An ABIGAIL Scavenger Hunt

by Hannah Elder, Reproductions Coordinator

Even as much of the country begins to make slow steps towards reopening, many of us still find ourselves spending much more time than usual at home. One of the things that I’ve been doing to occupy some of that time is browsing the MHS catalog, ABIGAIL. I thought it might be fun to invite the readers of the Beehive to join me, so to guide your exploration, I’ve made a scavenger hunt!

I find the easiest way to search in ABIGAIL is to search by Author/Creator name (in the format Last Name, First Name, e.g. Franklin, Benjamin) or by Library of Congress Subject heading. If you need some search tips, check out this page of our website, as well as the bottom of the ABIGAIL home page. Now let’s get hunting!

MHS ABIGAIL Scavenger Hunt

In ABIGAIL, try to find:

  • something created pre-1500
  • an artifact owned by a First Lady of the United States
  • a suffrage and an anti-suffrage document
  • something with a connection to your home town/state/country
  • an item related to abolition
  • a sports-related item
  • a book related to your favorite class that wasn’t “history”
  • an item related to your favorite historical event
  • an item created the year your grandmother was born
  • a nature-related item
  • an item related to indigenous peoples of Massachusetts
  • a 19th century diary
  • an item created by a person who shares your first or last name (or both!)
  • church records
  • an 18th century newspaper


Below are examples of items I have handled in my time at the MHS that serve as answers to the scavenger hunt.

If you want to save your findings for future reference or future viewing in the MHS reading room, you can do that! Start by logging in or registering for an account in Portal1791, the library’s automated request system. Once you find the catalog record for an item you want to save, click on the red “Request Item” button next to the call number. This will auto-direct you to a request form. Make notes about the item in the “My Notes” field, then scroll to the bottom of the page. Instead of selecting a date to view the item, select the “Keep for My Review” option, then hit “Submit Request.” This will save your request in the system; you can find all of your saved requests under the Requests field in the left-hand menu. They’ll have the status “Awaiting User Review,”  but once the library reopens to the public, you can edit the request to make it an active one.

Selection of possible answers to the scavenger hunt:

Something created pre-1500

Privilegia Carthusiensium
Privilegia Carthusiensium. Written ca. 1300, this volume outlines the special privileges and rules granted to the Cathusian order of Catholic monks. Note the spot where the parchment tore and was repaired!

An artifact owned by a First Lady of the United States

States plate
Martha Washington “States” china plate. This plate is from a tea set made for Martha Washington in China, and given to her by Andreas E. van Braam Houckgeest in 1796. The design on the lip of the plate includes the names of 15 states, including Massachusetts.

Something with a connection to your home town, state, or country

Captain John Binney letter
An extract of a letter written by Captain John Binney while he was stationed at Fort Edgecomb (from the Binney Family Papers). For more information on John Binney and his time at Fort Edgecomb, check out my blog post from September.

A nature-related item

mulberry tree segment
Triangular piece cut from Shakespeare’s mulberry tree. Legend has it, the tree this piece was cut from was planted by Shakespeare himself.

An item related to the indigenous peoples of Massachusetts

Natick language rules of grammer
The title page of Natick Indian grammar. This volume is Peter Stephen Du Ponceau’s manuscript copy of John Eliot’s rules of grammar for the Natick (Massachuset) Indian language.

Church records

Record book for the Second Chuch
A page from Volume 8 of the Second Church (Boston, Mass.) records, a record book covering 1650-1808.

An 18th century newspaper

The Boston Gazette
Volume no. 718 of The Boston gazette, or, Country journal, published  2 January 1769. This newspaper was printed by Benjamin Edes and John Gill between 1755 and 1793.

I hope you enjoy your scavenger hunting! To learn more about the library and our services during the COVID-19 closure, visit the Reference Services During COVID-19 Closure page of our website.