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Posts Tagged ‘Microfilm’

We are pleased to announce that the City of Cambridge Reports, Microform, 1940-1998 are open to research.

History
The City of Cambridge is located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Middlesex County. It is a part of Greater Boston and borders the Charles River. The area was settled by Puritans in 1631 hoping to populate the land between Charlestown and Watertown. Its original name was Newe Towne, which changed to Newetowne soon after, and it was planned to be a fortified town, as well as the prospective place of government by Governor Winthrop and his council. However, these ideas were eventually abandoned in favor of Boston. Still, many moved to Newetowne, and William Wood, an English chronicler of New England said the town was, “one of the neatest and best-compacted towns in New England, having many fair structures with many handsome-contrived streets.” By 1636, Harvard College had been established, and Newetowne became home to the first institution of higher learning in the Americas. Therefore, in 1638, the town was christened Cambridge, in honor of the English college.

For the first two centuries after its birth, Cambridge was most closely associated with education and Harvard. It grew as a town, but it was still considered an agricultural community. However, the town experienced rapid growth following the American Revolution after the West Boston Bridge was built in 1792, thus connecting the town directly to Boston. By this time, the town had become a place of prosperous businesses, increased transportation, and higher learning. Therefore, it became an industrial town that was also known for its fisheries along the Alewife and Charles Rivers. In 1846, Cambridge was officially named a city.

Cambridge also boasted some of the most influential literary poets of the nineteenth century, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. During this period of time, many progressive ideas were brought forth, such as feminism. Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was a Cambridge native who advocated for women’s rights. From 1839-1844, she offered a series of seminars for women, and out of that came the publication of the influential feminist tract Women in the Nineteenth Century in 1845. She was also part of the transcendentalism movement that developed around Harvard University and included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, among many others. Abolitionism was another progressive movement in Cambridge during the nineteenth century. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) was a graduate from the Harvard Divinity School, and he was a captain of African American volunteers during the Civil War. This was the nation’s first black military unit, and it became the model for later units.

Throughout the rest of the century, the city continued to grow, and with the help of philanthropist Frederick Hastings Rindge (1857-1905), many city buildings were established. Between 1888 and 1990, he funded the construction of the public library, a new city hall, and the Manual Training School, a vocational school for boys. This expansion continued into the twentieth century, and Cambridge experienced some defining changes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved its campus from Boston, and the subway was engineered to connect the two cities. A melting pot of different cultures formed as more immigrants moved to the city. Political and social movements revolved around social services, education, regulation of the economy, and religion. In 1902, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House was established, and it was inspired by Fuller. Its main goal was to help immigrants successfully assimilate into American culture.

The government at the time was a bicameral system with a mayor, a twenty-one member council, and a board of aldermen. The non-partisan era ended in 1902 when John H. H. McNamee, a bookbinder was elected the city’s first Irish Catholic mayor. After that, political parties played a strong role, which brought about charges of political favoritism and nepotism. Many citizens initiated reform movements to combat the corruption. Political reformers introduced Plan E in 1937, which changed the structure of government. Now, there was a nine-member council. The new plan encouraged proportional representation, which means all voters and political groups deserve representation in government based on voting numbers. Plan E changed how candidates campaigned because slate balloting was very important. This influenced the politically-charged atmosphere of the time, something that continued throughout the century. When the City of Cambridge entered the new millennium, many of the social issues of the twentieth century were still relevant. A process of urban renewal and economic development, from women’s suffrage to rent control, helped the city retain its appeal.

Collection Overview
This collection contains 17 rolls of microfilm and approximately 300 cards of microfiche of various city reports. The bulk of the reports are from 1978 to 1997. Many of the originals of these reports exist and are individually cataloged, accessible through the online catalog. If more than one card exists for each report it is noted in the finding aid.

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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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Poster for Pickup on South Street, starring Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and Thelma Ritter.

On a crowded subway, Skip McCoy picks the purse of Candy.   Among his take, although he does not know it at the time, is a piece of top-secret microfilm that was being passed by Candy’s consort, a Communist agent. Candy discovers the whereabouts of the film through Moe Williams, a police informer. She attempts to seduce McCoy to recover the film. She fails to get back the film and falls in love with him.  The desperate agent exterminates Moe and savagely beats Candy. McCoy, now goaded into action, confronts the agent in a particularly brutal fight in a subway.


Jean Peters (Candy) and Richard Widmark (Skip McCoy) on the subway.

Despite great acting from Richard Widmark (Skip McCoy), Jean Peters (Candy), and Thelma Ritter (Moe Williams), the star of this 1953 dark thriller is the microfilm.  The entire movie revolves around it.  There is a great scene where Skip goes to the New York Public Library to view the film with a microfilm machine that by today’s standards is wonderfully old.  It is at the NYP that he discovers the Communist connection to the film he has stolen and realizes that he can now manipulate the authorities who are after him.

As many of you know, both microfilm and microfilm machines are near and dear to historians and archivists.  Despite all the advances in digital technology, archival quality microfilm is still the preferred method to preserve copies of historic documents long term.

The Cambridge Public Library’s microfilm machine is used by patrons every day.  We have all the Cambridge Chronicles from 1846 to 2009 available, along with city directories and tax registers.  We also have several copies of Pick up on South Street available here:  http://library.minlib.net/search~S9/?searchtype=t&searcharg=pickup+on+south+street&searchscope=9&SORT=D&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=tpick+up+on+south+street.  Stop by the library anytime to take out the movie or use our microfilm collection.


A Microfilm machine similar to the one featured in Pickup on South Street, courtesy of Brockport College Archives.

Works Cited
Movie summary taken from IMDB.com:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046187/.

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