Beacon Street Diary blog

Intern Activities - Artifact Collections at the Congregational Library

Our advanced archive class intern shares his experience with his project:


The Congregational Library is home to more than books, manuscript collections, and archival collections. A hidden collection exists alongside the books and paper. We have known about the existence of these artifact collections for some time, but a project is now underway to reveal the three-dimensional materials. The project, led by an intern from Simmons College GSLIS, is only in the beginning stages, but a researcher can view the records for these objects by searching "Object Collection" under 'Series' in the Congregational Library Catalog.

Revealing these materials is more complicated than simply taking a camera and photographing the object. How does the cataloger describe the object? How does the cataloger describe varied objects, ranging from Hebrew scrolls to Buddhist texts, and from ceremonial gavels to communion sets? The Congregational Library has developed a set of procedures and guidelines, modified from the bibliographic standard AACR2, which allows the cataloger to apply similar standards across a wide array of material.

Two examples of items cataloged under this project are from the S. Brainard Pratt collection. Pratt was a prolific collector of Bibles and religious artifacts. We have a scroll in Hebrew of the Book of Ecclesiastes. This scroll is primarily made of wood and parchment. The scroll was procured for Pratt through the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

Book_of_Ecclesiastes-MS4353.017

Pratt also obtained a set of human bones "formerly worn as ornaments." These are from the Sandwich Islands, dating to around 1840.

Human_Bones-MS4353.007

These two artifacts illustrate the variety of collections at the Congregational Library. Please continue to check for updates in this blog on what is happening at the Congregational Library.

-Abraham Miller