Celebrating Archivists Working During Covid19

by Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

Though the MHS remains closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic (learn more), our library staff has been able to provide various reference services. Below, several Reader Services staff members offer insight into what it is like to work–both in the building and remotely–during the pandemic.

How has the MHS adjusted and continued to serve its researchers?  

Elaine Heavey, Director of the Library, and Dan Hinchen, one of our Reference Librarians, describe how operations in the Library Reader Services department were amended to accommodate the restrictions posed by COVID-19:

In the aftermath of the state-wide shutdown in mid-March, the library reader services (LRS) staff had to develop new ways to serve our researchers. Of course, as a manuscript repository holding one-of-a-kind materials, serving researchers without direct access to our collections proved difficult. Still, the LRS staffers worked from their various remote locations to provide as much access as possible to those we serve.

In the early stages of the pandemic, we tackled a project to locate digital versions of every title in the Dowse Library and compiled the links so that we could easily share them with researchers.  The LRS staff also created a Reference Services During Covid-19 Closure page, providing links to various print publications in digital format, MHS online resources and collection highlights, and a list of commercial databases that feature MHS content ,all in one place.

In addition to concerns about collection access, communication became more challenging.  Although e-mail remains our primary method of contact with remote researchers, we found we had lost the ability to work with remote researchers in the moment via telephone.  To meet that challenge we sought new means of communicating with researchers. Through our Virtual Reference and Chat Services page researchers can ask questions instantly via chat (Mon., Wed., Thurs., Fri. 10AM to 4PM; Tues.1PM to 7PM), or request a research consultation with a member of the library staff via Zoom. Now, anyone interested in speaking an LRS staff member “face-to-face” has that option.

In July, when our library staff regained access to the building, we began tackling the sizable backlog of reproduction and reference requests that accumulated over the four months we were away from 1154 Boylston. Of course, in keeping with the trends of life this year, staff use of collection material became more complicated when we found ourselves navigating the creation of new collections handling polices aimed at mitigating the health risks of working with shared materials.  Determining best practices around issue like quarantine times, thinking about how to safely quarantine materials, and adjusting our workflows to allow for quarantine between uses, proved to be a moving target as new information about Covid-19 transmission and the time Covid-19 lives on library materials (especially those that cannot be sanitized) became available. We recently extended our quarantine times based on new industry findings, but we will not let that slow us down.

Despite the difficulties the shutdown threw at us, our library staff has worked hard adapting to the situation and strives to continue providing our researchers the best possible remote service until we are able to welcome them back into the library again.

How has the COVID19 state of emergency impacted your work as an archivist and how did you overcome the challenges presented?

Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, one of our Reference Librarians, not only found ways to overcome the restrictions imposed by remote work and COVID19, but also found ways to assist fellow archivist during this difficult time:

As a reference librarian who works in a special collections library, moving first to an all-remote work environment in March and now a partially-remote, partially-on site (but still with no patrons in the building) work environment this fall really impressed upon me how much of my job is having conversations with people. All day long, I engage in conversations with my colleagues and with researchers about the work we are doing together or the work they hope to undertake using our collections. And those conversations can take place, and be fruitful, whether I am at the reference desk  or at my dining room table.

I have also been acutely aware of the way that COVID-19 has impacted archival workers unevenly. Those already precariously employed in our field (part-time, contract, student, grant-funded, etc.) have often been the first to see their hours cut or their positions eliminated. During March, a group of archival workers – including myself — came together to establish the Archival Workers Emergency Fund, currently administered by the Society of American Archivists Foundation, which issues cash grants to archival workers in financial crisis due to COVID-19. As of September 15th we have disbursed over $130,000 to over 150 archival workers who are struggling to pay the bills. This has been a major part of my involvement with the wider archival community since March, and gave me something concrete to do to address the suffering that people across the country are experiencing because of the pandemic.

Hannah Elder, our Reproductions Coordinator, saw her role expand as reproductions became the sole source of collection access for undigitized collections:

While working from home, I managed the incoming reproduction requests; contacting the researchers, keeping track of their requests, and helping them find already digitized materials when available. I also worked with my colleagues to develop temporary reference reproduction policies and pricing that enables us to provide our researchers with the resources they need. Find those new policies here! (http://masshist.org/library/reproductions/photocopies)

Now that the staff have some access to the building, I spend my time at 1154 Boylston Street in a flurry of activity, scanning items, photographing volumes, and going through microfilm. I spend my time at home processing the images the reproductions team and I made in the building and sending them off to researchers, while also managing incoming requests, staffing the chat services, and planning for my next rotation through the building.

We will continue to share stories with you throughout Archives month and look forward to answering your questions through our virtual reference and chat services.

Until the next installment, be well!

Happy American Archives Month!

By Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

It’s that time of year when leaves start to turn, there is a chill in the air, and the days get shorter, which can only mean one thing…It’s Archives Month!

What exactly is Archives Month, you ask? It is a month to learn about, connect with, and explore archives and the archival field. Take some time and talk to an archivist this month and you’ll learn about an exciting field of work that may be even more interesting than you thought.

Here at the Massachusetts Historical Society we usually take this opportunity to introduce you to our team of archivists so that you can learn more about what they do on a daily basis, and share their interests and specialties. However, this year is unlike any other as the coronavirus pandemic alters our lives and work. Archivists across the country and, indeed, the globe are facing challenges brought to the field in the wake of Covid-19.

Therefore, this year we want to share with you the experiences of our staff as they find innovative ways to work remotely and connect researchers to our collections. We will also illustrate the challenges of the job when we cannot physically access and interact with our collections.

For a sample, we asked our Nora Saltonstall Preservation Librarian, Kathy Griffin:

How has the Coivd-19 shutdown impacted your work as an archivist, and how have you overcome the challenges it presents?

KG:  “Since so much of my work is hands-on work with collections, my work has been greatly affected by the coronavirus restrictions, particularly in the early months of the pandemic. I can attend meetings and programs via Zoom and other online meeting formats, but I cannot arrange and preserve collections material. We even had a water leak which I could not respond to, a leak which affected some of our publications, our building itself, and some supplies stored in the basement. I did work at home for other types of projects – digital projects and marketing, but this work did not fill my at-home days. I also worked on volunteer projects for the Boston Public Library and the Dedham Historical Society. At present, we are divided into two teams and we work two weeks in the building and two weeks out of the building. I still do not fill my work days at home. I am very grateful to have a job, and I am most happy when I can come into the building and work on the collections.  The MHS has been a very conscientious and thoughtful employer over these troubling times.”

Tune in next week when we will be sharing more of the thoughts and experiences of our staff during the shutdown.

Ask An Archivist Day
#AskAnArchivist Day is on 7 October

And on Wednesday, 7 October, we will take to social media for #AskAnArchivist Day! Prepare your questions and find us on Twitter @MHS1791 and @MHS1791_Ref where our archivists will respond to all of your questions, from the practical to the whimsical. Remember to include the tag #AskAnarchivist! You can also send in your questions via e-mail, or check out our live chat.

“Standing Up, Stepping Forward, and Speaking Out” on 9 September

By Sarah Bertulli, Public Programs Coordinator

To kick off our fall season of virtual programming and what is sure to be a contentious and all-consuming election season, the MHS is presenting  Standing Up, Stepping Forward, and Speaking Out: The Political Courage to take a Principled Stand with John W. Dean III and William F. Weld on 9 September at 5:30 PM. This conversation, moderated by historian Ted Widmer, will explore the formative career experiences of Dean and Weld that inspired in each an enduring dedication to voice dissent against their own party when it mattered most, even when it hurt them politically, or derailed their career.

John Dean served on Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel from 1970-1973. In his role as legal advisor to President Nixon, Dean was clearly implicated in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal; however his choice to cooperate in the investigation ultimately led to the resignation of the president and the conviction of top aides to the president, including Dean himself. On June 25, 1973, Dean delivered 245 pages of prepared testimony against president Richard Nixon. A reported 80 million Americans tuned in to watch the five days of Mr. Dean’s congressional testimony, which would come to be widely understood as an astonishing single-handed take-down of a sitting president. Many speculate that without Dean’s testimony against Nixon, and the subsequent discovery of the president’s recorded conversations that corroborated Dean’s story, the Watergate crisis would never have risen to the level of impeachment.

William Weld is perhaps mostly widely known as the 68th governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, vice presidential candidate as a member of the Liberatarian Party in 2016, and Republcian presidential candidate running against incumbent Donald Trump. Weld began his career as legal counsel to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary in the impeachment process against Richard Nixon in 1974. Unlike John Dean, Weld never had a starring role in the Senate hearings, but he did contribute to the pivotal report “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” which has been amended and used during the impeachment hearings of William J. Clinton and Donald J.Trump. As U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts under President Ronald Reagan, Weld was noted for his prosecution of white collar and financial crimes. He was later promoted to be head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, a post he held until he resigned in protest over the improper conduct by United States Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1988.

Joining Dean and Weld, is historian Ted Widmer, a MHS Trustee, former advisor and speechwriter for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and author of the recent book, Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington. Widmer will help facilitate what should be a lively conversation and offer his reflections on what it meant to be a Bostonian during the Watergate scandal, when some of the major players hailed from the city.

Join us on Wednesday, 9 September, at 5:30 PM for Standing Up, Stepping Forward, and Speaking Out: The Political Courage to take a Principled Stand. Please note, this is an online event held on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive an email with links to join the program. Register today!

2020 John Winthrop Student Fellow Ishan Narra: on Researching the French and Indian War

By Kate Melchior, MHS Assistant Director of Education, and Ishan Narra, John Winthrop Student Fellow

Every year, the MHS selects one or more high school students for our John Winthrop Student Fellowship. This award encourages high school students to make use of the nationally significant documents of the MHS in a research project of their choosing. Students perform historical research and create a project (usually an assignment for class) using materials at the MHS, both in our archives or digitized online. This project can be something assigned in a class, a National History Day project, or something of the student’s invention!  Both student and teacher each receive $350 to support their research. Applications for the 2021 student fellowships are due on 18 February 2021.  Learn more and apply!

This year, John Winthrop Student Fellow Ishan Narra and his teacher Ed Rafferty of Concord Academy are researching Mashpee resistance and the web of colonizer and indigenous relationships in the conflict known as the French and Indian War.

John Winthrop Student Fellow Ishan Narra, Concord Academy

This summer, I intend to write a research paper on Indigenous and European experiences during the French Indian War. I hope to utilize a variety of primary sources from the Massachusetts Historical Society’s archives in order to analyze the complex network of relationships between Indian nations in the Northeast, French colonists, and English settlers. Due to COVID-19, my research paper will not be completed until later this summer. However, before it became clear as to how I would access the MHS archives in the midst of the pandemic, I continued to conduct research for my paper by reading secondary sources regarding the French and Indian War. Using books such as The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America by Colin Calloway and The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War by Fred Anderson, and articles such as “We, as a tribe, will rule ourselves”: Mashpee’s Struggle for Autonomy, 1746-1840 by Daniel Mandel, I was able to craft an introductory piece of prose that focused on Native American historiography. The unique manner in which the Mashpee resisted British imposition on their culture resonated with me, and in the historiography section of my paper, I emphasize how the Mashpee nation engaged in a legal rebellion rather than a physical one, and employed their knowledge of legal documents to hold the settlers accountable for their wrongdoings. The objective of this section is to counter the common narrative that depicts war and Indian resistance as a unidimensional conflict. Specifically, I highlight the Mashpee Revolt to demonstrate how resistance occurred in many different forms and resulted from protracted animosity between communities. Furthermore, this introductory portion provides the backdrop to the main section of my research paper as it challenges the reader to confront the convoluted tensions between Indian nations and European settlers that had already been established prior to the war, and eventually erupted into a massive conflict that affected every population in North America.

In the primary section of the paper, I intend to elaborate this thesis by bringing to light not only the experiences of individuals during the French and Indian War, but also the systems that were in place that caused Indian communities to make the difficult decision of engaging in the war. One primary source that will provide me with useful evidence is Jeduthan Baldwin’s journal. Because the military official’s account spans over thirty years and begins just one year after the start of the French and Indian War, it details his experience when Indian soldiers first enlisted to help the British and how Indians were treated by newly allied officials. Furthermore, these documents record Baldwin’s experiences while working for the English military as both a military engineer and a commander. As such, the documents will allow me to contrast the ways in which lower ranked soldiers engaged with Indian allies and how highly esteemed officials valued Indian soldiers’ and leaders’ knowledge. Another source from the Society’s collection that would complement Baldwin’s account is Timothy Nichols’ diary. This diary will provide me with another perspective of a British soldier during the French and Indian War that I could compare with Baldwin’s viewpoints. Additionally, as this diary accounts for a more specific time period (one summer), and details a particular battle at Quebec, I can compare Nichols’ descriptions of Indian soldiers when they were the British soldier’s allies and descriptions of Indian soldiers when they were the soldier’s enemies to determine which biases about Indians had been instilled in English soldiers.

The John Winthrop Fellowship has provided me with an opportunity to deepen my understanding of a topic that has intrigued me and to develop my ability to conduct in-depth research. Having the vast collection of the MHS at my disposal will allow me to compare different perspectives and to learn more about Indigenous history and Indigenous people’s interactions with Europeans. Native American history is a subject that is often overlooked and suppressed by White perspectives. I believe that it is critical to understand multiple historical narratives of Indigenous people in order to truly understand the impact of historical events, social factors, and beliefs on present-day U.S. society. I have been fascinated by Native American history since the first course that I took on this topic during my Freshman year. This Fellowship has allowed me to more thoroughly explore this subject and understand how important it is for present and future generations to learn about this history.

Announcing the 2020-2021 MHS Research Fellows

by Katy Morris, Research Coordinator & Book Review Editor

We are pleased to announce the fellowship winners for the 2020-2021 academic cycle. Every year, the Research Department at the MHS administers roughly a quarter million dollars in research support to help scholars from all career stages access our remarkable collections. These fellowships range from short-term funding (4-8 weeks) to long-term residency (4 to 12 months).

This incoming cohort of fellows explores an exciting variety of topics. They range from environmental histories of borderlands, placing making, urban planning, and the circulation of goods and animals, to cultural histories of queer art and literature, sacred music, and landscape paintings. Others delve into histories of abolitionism and suffrage, histories of imperialist expansions, migrations, and globalization. Still others are exploring the histories of books, imprints, and manuscripts.

While we cannot welcome these fellows to our doors just yet, our library staff is hard at work helping our fellows access our collections remotely. We are also delighted to host virtual Brown-bag Lunch Programs that showcase their work.

Congratulations to our incoming fellows – we can’t wait to learn more about your work!

MHS Research Fellows, 2020-2021

MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows

  • Kabria Baumgartner, assistant professor, University of New Hampshire, “The Life and Times of Robert Morris: America’s First Human Rights Lawyer”
  • Frank Cirillo, post-doc, University of Virginia, “The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Fate of the Union”
  • Marc-William Palen, senior lecturer, University of Exeter, “Pax Economics: The Economic War for Peace, 1846-1946”
  • Amy Watson, post-doc, University of Southern California, “Patriots Before Revolution: The Invention of Party Politics in the Atlantic”


Suzanne & Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

  • Andrew Donnelly, Ph.D. candidate, Harvard University, “Reconstructing Sexuality: The Politics of Sex and Manhood in the Civil War Era”


New England Regional Fellowship Consortium

  • Jasmyn Barringer, Ph.D. Candidate, Boston University, “Hunting Haitian Devils: Trans-historical Representation of Caribbean Peoples as Monstrosities”
  • Kabria Baumgartner, assistant professor, University of New Hampshire, “The Life and Times of Robert Morris: America’s First Human Rights Lawyer”
  • Stephen Berry, associate professor, Simmons University, “Caught Between Sailors and Saints: Pacific Peoples in the Age of American Maritime Expansion”
  • Mark Bland, independent scholar, “The World of Simon Waterson, Stationer: Family, Finance and the Control of the Book-Trade in Early Modern England”
  • Caylin Carbonell, Ph.D. candidate, William & Mary, “Fraught Labor, Fragile Authority: Households in Motion in Early New England”
  • Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, associate professor, Roger Williams University, “Equine Labour: Horses and the Making of New England”
  • Nym Cooke, independent scholar, “Inventory of American Sacred Music Imprints and Manuscripts Through 1820”
  • Rachel Corbman, visiting assistant professor, Wake Forest University, “Conferencing on the Edge: A Queer History of Feminist Field Formation”
  • Jackson Davidow, lecturer, Rhode Island School of Design, “Gay Art and Politics in 1970s Boston”
  • Camden Elliott, Ph.D. student, Harvard University, “Environmental Histories of the French and Indian Wars, 1688-1764”
  • Hongdeng Gao, Ph.D. candidate, Columbia Univeristy, “Migration, Medicine and Power: How Chinese New Yorkers Gained Better Access to Health Care, 1949-1999”
  • Eric Huntley, Lecturer, MIT, “Failing to Make Urban New England: A Spatial History of Planning Failure in Boston, Providence, and Portland”
  • Melissa Johnson, adjunct, Mt. Hood Community College, “Open Secrets: Women, Gossip, and Watchfulness in Seventeenth-Century New England”
  • Carla Kaplan, professor, Northeastern University, “‘Queen of the Muckrackers’: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford”
  • Cheryl Knott, professor, University of Arizona, “Environmental Projections: How the Limits to Growth Books Changed the Way We Think About the Earth’s Future”
  • Rebecca Marisseau, Ph.D. candidate, Brown University, “A Well-Oiled Machine: New Bedford Whale Fishery and the Production of the Early American State”
  • Don James McLaughlin, assistant professor, University of Tulsa, “New Edition of Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1885 Novel A Marsh Island”
  • Erik Nordbye, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University, “The Cost of Free Religion: Religious and Economic Liberties in New England after the Great Awakening”
  • Mary Overholt, M.A. student, Yale University “Space Tactics: Radical Feminist Health Centers & Clinical Imaginaries”
  • Jerrad Pacatte, Ph.D. candidate, Rutgers University, “‘For Town or Country’: African American Women, Labor, and the Pursuit of Freedom in New England, 1740-1860”
  • Allison Pappas, Ph.D. candidate, Brown University, “‘Light as a Recording Agent of the Past’: The Temporal Register in Astronomical Photography at the Harvard College Observatory”
  • Patrick Parr, independent scholar, Lakeland University of Japan, “Malcolm Before X”
  • Alyssa Peterson, Ph.D. student, University of Texas, Austin, “‘And the Vapours at that time belcht forth from the Earth into the Air’: How Earthquakes Caused Disease in the Long Eighteenth Century”
  • Erin Runions, professor, Pomona College, “Fallen Angels and Hell in Proslavery and Abolitionist Discourses, 1830-1865”
  • Henry Snow, Ph.D. Candidate, Rutgers University, “The Ends of the Ocean: Power and Change at the Atlantic Dockside, 1740-1840”
  • Astrid Tvetenstrand, Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, “Seasons as Verbs: Nineteenth Century Landscape Painting and the Creation of American Second Home Culture”
  • Sunny Xiang, assistant professor, Yale University, “Intimate War, Atomic Wear”
  • Mimi Yang, professor, Carthage College, “What is Women’s Suffrage Centennial to a “Browner” and “Flatter” America?”


MHS Short-Term Fellows 2019-2020

  • Danielle Alesi, Ph.D. candidate, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Consuming Empire: Eating and Engaging with Animals in the Americas, 1492-1650”
  • Zachary Bennett, visiting assistant professor, Connecticut College (Mary B. Wright Environmental History Fellowship), “Contested Currents: Rivers and the Remaking of New England”
  • John Bidwell, curator, Morgan Library & Museum (Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellowship), “The Declaration of Independence: Prints, Broadsides, and Facsimiles”
  • Thomas Brown, professor, University of South Carolina (Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship), “Monograph on the Shaw Memorial”
  • Stephen Carter, assistant professor, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (Marc Friedlaender Fellowship), “Adamsian Afterlives: Thinking American Pasts in a Post-American World”
  • Dwain Coleman, Ph.D. candidate, University of Iowa (Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Fellowship), “Black Civil War Veterans and the Fight for Community in the Midwest”
  • Christian Cuthbert, independent scholar, (Society of Colonial Wars Fellowship), “Preaching and Practice in Inter-colonial Warfare, 1744-48”
  • Arlene Diaz, associate professor, Indiana University (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship)
  • Nicholas DiPucchio, Ph.D. candidate, Saint Louis University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “American Expansions: Imperial Frustrations and the Evolution of Manifest Destiny, 1775-1845”
  • Camden Elliott, Ph.D. student, Harvard University (Society of Colonial Wars Fellowship), “Environmental Histories of the French and Indian Wars, 1688-1764”
  • Ashley Garcia, Ph.D. student, University of Texas, Austin (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “An American Socialism: The Fourierist Movement and Nineteenth Century American Culture”
  • Holly Gruntner, Ph.D. candidate, College of William & Mary (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “‘Some People of Skil and Curiosity’: Knowledge and Early American Kitchen Gardens, 1650-1830”
  • Joseph Hall, associate professor, Bates College (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Making Home: Wabanaki and English Claims to Place, 1600-1800”
  • Yiyun Huang, Ph.D. candidate University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Chinese Origins of Medicinal Tea: Global Cultural Transfer in a Vast Early America”
  • Mallory Huard, Ph.D. candidate, Pennsylvania State University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowships), “America’s Private Empire: Gender and Commercial Imperialism in Nineteenth Century Hawai’i”
  • Leslie Leonard, Ph.D candidate, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Burdens and Blessings of Responsibility: Responsibility, Duty, and Community in Nineteenth-Century America”
  • Mia Levenson, Ph.D. student, Ph.D. student, Tufts University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Nineteenth-Century Physicians and the Performance of Popular Anatomy”
  • Brian Maxson, associate professor, East Tennessee State University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Strange Tale of a Latin Speech, Renaissance Venice, and Nineteenth-Century New England”
  • Cody Nager, Ph.D. candidate, City University of New York (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “From Different Quarters: Regulating Migration and Naturalization in the Early American Republic, 1783-1815”
  • Kristin Olbertson, associate professor, Alma College (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Credible Women: Gender & Testimony in Eighteenth-Century New England Courts”
  • Benjamin Remillard, Ph.D. student, University of New Hampshire (Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship), “‘In Reduced Circumstances’ Yet Civically Engaged: The Activism of Southern New England’s Revolutionary War Veterans of Color”
  • Makiki Reuvers, Ph.D. candidate, University of Pennsylvania (C. Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowship), “Bodies of Empire: The Political, Religious, and Corporeal Makings of Subjecthood in Seventeenth-Century New England”
  • Hannah Schmidt, Ph.D. student, University of Maine (Society of Colonial Wars Fellowship), “Identities Held Captive: Geography and Forced Migration in the Captivity Narratives of the Colonial Northeast”
  • Kaila Schwartz, Ph.D. candidate, College of William & Mary (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “Naming New Englanders: Family, Legacy, and Identity, 1620-1850”
  • Alina Scott, Ph.D. student, University of Texas, Austin (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “A Reason to Petition and Pray: Religion, Citizenship, and Autonomy in Native Petitions, 1800-1850”
  • Darcy Stevens, Ph.D. student, University of Maine (Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship), “Conceptions of Neutrality During the American Revolution in the Northeast Borderlands”
  • Arleen Tuchman, professor, Vanderbilt University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “History of the Family Disease of Addiction”
  • Evan Turiano, Ph.D. candidate, City University of New York (African American Studies Fellowship), “Running Toward Abolition: Fugitive Slaves, Legal Rights, and the Coming of the Civil War”
  • Jessica Vander Heide, Ph.D. candidate, Lehigh University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowship), “Schooling Intimacy: Lessons in Love, Romance, and Sexuality at American Female Academies, 1780-1870”
  • Cassandra Jane Werking, Ph.D. candidate, University of Kentucky (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship), “Is My North Star Also Your North Star? How the Borderlands Between Canada and the United States Shaped the American Civil War”

Congratulations to the Student Winners of our first Virtual National History Day Contest in Massachusetts!

by Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

2020 is an unprecedented year for National History Day in Massachusetts.  While COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down in countless ways, our community rushed in to help make sure that this experience would not be cancelled for our students.  In the midst of a pandemic, 686 students from across Massachusetts presented 406 projects to 207 tireless volunteer judges, who assessed their projects in 68 teams across two rounds of judging.  There are 61 students who will continue on to represent Massachusetts at the National History Day® virtual national contest, where they will compete with students from across the country and around the world.  A huge congratulations to all of our students, teachers, parents, judges, and volunteers for making this historic competition a success!

In the 2019-2020 season, over 6,000 students from 69 schools across the Commonwealth spent the school year working hard on documentaries, papers, exhibits, websites, and performances.  This year’s theme, “Breaking Barriers in History,” inspired students to tackle some of the more complex historical moments and figures in history. Projects this year cover a wide swath of historical eras and subjects including: the history of Sesame Street, ACT UP, Deaf education, the Seattle Open Housing Campaign, Bessie Coleman, Frida Kahlo, climate change, and much more.

After competing at their school levels, hundreds of students prepared to participate in the regional and state competitions.  However, COVID-19 required a last-minute pivot to an entirely virtual competition amidst shutdowns across the state.  Through heroic effort, students and teachers submitted virtual versions of their projects, and a crew of judges volunteered to assist with our first ever state-wide History Day contest in Massachusetts!  Everyone came ready with fantastic questions, insightful and kind commentary for our students, and a willingness to be flexible about our last-minute virtual system.

On Monday, 4 May, we announced the winners of our 2020 competition in a virtual awards ceremony.  In addition to the 61 students moving on to Nationals, 98 students were awarded special prizes to honor excellence in specific areas, such as Best Use of Primary Sources, Best Project in LGBTQ+ History, and Best Project in Sports History.  You can read more about our winners and their projects here.

Thank you again to all of the students, teachers, parents, schools, and judges who supported this unprecedented competition.  Thank you as well to all of our sponsors at the Mass Cultural Council, Mass Humanities, and the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation.

We welcome members of the public to learn more about the NHD program.  There is no better way than to serve as a judge at one of our competitions! Please contact us at education@masshist.org for more information.

History Day Has Gone Virtual—and We Need Judges!

by Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

True to our 2020 theme “Breaking Barriers,” National History Day in Massachusetts has transitioned for the first time ever to a virtual contest! Looking for something to do at home? Learn some amazing history and support our students from the comfort of home by judging at our new state-wide competition. We have over 840 students competing, so we are looking for 200+ judges who have a love of history. Learn more on our website, or sign up now on our Judge Registration Form!

Judging will take place between 17 and 23 April, on your own schedule. For more information, please e-mail education@masshist.org. No experience or technological expertise required; PDPs provided for teachers.

We look forward to celebrating history and our students’ hard work with you!


“Sic vos non vobis”

by Daniel Hinchen, Reference Librarian

Did you ever wonder where the name for this blog came from? The Beehive does seem an odd name for a platform that is spreading news of an institution like the MHS.  While the source of this name and associated imagery is well-known I invite you to take a look back at an older post called “Behind the Title: Why the Beehive?” to learn how we got here.

MHS Seal
Left: MHS seal as depicted on fireplace in Ellis Hall. Right: MHS seal as depicted on glass door to Ellis Hall.

Now you know all about Virgil and his hexameters and how someone else stole credit for his work. But it is a single line, “Sic vos non vobis malleficatis apes” (Thus do ye, bees, for others make honey) that has stuck with us. Like bees making honey, the staff of the MHS collects, preserves, and makes accessible the materials of our history as a commonwealth and as a nation not for ourselves, but for all those who wish to learn from them. And now more than ever, in this strange time of social isolation, the staff of the MHS is working to find new ways to carry on that mission so that others may continue to take lessons from our shared history.

Even though our beehive (1154 Boylston Street) is currently closed, the Library Reader Services staff is available to help you with the research you want to conduct. Granted, being away from our home means we are limited in the amount of honey we can produce, but we are ready to help how we can. With that in mind, here is a quick list of ways you can connect with us to ask your questions, and some easy ways to find content on our website.

As always, our online catalog, ABIGAIL, is open for searching for materials that might help your research. While much of it will remain inaccessible without being in the building, there are plenty of ways to find digital editions of some of our resources on our website:

All of this information and more is also available on two new web-pages we’ve created to illustrate how we are updating our Reference Services and Reproduction Services during this time when we do not have physical access to our collections.

So, if you have a burning question–or even a casual curiosity–relieve some of that isolation and reach out to our reference team by

  • E-mailing us at library@masshist.org
  • Leaving us a voicemail at 617-646-0532
  • Tweeting us @MHS1791_Ref

Revisiting the Boston Massacre, 250 Years Later

by Laura Williams, Visitor Services Coordinator

When thinking back on the American Revolution, we return to the state of Massachusetts, its capital city of Boston, and the numerous pivotal events that took place there which shaped American history. One such event which comprises this famed coup is the Boston Massacre of 1770. A present-day popular tourist stop along The Freedom Trail, the site of the Boston Massacre is preserved for all to see in a rough recreation outside The Old State House. This momentous confrontation between British soldiers and the citizens of Boston marked a turning point for the American people and the beginning of a series of battles for independence from the British regime. After 250 years, we at the MHS are commemorating this event and highlighting pieces from our collections within the exhibit, Fire! Voices of the Boston Massacre, on display through June 2020.

On the evening of 5 March 1770 on King Street in Boston, a small riot among the civilians led to bloodshed when British soldiers fired into the unruly crowd. With five of those civilians killed and others injured, the event soon became known as the Boston Massacre. This event was preceded by many clashes involving the British soldiers stationed in Boston and the growing tension and unrest surrounding the British tax acts on the American people. Boston citizens were already participating in nonconsumption and nonimportation efforts; the fight between Tories and Patriots was growing; and the British soldiers who were meant to protect the Customs Commissioners had long been wary of their place there.

Witnesses of the Boston Massacre share their experiences of that fateful night in this video from the exhibition:

Notably, only two of the eight British soldiers who were arraigned were found guilty of manslaughter (rather than murder). This verdict sent waves through the community, and yearly commemorations of the occurrence would follow in Boston until 1783 when the celebration of Independence Day would take precedence. Had the events on the evening of 5 March been prevented, many other historic clashes including the Boston Tea Party, Battle of Bunker Hill, etc. may look very different today. This violent culmination of tension between Bostonians and the British played a significant role in the larger sentiment among the entire country.

Included in our collections are artistic renditions of the event itself, letters, diary entries, court documents, and many more pieces which describe and manifest the “Massacre” and its legacy 250 years later. With sources such as these, we are able to recognize the larger impact that this event had on the American population and the road towards the American Revolution. Our additional companion websites which accompany our exhibition are linked below, and explore a detailed history of the various events leading up to the Massacre, the many perspectives of the American citizens, and finally the consequent forging of the nation. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM.

Companion websites:

Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre

Perspectives on the Boston Massacre

The Coming of the American Revolution: 1764 to 1776

250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre

by Gavin W. Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions and Community Partnerships

Paul Revere engraving of the Boston Massacre
The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment, by Paul Revere, 1770.

As many of our readers may know, we are approaching a big anniversary in Boston. The 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre is on 5 March 2020 and there is a lot happening in the city to mark the date. Here is a look at some of the events:

  • Fire! Voices of the Boston Massacre is open to the public at the MHS. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Come learn about the Boston Massacre and “hear” for yourself—through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women, and discover how this flashpoint changed American history. Learn more about the Massacre on our companion website. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
  • On Friday, 21 February, at 2:00 PM, the MHS presents FIRE! Voices of the Boston Massacre Gallery Talk with Amanda Norton, MHS. Learn more about why John Adams, a noted Patriot, defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre and how he won acquittals for all but two of them. No registration required.
  • On Wednesday, 4 March, at 6:00 PM, the MHS will host a talk by Serena Zabin on her new book: The Boston Massacre: A Family History. The story of the Boston Massacre is familiar to generations. But from the very beginning, most accounts have obscured a fascinating truth: the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political. Serena Zabin draws on original sources and lively stories to follow British troops as they are dispatched from Ireland to Boston in 1768 to subdue the increasingly rebellious colonists. She reveals a forgotten world hidden in plain sight: the many regimental wives and children who accompanied the armies. We see these families jostling with Bostonians for living space, finding common cause in the search for a lost child, trading barbs, and sharing baptisms. Becoming, in other words, neighbors. When soldiers shot unarmed citizens in the street, it was these intensely human and now broken bonds that fueled what quickly became a bitterly fought American Revolution. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members, EBT or ConnectorCare cardholders). Click HERE for more information or to register.
  • On Thursday, 5 March, at 9:00 AM, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host a Wreath-laying ceremony at the Granary Burying Ground. A formal service by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution will take place at the grave of the victims of the Boston Massacre including Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr. For more information, visit: www.dar.org/national-society/national-society-dar-commemorates-250th-anniversary-boston-massacre. 
  • On Thursday, 5 MarchReflecting Attucks opens at the Old State House in Boston. The new temporary exhibit will explore the life and memory of Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American descent and the first casualty of the Boston Massacre, and provoke visitors to consider how Attucks has been remembered over the past 250 years. To complement the exhibit, Revolutionary Spaces will offer special tours and facilitated dialogues in the galleries. The exhibit will be on display until March 2021 and is included in museum admission.
  • On Thursday, 5 March, at 12:00 PM, the Boston Athenæum will host a Curator’s Choice talk on Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre. Join Polly Thayer Starr Fellow in American Art & Culture Theo Tyson and Assistant Curator Ginny Badget for an in-depth look at the inception of Revere’s engraving and how it continues to shape American historical memory today. Members are free; non-members are free with admission ($10). Online registration is coming soon. To register, please contact Events at 617-720-7600.
  • On Thursday, 5 March, from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM, a commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre will be held at the Old South Meeting House. Gov. Charlie Baker will be joined by other key civic and community leaders to reflect on how our most difficult national memories can inspire us to reach for our highest American ideals. There are 50-100 seats available for the public. Registration is required. For more information, visit: eventbrite.com/e/boston-massacre-250th-anniversary-commemoration-tickets-95405922683.
  • On Thursday, 5 March, at 2:00 PM, there will be a curator talk on the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre at the Concord Museum in Concord, Mass. In a special gallery talk about Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere and His Ride, curator David Wood will discuss the Boston Massacre and its legacy. Using multiple editions and interpretations of Paul Revere’s print of the events on the Boston Common, Wood will unveil how a skirmish between neighbors sparked a city’s unrest that led to a country’s revolution. Members are free; non members can attend with museum admission. 
  • On Saturday, 7 March, beginning at 1:00 PM, the Boston Massacre will be reenacted. Beginning at 1:00 PM there will be numerous historical vignettes taking place between the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House culminating in the Boston Massacre reenactment at 7:00 PM. Join us as tensions between the citizens of the Town of Boston and the British soldiers stationed in town build and eventually boil over resulting in what has become known as the “Boston Massacre.” This daylong event will allow visitors to meet with reenactors portraying a variety of citizens of 1770 Boston who are eager to share their perspective on the events in Boston since the landing of the troops in October of 1768. For more information, visit: https://www.bostonhistory.org/massacre250.