Thursday, June 25, 2009

Historic Chatham Maps

After reading about the loss of two more summer residences in Chatham due to the shifting of tides and erosion of beach, I thought it might be interesting to take a look through our map collection to find maps of Chatham and the Nauset Beach area.

The map at left was published in 1873 as part of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Document 65, the Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. This map is particularly interesting as it reproduces Captain Champlain's map of Chatham from 1606 (lower right corner). Additionally, coastal surveys from 1853, 1868 and 1872 are included to show the movement of land over time. Click on the image to view a larger version.

The second map at left was published in 1874 as part of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Document 65, the Eighth Annual Report of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. I find this map particularly interesting because of the notes throughout the map that describe how the areas changed over the lifetimes of the mapmaker's patriarchal line. A note at the very bottom of the map reads: "A Sketch, (as handed down to me) of Nauset and Monomoy beaches, as they existed, in the days of my Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather I find by the Records the last settled at Chatham in 1684." Click on the image to view a larger version, where other notes can be read.

To view the original maps or House documents relating to the maps, please stop by the Special Collections Department of the State Library.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spot of Color

After such dreary weather in the Boston area, it was a nice surprise to find such a bright spot in the lab today.

As I was unfolding several pages of the Vassall Pedigree, I found this slip of paper with four family seals. I am particularly fond of the seal in the upper left corner - a little sunshine for the summer.

Click the image to view a larger version.

The pedigree will be unfolded, repaired, and will be stored flat. A special case will be made to hold these seals and to protect them for the future.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

State Library Awarded IMLS Grant

The State Library of Massachusetts has been awarded the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections Bookshelf Grant. The IMLS press release can be read here.

The library looks forward to using the resources provided through this grant to further the preservation of library collections.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Archivists and our Pencils

Several months ago, I wrote a short piece about the Special Collections staff and our pencils. I never got around to publishing it to the blog, but as today is my last day before going on maternity leave, I thought I'd post it and leave (for now) with a meditation on one of the essential tools of the archivist and librarian:

Archivists and Our Pencils

Have you ever wondered why you are required to use pencil while working with historical library materials and archival collections? It’s to protect the items. Ink from a pen could permanently damage historic materials, while pencil is a much less invasive and more reversible tool. I imagine that the tradition probably began when fountain pens were ubiquitous in the workplace. Judging from some old documents we’ve seen, accidents were not uncommon. So pencil was by far the safest writing tool to use around precious archives and library items.

It’s not just patrons who must use pencils in an archives or special collections: the staff use pencils for many of our tasks. In the Special Collections Department, we do use pens for some things: taking notes in meetings, jotting down outlines for reports, and such. But when working on, with, or even near our collections, we use pencil. Because we use them so much, and probably because we are precise and a little obsessive by our professional natures, each of us in the department has developed our own little pencil habits and fetishes.

Lacy, the Preservation Librarian, uses pencils for making enclosures for books, applying titles and call numbers to items, and also for most of her writing and note-taking. Because she uses pencils so much and for different tasks, she has her favorite kind of pencil for each task. For marking enclosures and labels, she prefers a Ticonderoga Soft, because it is easier to erase. But for regular writing, she likes a harder pencil.

We have a number of different kinds of pencil sharpeners in the Special Collections Department. Interestingly, no-one likes the electric sharpener: it just doesn't produce a good enough point. We prefer to use one of the two old-fashioned table-mounted sharpeners, or a hand-held one. Shawna, a former library page, liked to use a small hand-held sharpener that she keept with her pencils and other tools. I like the extreme sharpness produced by the table-mounted sharpener in the back workroom ("sharp enough to slay a vampire" is my motto). Because I also wear down those sharp pencils quickly while processing manuscript collections, I like to have a number of them lined up on my right. As they get worn down, I lay them aside on my left, and then sharpen them again all at once.

Patrick, the Library Program Coordinator, doesn’t understand it at all, but he can think of a corollary that helps him get it: he compares this pencil connoisseurship to the way billiards players think of their pool cues. I think that it is just an extension of our natural propensity for order and systematic hierarchical arrangement. The same precision and attention to detail that allows librarians and archivists to successfully arrange complicated systems of information also carries over to our management of the physical work environment. Sometimes it even bleeds over into our choice of writing tool.

-Katie Chase, Special Collections Librarian

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Essential New England Books

Recently the Boston Globe listed 100 Essential New England books on their web site. The State Library holds many of these titles, some of which can be accessed electronically through the library catalog as an e-book or audio book file to download with a valid State Library card. Title, author, and call number information is listed below. If you see something that piques your interest, stop by for some summer reading!

All souls : A Family Story from Southie / Michael Patrick MacDonald F73.68.S7 M33 1999

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / Junot Diaz PS3554.I259 B75 2007
A Massachusetts Book Award Winner

The City Below / James Carroll PS3553.A764 C58 1994

A Civil Action / Jonathan Harr KF228.A7 H37 1995

Cod : A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World / Mark Kurlansky PN6071.C66 K87 1997

Common Ground : A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families / J. Anthony Lukas F73.9.A1 L85 1985

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court / Mark Twain E-Book and Audio Book File

The Emperor's Children / Claire Messud PS3563.E8134 E47 2006
A Massachusetts Book Award Winner

Ethan Frome / Edith Wharton Audio Book File

Girl, Interrupted / Susanna Kaysen RC464.K36 A3 1993

John Adams / David McCullough E322 .M38 2001

The Last Hurrah / by Edwin O'Connor PS3565.C55 L3 1956

Little Women / Louisa May Alcott Audio Book File
Also available as an E-Book in the Collected Works of Louisa May Alcott

Looking Backward, 2000-1887 / by Edward Bellamy PS1086 .L6 1995

Massachusetts : A Novel / Nancy Zaroulis PS3576.A74 M37 1991

Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War / Nathaniel Philbrick F68 .P44 2006
A Massachusetts Book Award Winner

Mystic River / Dennis Lehane PS3562.E426 M97 2001
A Massachusetts Book Award Winner

Olive Kitteridge / Elizabeth Strout Audio Book File

One Boy's Boston, 1887-1901 / Samuel Eliot Morison F73.5 .M6

Paul Revere's Ride / David Hackett Fischer F69.R43 F57 1994

The Perfect Storm : A True Story of Men Against the Sea / Sebastian Junger QC945 .J66 1997

Profiles in Courage / John F. Kennedy E176 .K4 1956
Inaugural and Memorial editions are also available.

Promised Land / Robert B. Parker E-Book

The Rascal King : The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, 1874-1958 / Jack Beatty F70.C85 B44 1992

Science and Health : With Key to the Scriptures / by Mary Baker Eddy BX6941 .S4 1994

The Secret Life of Lobsters : How Fishermen and Scientists are Unraveling the Mysteries of our Favorite Crustacean / Trevor Corson QL444.M33 C675 2004

Summer of '49 / David Halberstam GV875.B62 H35 1989

The Very Hungry Caterpillar / by Eric Carle PZ7.C21476 Ve 1979
A Massachusetts Book Award Winner

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail / Bill Bryson E-Book

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian