids have been hanging out in front of the Morris Park Library in the Bronx, before opening hours and after closing. They bring their computers to pick up the Wi-Fi signal that is leaking out of the building, because they can’t afford internet access at home. They’re there during the school year, too, even during the winter — it’s the only way they can complete their online math homework. (New York Times)

The purpose-based library

Some of you would argue that your library is a nonprofit organization and is not competing with anyone. We beg to differ. Every customer has a choice and chooses whether to go to the library website or Google’s search bar, to either engage the library or order materials from Amazon. Amazon would much rather have its customers buy a book than borrow, and Google would much rather have information seekers search its website than seek out a reference or research librarian. There is no question that libraries compete head-to-head with these for-profit businesses. (American Libraries)

The strange affliction of ‘library anxiety’ and what librarians do to help

In a few short weeks, bright-eyed college freshmen will be ambling onto campuses and into their first lectures. Which means a whole lot of newly minted undergrads are about to get freaked out by their on-campus libraries. Library anxiety is real. The phenomenon, which involves feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by libraries and librarians, was first identified by Constance A. Mellon in 1986. Her paper, “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development,” reported that college students in particular are prone to library anxiety because they believe their research skills are inadequate, which makes them feel ashamed and unwilling to talk to the very librarians who might be able to ease their worries. (Atlas Obscura)

summer reading final event and prize winners
Photos from the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library’s final summer reading event, where participants made seed bombs and won prizes. “Grandma won a FitBit Zip, Mom won a Gaiam back fitness kit, our young helper won a cool ball, and 3 participants each won a one-day fun pass to the Kroc Center!” (@mattapanbranchbpl on Facebook)

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know Are In The Digital Commonwealth

The MBLC is now accepting applications for this year’s Town-Wide Preservation Assessment grant round. It’s an opportunity for Massachusetts libraries to work with a consultant to help them assess, organize, and ultimately digitize their historic and archival collections in the Digital Commonwealth.

Right now, there’s over 440,000 items from 130 participating institutions in this statewide digital repository. It’s a great tool for educators, historians, researchers, students, artists, authors – anybody with an interest in exploring the past through ultra-high resolution photographs, maps, letters, books, paintings, postcards, and more.

With so much content, there’s some bizarre and unexpected stuff tucked in as well. Below are five highlights from four of the most unique collections in the Digital Commonwealth.

1. Birdwing butterflies from the Solomon Islands, part of the Harry C. Belcher Lepidoptera Collection at Tufts Library in Weymouth.

birdwing butterflies from the Solomon Islands

2. Pheasant sculptures from the Castonguay Carved Bird Collection at West Yarmouth Library.

carved pheasant scupltures

3. Food pouches from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection.

food lab food pouches

4. 1974 photo of the “Smithsonian Center for Short-Lived Phenomena” in Belmont, part of the Boston Public Library’s Spencer Grant collection. (By the way, this place actually existed – but fittingly enough, only from 1968-1975.)

Smithsonian Center for Short-Lived Phenomena computers and bulletin board

5. Robot (ca. 1991) at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center. Also from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection.

robot at Natick r&d and engineering center