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!

 

 

Massachusetts Libraries (mass.gov/libraries) Relaunches

Massachusetts Libraries (mass.gov/libraries), the online portal for statewide library resources & services first launched in 2007, has been completely redesigned. We wanted to keep it simple and user-friendly while also offering personalized access to catalogs and collections.

screenshot of massachusetts libraries website homepage

Visitors are first prompted to find their local library by entering a zip code, town, or library name. The new site is then customized with access to their home network’s catalog and the Commonwealth Catalog, making it easy to search both locally and throughout the state. It also helps visitors find ebook collections and provides immediate access to online articles. And there’s a new A-Z title list of all research journals, magazines, and newspapers available through our statewide subscription.

In the Your Local Library section, visitors can find out about classes, events, and workshops – such as summer reading and early learning programs, high school equivalency exam prep, and English learning groups – at nearby libraries and literacy centers. The Digital Collections page highlights digital libraries and special online collections, great resources for teachers and students looking to explore history in Massachusetts and beyond.

We’ll be testing the site with users and consistently making adjustments throughout the coming months, so we welcome any and all feedback on the new site! Send your thoughts and comments to answers@mblc.state.ma.us.

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