Digital Collections Highlighted

By Jeremy Dibbell

The MHS was among several Boston-area repositories featured in Sam Allis’ Saturday Boston Globe article “Historic collections meet the 21st century.” Allis highlights HIstoric New England’s new online collections database, and also reports on digitization efforts at the Boston Public Library, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Boston Athenaeum.

Among our digital projects mentioned by Allis are our presentations of Thomas Jefferson’s manuscript of “Notes on the State of Virginia” (you can also view Jefferson’s book catalogues, farm and garden books, a copy of the Declaration of Independence in his hand, and many of his architectural drawings on our Thomas Jefferson Papers website) and our forthcoming digital collection of materials relating to the Siege of Boston during the Revolutionary War.

For the Adams Family Papers (which amount to some 300,000 manuscript pages in all) we host several different types of digital collection. The diaries and autobiography of John Adams, plus the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams (nearly 1,200 letters) are available in digital facsimile with transcriptions through the Adams Family Papers Electronic Archive. The diaries of John Quincy Adams (some 14,000 pages) are presented in digital facsimile, searchable or browsable by date (and JQA’s line-a-day diaries are currently being broadcast via Twitter, after which the transcriptions are added to the digital facsimile pages). And thirty-two volumes of the published Adams Papers are freely available as annotated transcriptions as part of the Adams Papers Digital Editions.

But our digital collections go far beyond the Adamses and Jefferson. You can browse the full list of our digital offerings here, but among the collections launched (fairly) recently are our Coming of the Revolution site, which features an interactive timeline of documents covering the period 1764-1776; African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts, a collection of 117 manuscript and printed documents from our collections including letters and poems by Phillis Wheatley and our (unique) copy of Samuel Sewall’s anti-slavery pamphlet The Selling of Joseph. If maps are more your style, check out Massachusetts Maps, a selection of 104 maps (mostly unique manuscripts) from our collections. Or there’s the ever-popular MHS Highlights Gallery, where you can see many of the most popular and striking visual items housed at the Society.

We hope you enjoy our digital collections, and always welcome feedback about them. Just email, and I’ll pass them along.