The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: Around MHS

Library Hours Changing

I write with sadness that as of 1 September 2014 the MHS library is reducing its hours, eliminating the extended hours on Tuesday evenings.  The new library hours will be:

Monday through Friday – 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Saturday – 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Unfortunately the reduction in hours was necessary. Once this became evident, many staff members looked at library use patterns to determine where cuts could best be made.  Over the years, especially since reinstating Saturday hours in the spring of 2008, evening use had steadily declined. That is not to say that we do not appreciate that this change will impact researchers – especially those visiting from great distances and those that enjoyed using the library until minutes before attending a Tuesday evening seminar. But it does mean that based on current use patterns, it is hoped that eliminating the evening hours would have the least impact on our researchers. In other words, the lesser of two evils. 

This morning, as I checked the MHS website, the outgoing phone messages, and library handouts to ensure that our hours had been updated in all the necessary places, I began to think about how an era was ending.  When I first started at the MHS in 2006 evening hours were a well-established part of the library schedule.  I knew we had switched the hours from Thursdays to Tuesdays a few years back (with almost no change in use statistics with that move), but as I began to wax nostalgic, I got to wondering just how long the MHS library had been offering evening hours to researchers. 

I went to the reference shelf and grabbed a box containing back issues of Miscellany, the MHS newsletter, and began browsing for notices of library hours. The first issue in the box I selected was dated 1990. I discovered that at that time the MHS was open Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM.  Those hours did not change until June 1997 when Saturday hours (9:00 AM to 1:00 PM) were added.  I was surprised to learn that it was not until September 2001 that the Thursday evening hours (through 8:00 PM) were added.  And they were added as the Saturday hours were eliminated, hoping that the evenings would see greater readership. 

So as we say adieu to our evening hours, and offer researchers three less hours per week to explore our collections, I am happy to say that we are still offering Saturday hours, which on its second go-round was amazingly successful,** and that the MHS library continues to offer more operating hours than it did throughout most of the 20th century. 

 

 

**Perhaps being open until 4:00 PM allows weekend researchers to sleep in a bit on their Saturday morning and still feel they can have a worthwhile research day.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 August, 2014, 8:00 AM

Visiting Dyer Memorial Library

In “The McKay Stitcher,” I presented a letter from Henry H. Warden of the Russell & Company trade firm in Shanghai to colleague John Cunningham about potential shoe business in China. In response to my post, Joice Himawan, Director of the Dyer Memorial Library in Abington, Mass., kindly invited me to see an early wooden model of the McKay machine held there. Abington resident and inventor Lyman Blake created this particular model.  

  

The Georgian architecture of the Dyer Memorial Library really caught my attention with its pleasing symmetry and order. The building, a trove of genealogical and historical information of the residents of Old Abington (modern day towns of Abington, Rockland, and Whitman), sits atop a slight hill on Center Street. Though this elevation makes the two-story building appear perhaps imposing, I enjoyed how the centered five-bay façade threshold with aligned windows drew in my eye and invited my curious mind to enter.

Boy, was I curious! I learned that the library opened its doors to the public in 1930 by the will and trust of resident inheritress Marietta White Dyer (1853 – 1918). Her uncle Samuel Brown Dyer (1809-1894) amassed quite a fortune as an international banker in France and bequeathed this inheritance to his niece, Marietta White Dyer.  As part of her will, Dyer established the Dyer Fund to construct and maintain the Dyer Memorial Library, leaving $80,000, land, and personal estate to the fund upon her death in 1918. Today the library collection focuses on local history with a concentration on materials by and about people connected to the area known as Old Abington.

As Old Abington's history deeply involved the 19th century shoe industry, the inclusion of Lyman Blake's early model of the McKay shoe stitcher to the library's collections makes perfect sense. I would like to thank Joice Himawan of the Dyer Memorial Library for the invitation to visit. What a great gem of 19th century shoe production history!

The library is free and open to the public. I encourage all readers to plan a visit this special library.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 30 May, 2014, 1:00 AM

Symbiosis at the Society: Fellows and Librarians Learn Together

A few weeks ago the Beehive featured an item about the 2014-2015 Fellowship recipients and their research projects for the coming year. This great opportunity for scholars to come and do funded research also is an opportunity for the MHS librarians to expose ourselves to subjects and collections that we otherwise do not interact with.

Each year, the reference librarians here look at the projects to be undertaken by the incoming research fellows and divide them up so that we can serve as individual liaisons for the various fellows. We choose which fellows to liaise with based on our own interest and background knowledge of the projects. This benefits the fellows by providing a specific person to contact if they have trouble navigating our collections or just need someone to bounce ideas off.  

Over the next year, I will be liaising with at least eleven different fellows to help them utilize the resources here at the MHS. The projects cover a wide range of subjects, including alcohol production, throat epidemics, Revolutionary War campaigns, antislavery texts, and religious reform. They also cover a long span of time, from the earliest days of the English colonies to the dawn of the Civil War.

This presents two challenges for me: to help fellows access materials they already identified using our catalog and to help them discover additional material in our collection that they missed. Perhaps I am familiar with a collection that they did not find in their search; maybe I can show them resources that are not available via our online catalog; in some cases, I can suggest another institution whose collections complement the Society’s.

Again, this exchange benefits both the fellows and the MHS staff. I know already from reading through some project descriptions that I will be exposed to topics that are completely new to me or that the fellow is looking at in a new way. And with some relevant materials already identified by the research fellow, I will learn more about the collections we have here. As I scour our catalog to find more resources for the fellow, I learn more about our holdings and about strategically searching our collections, information that will certainly come in useful down the road.

Back in January I wrote a piece for the Beehive about using the Researcher as Resource. Working with our research fellows each year is another way for our librarians to expand their knowledge and to learn even more about the collections here at the MHS. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 16 May, 2014, 3:00 PM

2014-2015 Fellowship Recipients Announced

Each year the MHS grants a number of research fellowships to scholars from around the country.  For more information about the different fellowship types, click the headings below. 

Our various fellowship programs bring a wide variety of researchers working on a full range of topics into the MHS library. If any of the research topics are particularly interesting to you, keep an eye on our events calendar over the course of the upcoming year, as all research fellows present their research at brown-bag lunch programs as part of their commitment to the MHS. 

A hearty congratulations to all of the fellowship recipients.  We look forward to seeing you all in the MHS library in the upcoming year. 

*******

MHS-NEH Long-term Research Fellowships (thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent agency of the U.S. government):

John Stauffer, Harvard University, “Charles Sumner's America: A Cultural Biography”

Erin Kappeler, University of Maine Farmington, “Everyday Laureates: Poetic Communities in New England, 1865-1900”

Suzanne and Caleb Loring Research Fellowship On the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences (with the Boston Athenaeum):

Sarah Beetham, University of Delaware, “Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Reproduction and National Memory, 1865-1917”

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) Awards (with 20 other institutions; the * indicates that part of fellowship will be completed at the MHS):

*Nicholas Bonneau, University of Notre Dame, “Unspeakable Loss: New England’s Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemic of 1735 – 1740”                             

*Frank Cirillo, University of Virginia, “‘The Time of Sainthood Has Passed’: American Abolitionists and the Civil War, 1861-1865”                               

Sascha Cohen, Brandeis University, “The Comedy of the Culture Wars: American Humor, Feminism, and Gay Liberation, 1969-1989”

Dan Du, University of Georgia, “This World in a Teacup: Sino-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century”

*Amy  Ellison, Boston University, “‘To Bring Liberty to the North’: The Invasion of Canada and the Coming of American Independence, 1774-1776.”  Colonial Society of Massachusetts Fellow 

Mary Fuhrer, Independent Scholar, “The Experience and Meaning of Tuberculosis in Rural New England, 1800-1850”

*Brendan Gillis, Indiana University, “Cosmopolitan Parochialism: Colonial Magistracy and Imperial Revolution, 1760-1800”

Christina Groeger, Harvard University, “Paths to Work: The Rise of Credentials in American Society, 1870-1940”

*Brenton Grom, Case Western Reserve University, “The Death and Transfiguration of New England Psalmody, ca. 1790–1860”

Samira Mehta, Fairfield University, “God Bless the Pill? Contraception, Sexuality, and American Religion from Margaret Sanger to Sandra Fluke”

*Sean Moore, University of New Hampshire, “Slavery and the Making of the Early American Library: British Literature, Political Thought, and the Transatlantic Book Trade”                 

*Jacqueline, Reynoso, Cornell University, “(Dis)Placing the American Revolution: The British Province of Quebec in the Greater Colonial Struggle”

*Gregory Rosenthal, SUNY Stonybrook, Hawaiians who left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876”

Kate Silbert, University of Michigan, “‘Committed to Memory’: Gender, Literary Engagement, and Commemorative Practice, 1780-1830”

Jordan Smith,  Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

*Rachel Trocchio, University of California Berkeley, “The Puritan Sublime”

*Jordan Watkins, University of Nevada Las Vegas,  “‘Let Every Writer Be Placed in His Own Age’: Slavery, Sacred Texts and the Antebellum Confrontation with History”                              

MHS Short-Term Research Fellowships:

African American Studies Fellow

Westenley Alcenat, Columbia University, “Escape to Zion: Black Emigration and the Elusive Quest for Citizenship, 1816-1868”

Alumni Fellows

Mary Draper, University of Virginia, “The Urban World of the Early Modern British Caribbean”

Jonathan Koefoed, Indiana University - Purdue University Columbus, “Cautious Romantics: Trinitarian Transcendentalists and the Emergence of a Conservative Religious Tradition in America”

Andrew Oliver Fellow

Mark Thompson, University of Groningen,    “Land, Liberty, and Property: Surveyors and the Production of Empire in British North America”

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Laurie Dickmeyer, University of California Irvine, “Americans in Chinese Treaty Ports: The Interplay of Trade and Diplomacy in the Nineteenth-Century China and United States”

Mark Dragoni, Syracuse University, “Operating Outside of Empire: Trade and Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1756-1812”

Jeffrey Egan, University of Connecticut, “Watershed Decisions: The Social and Environmental History of the Quabbin Reservoir, 1860-1941”

David Faflik,   University of Rhode Island, “Passing Transcendental: Harvard, Heresy, and the Modern American Origins of Unbelief”

Alex Jablonski, SUNY Binghamton, “Subjects into Citizens: The Imperial Origins of American Citizenship”

Nathan Jeremie-Brink, Loyola University Chicago, “Gratuitous Distribution: Distributing African-American Antislavery Texts, 1773-1845”

Jordan Smith, Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

Robin Smith, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, “The Labor of Poetry and the Poetry of Labor: Industrialization and the Place of Poetry in Antebellum America”

Meghan Wadle, Southern Methodist University, “Stray Threads: Industrial Women's Writings and American Literature, 1826-1920”

Benjamin Franklin Stevens Fellow

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, “Occupying Boston: An Intimate History of the Boston Massacre”

Cushing Environmental Fellow (through the generosity of Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, Massachusetts)

Sean Munger, University of Oregon, “Ten Years of Winter: The Cold Decade and Environmental Consciousness in the Early 19th Century”

Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellow

Kristina Garvin, Ohio State University, “Past and Future States: The Cultural Work of the Serial in U.S. Literature, 1786-1814”

Marc Friedlaender Fellow

Kristen Burton, University of Texas Austin, “John Barleycorn vs. Sir Richard Rum: Alcohol, the Atlantic, and the Distilling of Colonial Identity, 1650-1800”

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellow (through the generosity of Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati)

Daniel Soucier, University of Maine, “Navigating Wilderness and Borderland: The Invasion of Canada, 1775-1776”

Ruth R. and Alyson R. Miller Fellows

Kate Culkin, Bronx Community College, “‘For the Love of Your Sister’: Ellen Tucker Emerson, Edith Emerson Forbes, and the Emerson Legacy”

Rachel Walker, University of Maryland, “A Beautiful Mind: Physiognomy and Female Intellect, 1750-1850”

W.B.H. Dowse Fellows

Melissa Johnson, University of Michigan, “Regulating the Word: Religious Reform and the Politics of Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Anglo-Atlantic”

Adrian Weimer, Providence College, “Rumors and the Restoration in Boston”

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 25 April, 2014, 8:00 AM

“Long Sleeps Last Night for Both Sophias”: A New Mother’s Diary from 1910

As one of our staff prepared to depart on maternity leave this fall, I took the opportunity to delve into the print and manuscript materials in our collection related to pregnancy and childbirth, parenting and childhood. The MHS has a wide variety of print, manuscript, art and artifact materials related to the history of parents and children, from Cotton Mather’s Help for Distressed Parents, Or, Counsels & Comforts for Godly Parents Afflicted with Ungodly Children (1695) to the children’s health diaries of Helen C. Morgan (in the Allen H. Morgan Papers), who kept tidy notes on her children’s growth, eating habits, childhood illnesses, and medical treatments from their infancy through their college years (1923-1951).

One of my favorite discoveries was the diary kept by Sophie French Valentine during the first months of her daughter’s life. Perhaps in anticipation of her daughter’s birth, Sophie purchased a page-a-day Standard Diary for 1910. In the days before Internet-based social media was our platform of choice for documenting the everyday, Standard Diaries offered a way for many Americans to keep account of their own comings and goings with “status updates” that continue to resonate with intimate immediacy for future generations.

Sophie Valentine’s 1910 diary remained blank until the page for Saturday, July 23, on which she wrote simply, “She came. 8 pounds 7 ounces, 21 inches. Thoroughly healthy. abt 11.42 a.m.”

While her infant daughter was healthy, Sophie was not. On August 2nd she had to undergo an operation (unspecified), that necessitated separation from her daughter and several days’ sedation with “narcotics.” Sophie wrote on the page for August 2nd, “I nursed the baby every three hours up to this time - but just before the operation it was decided best to take her from me!”

As the summer waned, Sophie recovered from her surgery and chronicled the comings and goings of her household, as well as the growth of her daughter (also christened Sophia). Several weeks after the birth, the family doctor paid a visit and pronounced “the little one…sound and vigorous.” Three days later, infant Sophie “went out in the bassinette in front of the house” for the first of what would be many afternoons in the fresh air with her mother. Sophie’s husband, a diplomat, appears to have been away during much of his wife’s convalescence, but a steady stream of female friends and relatives populate the pages of Sophie’s diary. On August 14th, for example, the day “the little one” was baptized Sophia French Valentine, she “had pictures taken with Harriet, Charles, Aunt Martha, Auntie May; and Elizabeth and Lucy,” as well as with her mother and Aunt Caroline (“who held her and talked to her lots”). Later she was visited by “Theodore, Mrs. Graves, and Auntie Beth.”

By Thursday of that week the social whirl may have worn thin for both mother and daughter: the entry for August 18th reads simply, “Long sleeps last night for both Sophias.” A heartfelt status update that will no doubt resonate with many new parents generations hence.

The Sophie French Valentine Papers are part of the Robert G. Valentine Family Papers and available for use by researchers in the reading room of the MHS library.

 

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 1:00 AM

older posts