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Archive for the ‘The Cambridge Room’ Category

One of the strengths of the Cambridge Room’s holdings is that they gather together published and unpublished resources on or related to a particular topic – Cambridge history – in one place. Most of the published materials in the Cambridge Room are available in our reference collection, which is on open shelves in our reading room and can be browsed anytime the Cambridge Room is open. Volumes in our reference collection are also cataloged in the library catalog. Look for items with a location of CAMBRIDGE/Cambridge Room/Reference or do an advanced search for your topic and select CAMBRIDGE/Cambridge Room from the Collections drop-down menu.

Cambridge Room reference collection

The first aisle of the Cambridge Room reference collection, featuring our MA, GENEALOGY, and CAMBRIDGE groupings.

The Cambridge Room’s reference collection is organized into five main groupings: MA, GENEALOGY, CAMBRIDGE, CITY, and SERIALS. Within each grouping items are shelved alphabetically by author and/or title (and, in the case of serial publications, volume number or year).

MA is for items pertaining to Massachusetts history overall or to towns in Massachusetts other than Cambridge.

GENEALOGY is for items that have particular genealogical interest, such as individual family histories or registers of early settlers.

Items in the CAMBRIDGE grouping provide a wealth of information about Cambridge history and culture. Volumes by or about Cambridge authors such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Margaret Fuller are also included.

The CITY grouping contains items published by the City of Cambridge or pertaining to the city as a governmental entity, including annual and financial reports for the city overall and its constituent departments, voter lists, and one of our most used resources, the city directories.

SERIALS include publications issued on a recurring basis such as local school newspapers and yearbooks and special interest magazines like Growing Up in North Cambridge.

Items in our reference collection are available anytime the Cambridge Room is open. The materials must be used in the Cambridge Room and do not circulate. Some items are in the general library collection as well, or available from other libraries in the Minuteman network.

Though the books do not circulate, you have several options for getting reproductions of pages. The easiest is to bring your own digital camera (or camera phone) and take photos yourself. Another option, and one that is particularly good for the more fragile items in our collections, is to use our Zeta overhead scanner, which makes color scans in a variety of digital file formats. You place the item face up on the scanning bed, press a few buttons on the accompanying touch screen, and in seconds you have digital files suitable for reference purposes. You can email yourself the results or save them on a USB drive.

Cambridge Room zeta scanner

The Zeta scanner in action.

You may be surprised at how much you can learn about Cambridge history from the carefully selected and curated published reference resources here in the Cambridge Room. You may come with one question, or looking for one specific book, but there’s a good chance that the wonderful serendipity that can only come from browsing will lead you to many more.

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While many people enjoy using our digital collections from anywhere they are, as you would imagine, not everything we have in the Cambridge Room is available online. As with most archives and special collections, many of our materials are only available during the Cambridge Room’s regular hours while an archivist is on duty. There is an intermediate category of access, however, and that’s for the materials that we have on microfilm.

 


Cambridge Room microfilm


 

Microfilming is a photographic process that makes highly reduced copies of original documents. It has been used in libraries and archives for over 100 years as a method for saving shelf space, reducing handling of fragile materials, and increasing access for on and offsite researchers. Microfilm was for the standard for preservation for decades and is still a very durable format as long as the film is maintained in appropriate storage conditions. Because of the small size of the images and the sometimes inconsistent process by which they were made, it’s not always a thing of beauty, but microfilm does greatly enhance access to large, bulky, and fragile paper materials like our newspapers, in addition to being an eminently useful format for scanning purposes as the difficult work of preparing and photographing the original has already been done. In fact, most of the materials we have online were digitized from microfilm reels, rather than the originals.

The Main Library of the Cambridge Public Library has one microfilm reader/scanner, which now resides in the second floor reference area. The Cambridge Room microfilm is available anytime the Main Library is open, not just during the Cambridge Room’s hours. (Though if you want specialized historical reference assistance, we still encourage you to come when the archivist is on duty.) To use microfilm during hours when the Cambridge Room is not open, please show an ID to the staff member at the reference desk. He or she will retrieve the relevant reel for you and set you up at the microfilm reader/scanner. Library staff are always available to help, but if you want to learn more about how to use our machine, a ScanPro 3000, there are a number of YouTube videos that explain the process. For example, here’s a video on loading film (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbiFyBc-WCY), and another on navigating it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiksVh7rDsI) from the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Microfilm reader/scanner at the Main Library

Microfilm reader/scanner station on the second floor of the Main Library

You have two options for getting output from the microfilm using this machine. We particularly encourage you to bring a USB flash drive and save your scans in PDF format as you go. You can also print a limited number of pages to the reference desk printer. Please see the staff person at the desk to retrieve your printouts.

We hope that you too will learn to appreciate microfilm and the ways it can aid and speed your research. And if you use the Cambridge Room’s microfilm when we’re not here, please drop us a line about your discoveries!

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Advertisement for Cambridge Electric Light Co. from the December 1947 issue of the Magazine of Cambridge

Advertisement for the Cambridge Electric Light Co.  from the Magazine of Cambridge, published by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, December 1947

Though it’s a bit early for the sentiment, as the Cambridge Room will be closed from December 24 through January 4, let us be among the first to bid you a happy 2015. It’s been a pleasure sharing Cambridge’s history with you over the past year and we look forward to hearing from you in the new one!

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It’s always very satisfying when people contact us to donate items that fill in gaps in our collections or enrich already rich materials. After our post about Salvatore Valente a few weeks ago, our friends at the City of Cambridge’s Veterans’ Services Department brought us two items previously in their offices that are especially appropriate for the Cambridge Room. One was a replacement Purple Heart for Salvatore Valente, which we’ve added to our small Valente collection. The other was a wooden plaque that clearly belongs with our wonderful World War I memorial plaques collection, recently digitized and available through Digital Commonwealth.

Plaque honoring William J. White, who died in 1918 during his service in World War I.
William J. White from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918.

William J. White’s plaque will join its comrades online eventually, but for now you can read more about him in this account of his memorial service from the Cambridge Tribune, June 22, 1918.

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Those of you who know the Cambridge Room well will notice there’s someone new in the office (and behind the blog) these days. My name is Christine Di Bella, and I’m here temporarily filling in for the regular Cambridge Room archivist, Alyssa Pacy, who will be back in a few months. Alyssa left me an archives that’s in an amazingly well organized state and wonderfully detailed instructions so though I’ve only been on the job a few days I feel at home already.

While I’ve worked as an archivist for a number of years in a variety of academic and non-profit settings, and have even worked in Cambridge before, I’ve never before worked as an archivist devoted primarily to Cambridge history. But since one of the many things I’ve always really enjoyed about being an archivist is that it gives me a chance to explore so many different areas that I might not have naturally found on my own, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be here digging into the Cambridge Room’s wonderful collections, and even more excited to have already met and corresponded with a number of people needing help from our collections. Every question helps me learn more, and helps me help all of you in a better and more informed way. (And even though it won’t work for every question, I always love an excuse to delve more into our wonderful Historic Cambridge Newspapers Collection; inevitably I’ll come across something fun like the short article and illustration below.)

 

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From Cambridge Tribune, Volume XLV, Number 23, 5 August 1922, available through the Cambridge Room’s Historic Cambridge Newspapers collection

I don’t expect to know everything about Cambridge history by the time I leave here, but I’m really looking forward to knowing much more than I do now. Your questions will really help me reach that goal, and hopefully help you in the process. So please keep those questions coming! If you have suggestions for me of Cambridge-related resources that I should be sure to check out, please let me know in the comments here or by emailing me at cdibella@cambridgema.gov. (You can also stop by the Cambridge Room’s regular hours or call the regular Cambridge Room number too.) I look forward to hearing from you.

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George Fowler, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

The Cambridge Room in collaboration with Digital Commonwealth has digitized and made available a collection of memorial plaques depicting World War I soldiers from Cambridge who died.  The plaques were dedicated in 1928 by Edward W. Quinn, Mayor (1918-1929) and put on display in the War Memorial Athletic Facility in Cambridge, Mass. Each plaque bears an image of the solider on a copper alloy plate, a name plate (also copper alloy), the date of the year s/he died, and the following text: “In grateful remembrance of her War Dead, Presented by the Cambridge City Government, 1928, Edward W. Quinn, Mayor.” A memorial plaque to the soldiers was dedicated on May 30, 1936, by Edward W. Quinn and John D. Lynch, Mayor (1936-1937). The plaques were made by Imperishable Arts, Inc. in New York City. Also included with the collection is a temporary charter granted by the American Legion under Enos Sawyer on June 10, 1919.

Search the Cambridge World War I Memorial Plaques here.

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Lena M. Sylvester, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

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James W. Mahan, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

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ladiesnight

Cambridge has many institutions.  Some have survived, others have fallen by the wayside. There’s a few I would not mind bringing back. One being, The Cambridge Club’s Ladies’ Night.

The Cambridge Club was formed in October of 1879 and sought “to promote literary and social culture among its members”.  The groups meetings spanned such topics as “The Car Problem in Harvard Square” (1887) to “The Worth of Women’s Education” (1901) to “My Winter in North Greenland” a 1925 presentation by Donald B. MacMillan, an American explorer. In fact, (at least according to the Cambridge Club’s view of history) it was a discussion at the Cambridge Club on the needs of the Cambridge Public Library that convinced Frederick H. Rindge to build the structure that still stands today.

YoungsHotel_ca1910_Boston

Young’s Hotel, 1910 via wikimedia.org

Unfortunately, like so many of the institutions of that time period however, somehow those goals did not regularly include women. However, the last spring meeting of each year was Ladies’ Night. This included a huge dinner at Young’s Hotel in Boston as well as a lecture or perhaps music. In 1917 the Ladies’ Night included a talk and lantern-slide show on poor housing conditions in Boston and Cambridge while in 1898 it was a female soloist and a male “humorist”, known nowadays as a comedian.

The Cambridge Chronicle of 1893 stated that the hotel’s “large dining hall was none too large” since the guests that year included 75 male members almost all with a lady.

Young's Hotel Dining Room, 1910 via wikimedia.org

Young’s Hotel Dining Room, 1910 via wikimedia.org

In 1886, those tables were arrayed with foods from mock turtle soup, Roast Philadelphia Capon, Croquettes of lobster a la Cardinal and Banana Fritters, oh and Charlotte Russe, which lo and behold is a dessert in addition to a junior-sized clothing store. Below is the  menu for the 1886 Ladies’ Night from the Cambridge History Room’s Collection.

Sweets and Desserts?!?! Count me in.

Sweets and Desserts?!?! Count me in.

An menu from the Ladies’ Night in 1889 held by the NYPL shows roughly the same food but it seems that when the men dined alone they were a little more (by their standards) reserved. This undated menu someone has placed on Flickr shows a slightly less robust menu both food wise and decoration.

But the men of Victorian Cambridge had other means of entertainment. Read about an annual Cambridge City Council tradition from the time.

For more information check out The Cambridge Club, 1879 – 1939 at the Cambridge History Room or search the Cambridge Newspapers from the era online at Cambridge Public Library’s Historic Cambridge Newspaper Collection.

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