Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Halloween Storm of 1991

Twenty years ago, the interaction of three meteorological events produced an extreme nor'easter that became known as the Halloween Storm of 1991. The subject of much media attention at the time, interest in the storm was renewed after the 1997 publication of of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. The book tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a swordfish boat that was lost at sea attempting to return to Gloucester in the midst of the storm. While the exact fate of the three men aboard is unknown, their story was later dramatized in the 2000 film adaptation of Junger's work.

Through the collections at the State Library of Massachusetts, one can revisit the history of this devastating storm from multiple perspectives. In addition to Junger's book, library patrons can also explore newspaper articles that report on the storm's destruction and process of recovery in coastal communities. Proquest is an excellent electronic resource for accessing full text articles from the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald is available via the Library's microfilm holdings. At the time, news reports drew the comparison between the Halloween Storm and the Blizzard of '78, an issue examined in a 1994 report by the Army Corps of Engineers. The report, titled Coastal Storm Evaluation Halloween Storm of 1991 offers a wealth of information about the storm itself, as well as the significant impact that it had from Nantucket to Portland, Maine. The damage experienced by each community is described in detail and illustrated in striking color photographs.

Combined, these State Library resources offer a depth of information on an event that touched the lives of many Massachusetts residents. Please contact the Library if you are interested in viewing these items or learning about what else the collection has to offer.

-Libby Johnson, Reference & Outreach Intern

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One Large Exhibit, Two Small Cases

With a dazzling array of binding colors, lettering styles, and subjects, the seven-case exhibit Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1840 to 1930: Collections from the State Library of Massachusetts was extraordinarily popular, but had to come down eventually to make way for the new exhibit, Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth. Although the full bindings exhibit is still available digitally on the Library's Flickr site, the library wanted to continue to display a selection from this exhibit on a much smaller scale. The question was, how?

This is where I came in! As a preservation intern beginning in September, my first assignment was to help the Preservation Librarian, Lacy Stoneburner, take down the full exhibit and design a much smaller one using the same materials. First, I looked at the approximately eighty books from the original exhibit, knowing that I had to pare these down to about ten. I also realized that the large text panels that "told the story" were too large to keep with the books and fit in the smaller cases. So, what essence of the original exhibit could I retain?

While the two small display cases did not have enough room for one volume from each decade from 1840 through 1930, I wanted to maintain a wide range of publication dates, and to include one 1938 paper-covered book representing the end of the era of decorative publishers' bindings. I chose covers in cloth and wood veneer, in red, black, green, blue, and yellow, and many with eye-catching gilt lettering. Finally, I wanted the volumes to represent the wide variety of the books' subject matter, which included almanacs, histories of places or battles, and educational books covering topics from steam to nature studies.

How did I do? Come visit the two exhibit cases just inside the entrance to the State Library, Room 341 of the State House, and you can decide!

Posters of the original exhibit are available for $8 in both the library administration office (Room 341) and in the Special Collections department (Room 55). Shipping options are also available. Please let us know if you have any questions by calling (617) 727-2595.

-Colleen McGhee-French, Preservation Intern

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Celebration of Facial Hair in the Legislature

Anyone who has been on a library tour I've given in the last four years will know that one of my favorite library collections is Photograph 361, which contains approximately 3,000 images of state legislators from 1855 through 1908. While my love for old photographs plays a part in my devotion to this collection, the anthropological study of facial hair trends presented in this collection is really the draw for me.

Changes in facial hair styles have a long history, and until recently were primarily guided by the ruling monarch or clergy, some even specifying in law or edict which class of men should shave and which should grow their beards. The last true heyday of facial hair in the United States occurred in the last half of the 19th century when, heavily influenced by European trends, men grew all styles of moustaches, sideburns and beards. In fact, from Abraham Lincoln's presidency (1861 - 1865) through Grover Cleveland's second term (1893 - 1897) only one President lacked some form of facial hair: the clean-shaven Andrew Johnson.

Members of the Massachusetts legislature did not escape these trends. For example, in the 1880 House of Representatives photograph album, 230 of the 244 representatives pictured wear some sort of facial hair! The diversity of styles worn is truly amazing and I highly recommend visiting the Special Collections department to look through these albums.

As shaving technology advanced (led by Massachusetts-based King C. Gillette) beards began to fall out of fashion. By the early 1900s a safety razor with disposable blade made it easier, safer and less expensive for men to shave regularly. The impact of this technology can be seen in the 1915 volume of Who's Who in State Politics. When facial hair is present, it is predominantly relegated to a well-trimmed moustache. Very dapper, but quite the contrast to the free-wheelin' 1880s styles.

Today there is a resurgence of men growing full and intricate moustaches and beards. With the second annual National Championships of Beard Team USA set for this weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania I thought it appropriate to comb our digital collection for a few fine examples of beards and moustaches from the past. Please click over to the State Library's newest Flickr set, "A Celebration of Facial Hair Trends in the Legislature" to see some amazing styles and learn a bit about the men who wore them so elegantly.

- Lacy Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

African Americans in the Massachusetts Legislature Exhibit Now on Flickr

In the winter of 2009 the State Library displayed an exhibit called "African Americans in the Massachusetts Legislature." This exhibit is now available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

The exhibit documented the lives and contributions of noteworthy people who have served the General Court of the Commonwealth and changed Massachusetts history. Legislators highlighted include Lewis Hayden, Royal Bolling, Sr., Royal Bolling, Jr., Bill Owens, Shirley Owens-Hicks and Mel King, among others.

Please visit the State Library (State House - Room 341) Monday through Friday, 9am to 5 pm to view the library's current exhibit, "Worcester: Heart of the Commonwealth," open though January 27, 2012.

- The Marketing Committee

Saturday, October 1, 2011

State Polka Turns Thirteen

Did you know that Massachusetts has an official polka song?

On October 1, 1998 acting governor Paul Cellucci signed “An Act Designating the Words and Music of "Say Hello to Someone in Massachusetts” the Official Polka of the Commonwealth”. Paul E. Caron introduced the measure as H.B. 5472 and it was enacted by the House of Representatives on September 17, 1998 and the Senate on September 21. The words of the song are particularly fitting this time of year as the leaves start to change color:

“So they say you booked a flight and you’ll be leaving.
Is it business, is it pleasure, is it both.
And they say that you’ll be landing in New England,
What a perfect time of year you chose to go,
The weather’s fine out there, this time of year is lovely.
With all the color and the mountainside to view...”

From electronic resources like InstaTrac to our extensive print collection, the State Library of Massachusetts has a wealth of resources to offer individuals interested in legislative history. Please contact the Library if you think we can be of assistance with your research.