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Archive for the ‘Tips for Researchers’ Category

CR Collections

Our collections are now searchable online!  We’ll be adding new collections every week.  Search collections here.

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One of the strengths of the Cambridge Room’s holdings is that they gather together published and unpublished resources on or related to a particular topic – Cambridge history – in one place.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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I love a reference challenge, but it’s also gratifying to get a question and be able to give the asker the answer almost immediately. Though when we archivists do this it may seem like magic, most of the time it’s just knowing where to look and to what resources to point people. My time in the Cambridge Room is helping me immensely when it comes to performing this parlor trick with Cambridge-related queries.

For example, do you ever walk down a street in Cambridge and wonder for what or for whom it was named? The Cambridge Historical Commission has you covered with their comprehensive list of the origins of Cambridge Street Names. If your wonderings/wanderings take you further and you want to know about a particular address, the myCambridge database about which Alyssa told you in an earlier post and the database of Cambridge Buildings and Architects maintained through Harvard are great resources for delving a bit more deeply into the history of Cambridge addresses from the comfort of your computer or mobile device. And if you’re of an analytical bent, there’s a fun set of maps over on Bostonography based on the latter that provide a visualization of the types of Cambridge street names and where they are in the city.

 streetsnearCPLStreets near the future site of the Main Library of the Cambridge Public Library, from the Atlas of the City of Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts, by G.M. Hopkins, 1873

So you’ve found the namesake for your street – where next? If you’re really lucky, your street is named after someone well-known enough to have his or her own Wikipedia page, or has a sufficiently unusual name to be easily Google-able. Though you’ll have to vet the results for yourself, the resources you uncover are a great place to start and can lead you down many fascinating paths. You may also want to check WorldCat, to see what relevant material has been cataloged at libraries around the world, and ArchiveGrid, for material in archival repositories. If your person is a pre-20th century Cambridge celebrity, the Proceedings of the Cambridge Historical Society, which the Society has put online, can be really helpful; check the index for references in papers published between 1905 and 1979.

And if you’re stumped, how about contacting your friendly local archivist and giving her or him a shot at it? Like I said, we love a challenge.

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“Senator Lodge Borne to Rest,” November 17, 1924, Boston Herald.  Photograph by United Newspictures, Inc. Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections, Boston Herald Photographs (008).

The Cambridge Room has been collecting the Boston Herald’s photo morgue and we’re amassing a nice, small collection of photographs related to Cambridge, including the one above picturing Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge’s funeral at Christ Church in Cambridge.

In learning about the New York Times’ photo morgue, The Lively Morgue, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Times decoded the back of their photographs as a way to enhance their historical value.
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Explanation of the back of New York Times photographs.  To see the original on the Lively Morgue, click here and scroll down.

Below is the back of the Boston Herald’s photograph of Senator Lodge’s funeral.  There are similarities, including caption, photographic news agency (in this case United Newspictures, Inc. of New York), and a reference number.  You can learn a lot from the back of a photograph.

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Back of “Senator Lodge Borne to Rest,” November 17, 1924, Boston Herald.  Photograph by United Newspictures, Inc. Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections, Boston Herald Photographs (008).

 

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Ancestry.com has recently made available for free several ethnic research guides to help genealogists navigate research barriers like destroyed records or records existing in other countries.   Check them out below and start searching.

African American family research on Ancestry.com

Finding Your Irish Ancestors in the U.S. and Ireland

Finding Your Ancestors from the UK and Ireland

Finding Your Swedish Ancestors at Ancestry.com

Finding Your German Ancestors on Ancestry.com

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors on Ancestry.com

Don’t forget that the Cambridge Public Library offers free access to Ancestry.com at any of its branches

 

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President Barack Obama in Cambridge at Harvard Law School in 1991, footage  to be digitized by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

A few months ago, we told you about a great new database of Boston area news footage:  the Boston TV News Digital Library.  Well, something similar is in the works with a nation-wide database of searchable TV news called the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, headed by WGBH and the Library of Congress.  This new project’s first goal is to digitized and make available 40,000 hours of content from 100 different stations across the country.  Pretty amazing!

In honor of this new digital news venture, the Atlantic is hosting a series of articles on the history of American news and the digitization efforts of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.  Read the first, short article in the series here and be sure to catch the only known footage of Anne Frank, which will soon be made freely available to researchers.

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Reels of film from the WGBH Archive, courtesy of the Atlantic.

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