Digital Collections

Our digital collections are sets of digitized items which have been organized either around a common topic, such as the American Revolution, or to highlight a specific collection, such as the papers of Thomas Jefferson.

Atkins Family in Cuba
Photographs depicting life and work on sugar plantations in Cuba in the late 19th century.

A selection of photographs providing a unique visual record of life and work on sugar plantations in Cuba during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These photographs were taken and collected by Boston merchant Edwin F. Atkins and other members of his family are from the Atkins Family Photographs. Edwin Atkins was a dominant force in the U.S.-Cuban sugar market and his firm, E. Atkins & Co., established sugarcane plantations along the southern coast of Cuba near the cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad.

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Antislavery Images
Online displays of photographs, paintings, and other visual materials illustrating the role of Massachusetts in the national debate over slavery.

This website presents digital images of 840 visual materials from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society that illustrate the role of Massachusetts in the national debate over slavery. Included are photographs, paintings, sculptures, engravings, artifacts, banners, and broadsides that were central to the debate and the formation of the antislavery movement.

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Photographs of Francis Blake
A selection of photographs, including stop-action images, taken by Francis Blake, in the nineteenth century.

A selection of photographs taken by Francis Blake, an innovative man who lived in Massachusetts in the nineteenth century. In the 1880s Blake designed a focal-plane shutter that allowed him to take photographs with exposure times of 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second and he took stunning stop-action images of trains, pigeons, horses, bicyclists, and athletes.

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Early Photographs
Online presentation of early photographs (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and stereoviews) depicting people and places.

Browse online presentations of early photographs from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS). These images include portraits taken by some of Boston's most notable photographers as well as depictions of locations in and around Boston.

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54th Regiment
Visual materials from the MHS relating to the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first military unit consisting of black soliders to be raised in the North during the Civil War. Browse online presentations of photographs and broadsides relating to a notable Civil War army regiment.

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Highlights from the Saltonstall Family Collections
Web presentations of 185 items selected from the extensive Saltonstall Family Collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The papers, photographs, art, and artifacts of the Saltonstall family, one of the founding families of Massachusetts, chronicle five centuries of family history and involvement in public life, from before the European settlement of America through the 20th century. Saltonstall family collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society include papers of Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845), mayor and U.S. representative from Salem, Massachusetts; Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall's letters home to her family while serving as a volunteer in France during World War I; and the personal and political papers and photographs of U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall (1892-1979).

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Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams Photographs
View one entire album assembled by Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams and selected letters and documents conveying her approach to photography.

This website presents 48 photographs (one entire album) from the Marian Hooper Adams photograph collection, five selected letters from the Hooper-Adams papers, and two letters by Henry Adams (from a new acquisition) in which he reflects on his wife's death. This website also provides information about Clover's approach to photography by presenting a digital facsimile of a notebook Clover kept from May 1883 to January 1884 in which she listed many of her photographs and commented on exposures, lighting, and other technical details.

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Nora Saltonstall Papers and Photographs
A selection of Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall's letters and photographs conveying her experiences as a volunteer in France during World War I.

During World War I Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall (1894-1919) volunteered in France, first with the Bureau of Refugees and Relief (a division of the American Red Cross that provided lodging for refugees), and then with an American Red Cross dispensary. Presented here are a selection of Nora's letters to her family describing her experiences written from November of 1917 through the end of 1918, her passport, and photographs taken by and of Nora, including one taken just weeks prior to her death in the summer of 1919.

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Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865
Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865, features important manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts from the Massachusetts Historical Society's collections that convey how Boston became a center of the national antislavery movement.

The Massachusetts Historical Society holds many important manuscripts, photographs and artifacts that relate to the abolitionist movement in Boston. This website includes a range of materials from the first antislavery tract published in America, The Selling of Joseph by Samuel Sewall, (printed in New England in 1700) to a broadsheet with William Nell's tribute in December 1865 to last issue of The Liberator (the country's leading abolitionist newspaper).

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Margaret Hall's World War I Photographs
Margaret Hall served as a member of the American Red Cross in France during World War I and took many photographs depicting soldiers, canteens, and the extensive destruction and ruin following the war.

This website allows users to browse and search all 246 photographs and 29 additional illustrative items from Margaret Hall's typescript narrative, Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country, 1918-1919. As a member of the American Red Cross in France during World War I, Massachusetts-born Margaret Hall worked at a canteen at a railroad junction in the town of Ch√¢lons. On her return home she compiled a typescript narrative from the letters and diary passages that she wrote while overseas. Her words offer a first-hand account of life on the Western Front in the last months of the war. She also copiously illustrated the text with her own photographs, which depict soldiers, canteens, and the extensive destruction and ruin following the war.

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Massachusetts Debates A Woman's Right to Vote
Learn about pro-suffrage and anti-suffrage activities and activists from Massachusetts.

This online presentation highlights the fight over a woman's right to vote in Massachusetts by illustrating the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. Women at the polls might seem unremarkable today; but these contentious campaigns prove that suffragists had to work hard to persuade men to vote to share the ballot. These century-old arguments formed the foundations for today's debates about gender and politics. Please note: This online presentation was derived from an exhibition, "Can She Do It?": Massachusetts Debates A Woman's Right to Vote, which was on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society between 26 April 2019 and 21 September 2019. This website does not show everything that was part of the exhibition

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