Coming Soon: Massachusetts Historical Review, Volume 15
By Jim Connolly, Publications
Fractious centennial commemorations reveal ethnic and socioeconomic tensions in Boston!
Daguerreotype of “white slave girl” rocks the North, stirs antislavery fervor!
Radical agrarian thumbs nose at Knox, describes self as “Plaintive worm”!
Real cause of Cape Cod salt industry decline EXPOSED!
So we begin in media res with my unofficial headlines for the four research articles that make up the meat of volume 15 of the Massachusetts Historical Review, a rich and satisfying historical meal with all the trimmings followed by a dessert of three book review articles. But first, readers will enjoy an invigorating apéritif in the form of distinguished professor and writer Gordon S. Wood’s “Remarks on Receiving the John F. Kennedy Medal,” which makes plain his views on the current divide between academic and popular history writing.
“Claiming the Centennial: The American Revolution’s Blood and Spirit in Boston, 1870–1876,” by Craig Bruce Smith
The 1870s—the decade in which Boston held celebrations to commemorate key events of the American Revolution—was fraught with conflict. Classes, lineages, races, and sexes raged in the press, in the streets, and in the meeting venues of Boston for the assumed right to “claim the centennial.”
“The Real Ida May: A Fugitive Tale in the Archives,” by Mary Niall Mitchell
In the mid 1850s, a daguerreotype of a young girl named Mary Botts—a freed slave so light-skinned she “passed” for white—caused a sensation. The image shocked its audience into a kind of empathy for slaves (and generally for African Americans and Africans under the Fugitive Slave Law) that many might not have felt otherwise. Botts’s story and others related in this essay illustrate the power of the early photographic image to speak to hearts and to change minds.
“‘Persecuted in the Bowels of a Free Republic’: Samuel Ely and the Agrarian Theology of Justice, 1768–1797,” by Shelby M. Balik
Follow the adventures of Samuel Ely, a New England minister and agrarian radical who never missed an opportunity to stir up trouble in the name of divine justice. The outspoken Ely railed against what he saw as the unfair distribution of land patents. Eden, he argued, “was a garden containing six acres only, . . . not a Patent, thirty miles square, nor seventy miles long.”
“The Making and Unmaking of a Natural Resource: The Salt Industry of Coastal Southeastern Massachusetts,” by William B. Meyer
The Cape might be coveted real estate today, but before the 20th century, it held very few economic opportunities. One of them was the production of salt by the solar evaporation of seawater. Domestic saltmaking was viable because of heavy tariffs on imported salt—for a time, the duty was the federal government’s main source of revenue. This essay tells the fascinating story of the industry’s rise and decline and offers keen analysis that will make you think twice before using the term “natural resource.”
The MHR is a benefit of MHS membership. Those who are not yet members can learn about subscription to the MHR or order individual copies here.
| Published: Friday, 1 November, 2013, 1:00 AM
MHS Hosts Wiki-edit-a-thon
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
On Tuesday, 22 October, the MHS held a Wikipedia edit-a-thon as part of the Open Access Week 2013. The goal of the MHS edit-a-thon was to create and/or improve Wikipedia articles related to philanthropy and philanthropists in Massachusetts in the 19th century. The MHS's first foray into the edit-a-thon world attracted a small but very enthusiastic crowd of aspiring Wikipedia editors.
Adam Hyland, a developer with Bocoup in Boston, presented an introduction to Wikipedia. He explained the Five Pillars of Wikipedia to the newest Wikipedians, emphasizing that anyone can edit Wikipedia! He also encouraged the group to start with small edits to familiarize themselves with the Wiki markup language. Adam’s passion, wit, and knowledge clearly energized the session and gave the new editors confidence.
During the MHS session, the Wikipedians made minor text edits and added links to several articles, including Timeline of Boston history, Forbes family, Massachusetts Humane Society, and Charitable Irish Society of Boston. A new page was created for the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. You can view the results from our event page. By the end of the session, the group had successfully edited several pages pertaining to Massachusetts philanthropic history during the 19th century and the MHS staff and volunteer editors had an excellent adventure in Wikipedia editing.
Interested? The MHS hopes to hold future Wikipedia events to encourage the use of our collections and the sharing of information! Stay tuned for more information.
| Published: Friday, 25 October, 2013, 8:00 AM
Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the MHS
Have you ever wondered who adds the references to Wikipedia articles? The answer is YOU!
Join us on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 from 2:00 PM to 6:30 PM for a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon! The MHS is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to edit Wikipedia articles using our materials on philanthropy and philanthropists in 19th-century Boston. This event is part of the week-long Open Access to Massachusetts History 2013.
The event will include a short how-to on Wikipedia basics, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Society and refreshments. If you are new to Wikipedia editing or an experienced Wikipedian, all are welcome! Just bring your laptop, power cord, a government-issued ID, and a ready mind. Learn more about the event and RSVP.
| Published: Friday, 18 October, 2013, 2:07 PM
Discussing Digitization with a Visitor from Serbia
By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
On May 7, I had the privilege of sharing information about how MHS digitizes its collections with Dr. Andrej Fajgelj, Director of the Cultural Center of Novi Sad. (Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia.) The Cultural Center is embarking on a new project to use information technology in art and culture and Dr. Fajgelj will be overseeing a large digitization effort to present rare books, musical scores, notes and manuscripts.
The purpose of Dr. Fajgelj’s trip to the United States was to meet with professionals involved with the digitization of library and cultural heritage materials. Over the course of about one week, he visited many institutions on both coasts including the San Francisco Public Library, Stanford University, the Internet Archive, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
To help Dr. Fajgelj understand the context in which our digital projects take place, Brenda Lawson, Director of Collections Services, provided a brief overview about the MHS. Even though MHS is an independent research library (and differs greatly in size from the other institutions he visited), I conveyed how important it is for us to create digital collections according to standards and best practices. At MHS we always have to work to balance the content and goals for digital projects with the available resources. We talked about workflows, standards, equipment, encoding, web delivery systems, and budgets.
Towards the end of our meeting Dr. Andrej Fajgeli made some thought-provoking points about the importance of the Cultural Center’s upcoming digitization activities. He acknowledged that at the present time, there aren’t significant amounts of digitized Serbian-language material s. As a former instructor of languages and assistant professor in a university philology department, he is well-aware of the fact that students turn to the Web for research, news, and fun. Although many Serbs know multiple languages, he wants them to find more Serbian cultural sources online. He hopes more digitized Serbian materials will inspire Serbs to be creative and write songs, prose, and poetry in their native language.
Dr. Fajgelj was accompanied by Glenn Carey, a U. S. State Department English Language Officer (who kindly provided the image of the meeting). Dr. Fajgelj’s trip and itinerary were administered by the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program and the Massachusetts portion of his visit was arranged by WorldBoston.
| Published: Friday, 7 June, 2013, 1:00 AM
Virtual Field Trip: MHS Staff Interacts with 5th Graders 1,400 Miles Away
By Kathleen Barker, Education Department
Earlier this spring my colleagues and I had the opportunity to spend two fabulous afternoons with a fifth-grade class in Minnesota. Thanks to the magic of Skype, we never had to leave the Society! Our online field trip was facilitated by Laura Tessmer, a teacher at the Clover Ridge Elementary School in Chaska, just outside of Minneapolis. We first met Laura three years ago when she participated in our NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop, “At the Crossroads of Revolution.” Since that summer we have looked for ways to reconnect with Laura and her students, in spite of the 1,400 miles that separate our two institutions. Laura has been experimenting with other distance-learning technologies this year, and in April and May, she added the MHS to her list of virtual classroom visitors.
The Society’s wealth of online resources allowed Laura’s class to preview many documents and artifacts prior to our discussions. On 4 April, students came prepared to analyze items from our recent exhibition on the War of 1812. Questions and comments flowed nonstop as we discussed documents such as “Huzza for the American Navy!”, a political cartoon published in 1813. Students expertly dissected the saucy puns and plays on words intended to celebrate America’s early naval victories over the British, while commenting on visual details such as the patriotic wings of the wasp and the hornet. Throughout the discussion these young scholars demonstrated their great knowledge of the war, as well as their enthusiasm for the documents and artifacts they explored as part of our visit.
We met with Laura’s class again on 29 May, this time to review events related to the Civil War. We began by discussing the recruitment of soldiers during the first year of the war, and students quickly identified all of the clever tactics used by military propagandists in broadsides such as “Major Gen. Banks's Grand Expedition!: 2d Mass. Cavalry!” from 1862. We pondered the military pay scale, and discussed the importance of musicians, who often played a vital role in preserving troop morale during and between battles (in spite of their lower pay). Class members also discussed several manuscript documents, including the illustrated diary of Sarah Gooll Putnam. On 3 February 1864, Putnam visited the military camp at Readville (in Boston) where she saw General Burnside on parade with Massachusetts troops. Once again, this great group of budding historians impressed us with their knowledge of the Civil War, making connections between MHS documents and the wartime experiences of men and women from Minnesota.
Since our first experiments with Skype programs were both entertaining and enlightening, we hope to expand our virtual offerings to additional teachers and students in the next school year. The flexibility of this online format allows us to expand our outreach efforts in multiple ways. We are always looking for new opportunities to meet local teachers who might not have the time or the budget to bring students to our headquarters on Boylston Street. Of course, we also enjoy meeting and working with teachers from across the United States through our onsite programs, and virtual field trips will allow us to maintain our many connections in all corner of the nation. If you are a teacher who would like to sample an education program at the Society—either in person or through the web – please contact the education department. Meanwhile, many thanks to Laura Tessmer and our new friends in Minnesota for making our virtual visits such a success!
| Published: Wednesday, 5 June, 2013, 12:00 AM