And if that makes you think about baseball, perhaps you’d be interested
in seeing a photograph of the Peabody
baseball team in 1899. Or if you’re more interested in gardening, you
might want to check out the tulips at the Thayer Estate garden in Lancaster
circa 1910, the students at the Essex
cutting asparagus in 1941, or Bee Distribution Day in 1921, when beehives were
given to the students who tended the gardens for the Chicopee Public Schools.
These images are some of the more than 12,000 items
currently searchable through the Digital
site serves as a portal or gateway to the digital resources of libraries,
museums, historical associations and other cultural institutions across Massachusetts. The resources include old photographs, maps,
prints, and other printed material that have been scanned into digital
format. These printed items can range
from small objects like train tickets and party invitations to whole books. Although most of the current collection
consists of images and texts, there are no restrictions on format, and sound
recordings, videorecordings and other digital formats are also welcome here.
Commonwealth is a portal to all of the
digital collections of Massachusetts
libraries and cultural institutions.
Although many of these collections relate to Massachusetts history, other material can
also be found here. For example, there
are also scholarly works, including abstracts of theses and dissertations,
working papers and other resources from colleges and universities.
Over one hundred Massachusetts
organizations are already members of the Digital Commonwealth. Some are already contributing their collections,
either directly or by participating in a shared repository like Digital
Treasures, which includes the collections of over twenty libraries from central
and western Massachusetts. Other members have digital collections and
are working on making them available in a compatible format. Many organizations are in the planning stages
of digitization projects, or have just begun the scanning process, and we
expect the Digital
Commonwealth to see
substantial growth over the next few years.
When you search the Digital Commonwealth
site, you will get a list of results which may include resources from many
different collections around the state.
When you click on these, you leave the Digital Commonwealth
site and go to the site where the resource actually “lives.”
Commonwealth has two
purposes. One is to help searchers
discover the many special collections available around the state. People following the link from the search
results will find themselves on one of the repository sites around the state,
where they may find other items of interest.
Discovering the digital collections often helps people discover special
collections around the state that they’d like to visit in person.
The other purpose of the Digital Commonwealth
is to bring these collections together, bringing together related material from
In some ways, every search creates a new virtual
collection. For example, if you do a
search on shoe factory, you will
find images of shoe factories in Lynn and Wakefield from the NOBLE Digital Library, in Westborough
and Hudson from
Digital Treasures, and even a great picture from the Lawrence Public Library of
a giant shoe float built by the Shoe Lace Company for a 1933 NRA parade. A search on Calvin Coolidge finds images from
the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum at Forbes Library in Northampton, but also
photographs of Coolidge appearing at events in Swampscott and Lynn.
members may coordinate their digitization effort in order to create more
virtual collections and online exhibits that bring together related material
from different organizations. We also
plan to work with others to develop guides and lesson plans and other material
to help people explore and use these resources.
Massachusetts has a
long, rich and significant history: the colonial period, the Revolutionary War,
the seafaring trade, agriculture, the Industrial Revolution, urbanization,
immigration, and much more. We’re the
birthplace of Presidents, and the home of many distinguished authors and poets
including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman
Melville, Louisa May Alcott and Jack Kerouac.
We’re also the home of many highly-respected colleges and
universities. We have significant
resources on paper and in other formats, and increasingly in digital
format. Working together, we can make
these resources available in many different ways, serving the needs of Massachusetts residents
and people around the world.
Digital Commonwealth was initially funded by a federal
Library Services and Technology Grant from the Institute of Museum
and Library Services administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library
-- Elizabeth Thomsen is the Member Services Manager of NOBLE, the North
of Boston Library Exchange, and the author of "Rethinking Reference: A
Reference Librarian's Practical Guide to Surviving Constant Change." She keeps a professional blog.