Beacon Street Diary

December 22, 2014

We will be closing at noon on Wednesday, December 24th, and will remain closed for the rest of the week. All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question for the staff, send an email or leave a voicemail, and we will get back to you when we return to the office on Monday, December 29th.

To all of our patrons who celebrate, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday.

 

December 10, 2014

I had always known that there was a Congregational Library in London, but not much more than that. Over the past several years I've also thought about compiling a list of reasons for a visit — curiosity if nothing else — but the moment always seemed to escape.

Now the other Congregational Library is a reality. In November I traveled to London with Jeff Cooper, the Oklahoma State history professor who has made New England's Hidden Histories possible. Jeff and I were part of a day-long workshop on, yes, Congregational church records, along with scholars from France, Italy, and Great Britain. We were invited by Jeff's former student, Joel Halcomb, who is now teaching in East Anglia. It seems a little surprising that European scholars would have some of the same issues rescuing and preserving old church records — certainly history is a lot more present in a centuries-old city like London than even in Boston — but that was nothing compared to the discovery that Jeff and I were there as resident experts and our project a model they hoped they would one day emulate.


Dr. Joel Halcomb, conference organizer; Dr. Margaret Bendroth, executive director of the Congregational Library & Archives in Boston; Dr. James F. Cooper, Professor of History, Oklahoma State University; and Dr. David Wykes, director of the Congregational Library in London

This was even clearer the next day, when Jeff and I presented our work in a public conference held at Dr. Williams's Library, which houses the original collection of the English Congregational Library, founded in 1831. We met in a large drawing room with old portraits and tall windows (sound familiar?), a gathering of scholars, laypeople, and more graduate students than I would have ever imagined. When I saw the array of learned British faces I was a little worried that our presentations weren't academic enough to pass muster — but the opposite was true. Our hosts were absolutely intrigued with our project — more than one library director came up to me during lunch to say "we need to do what you are doing."

That was the real reward for me: we have been working away at our project for nearly ten years on a shoestring budget, and wondering if we'd ever make an impact. Thanks to the New York Times article, and just recently a piece on the BBC, we are no longer an obscure and struggling little outfit; we've chalked up some amazing finds and found some fantastic allies. But in many ways our real accomplishment is perseverance. Over the years, with the help of Jeff, the Jonathan Edwards Center, and our determined library staff, we have managed to build something unique. New England's Hidden Histories is an ambitious and successful digital program, carried out by a small independent library without the benefit of university funding, a large endowment, or cheap student labor. Yes, we've kind of figured things out along the way, sometimes in fits and starts and down a few cul-de-sacs, but we've kept at it. Will our model work in other small libraries? Maybe so and I hope we have the opportunity to find this out — but in the end, it's a vision carried out patience and persistence. True, we have a long, long way to go and a great need for long-term outside funding, but we've already come a long way on persistence, a quality our hard-working archivists, crack development staff, and dedicated student volunteers have in absolute abundance.

-Peggy

December 5, 2014

Trade in Jingle Bells and the Chipmunks, leave the loudspeakers and sidewalk bells behind to soak up the spirit of Christmases past. Imagine yourself in a room, a warm light filtering through tall transparent draperies. As you close your eyes, a melody, full and crisp, comes and takes you to another place in time where you enjoy the beauty of the sounds

World renowned recorder artist John Tyson and harpsichordist Miyuki Tsurtani will be joined by other dedicated musicians to take you on a musical excursion to the 15th and 16th centuries when dukes, duchesses, clergy and common folk listened and danced to the often-improvised polyphonic tunes. John Tyson teaches at the New England Conservatory and is on the faculty of Corso Internazionale di Musica Antica in Urbino Italy. Recipient of the Bodky International Competition and the Noah Greenberg Award, Tyson has performed around the world.

Don‘t leave it to your imagination join us for a Renaissance Christmas filling the Reading Room with music.

 

Wednesday, December 17th
noon - 1:00 pm

Light refreshments.

Free.
Register through SurveyMonkey.

December 3, 2014

Today we are very pleased to announce the publication of four new New England's Hidden Histories collections! The following collections, totaling 1,361 pages, are now available for your perusal and use from any Java-enabled device with an internet connection:

 

Salem, Mass. Tabernacle Church records, 1743-1850

Tabernacle Church was founded 1735 when parishioners from First Church of Salem split, along with newly-dismissed pastor Samuel Fisk. It took the name "Tabernacle Church" in 1777 when a new meeting house was built to replace one lost to fire. The new building was copied from the Tabernacle in Moorfields (London, England). The church continues to this day as Tabernacle Church in Salem. You can learn more about this collection from the finding aid, or its collection page.

 

Marblehead, Mass. Third Church records, 1858-1877

Third Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts, was formed by members of First Church in Marblehead who left the church after a protracted conflict over a newly called pastor and was officially formed in 1858. The Church dissolved some 19 years later when their building was lost to fire and the members of Third Church rejoined with First Church. The church clerk for the majority of Third Church's short life was artist Glover Broughton (1796-1859) and as such, the volume contains gorgeous penmanship, section separators, section headings, and a beautiful drawing of the proposed meeting house site. The volume also contains baptismal liturgy used by the church. You can learn more about this collection from the finding aid or its collection page.

 

John Pynchon. Notes on sermons by George Moxon, 1640

This booklet of sermon notes was created when then-fourteen or fifteen year old John Pynchon, son of Springfield, Massachusetts founder William Pynchon, recorded the words he heard preached by Springfield pastor George Moxon. The sermon notes are recorded in John Pynchon's own shorthand and a full-text and decoded transcription is available to aid in your understanding of the materials. We are grateful to scholar and friend of the library David M. Powers for providing this transcription, without which these materials would be almost unusable. You can learn more about the Pynchon sermon notes from the collection's finding aid or its collection page.

 

Samuel Hopkins. Correspondence, 1766-1803

The three letters in this collection, all written by Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), a Congregational minister in the New England area. Hopkins studied under Johnathan Edwards (1703-1758) and preached all over the New England area. It is for him that the Congregational school of theological thought known as Hopkinsianism (sometimes called New Divinity) is named. You can learn more about these three letters from the finding aid and the collection page.

 

We hope you enjoy these collections, and the others in the New England's Hidden Histories program. And remember -- we are always here to help with research inquiries. If you have questions about these collections, or other resources and materials at the Congregational Library & Archives, please drop us a line.

December 2, 2014

The day has arrived. Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of contributions to charitable organizations.

As part of the nation-wide #GivingTuesday campaign, the Congregational Library and Archives is asking those with a passion for history to contribute to the New England's Hidden Histories program. Your donation helps us find, digitize, and make freely available rare records of America's past. Join us on Twitter and Facebook as we spread the word about #GivingTuesday, the Hidden Histories program, and the importance of saving the primary documents of America's past.

Scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or town clerk offices lies a richly detailed view of the prevailing cultural currents in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century America. Help rescue these historic manuscripts often exposed to the elements and in danger of deterioration, beyond the reach of the average scholar. Join the Congregational Library and Archives' search and rescue mission to find and preserve these records and make them available to the public.

To learn more and make a donation, visit our Giving Tuesday page.

November 26, 2014

As the holiday season begins, many of you will be getting ready for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. There's a new movement that has been taking off in recent years. It's called Giving Tuesday, and it's a global day of contributions to nonprofit organizations.


Scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or town clerk offices lies a richly detailed view of the prevailing cultural currents in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century America. Help rescue these historic manuscripts often exposed to the elements and in danger of deterioration, beyond the reach of the average scholar. Join the Congregational Library and Archives' search and rescue mission to find and preserve these records and make them available to the public.

As part of the nation-wide #GivingTuesday campaign, the Congregational Library and Archives is asking those with a passion for history to contribute to the New England's Hidden Histories program. Your donation helps us find, digitize, and make freely available rare records of America's past. Join us on Twitter and Facebook as we spread the word about #GivingTuesday, the Hidden Histories program, and the importance of saving the primary documents of America's past.

To learn more and make a donation, visit our Giving Tuesday page.

November 24, 2014

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed this coming Thursday and Friday, November 27-28, in observance of Thanksgiving.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return on Monday.

We wish all of you a safe and happy holiday.

November 17, 2014

New Book Explores the History of Boston's New North Church

The Congregational Library and Archives would like to express our thanks to publisher and author Charles Chauncey Wells for donating a copy of his latest work New North Church : from birth to death in early Boston. The library houses an extensive collection of church histories and is pleased to add this latest volume on such an important and historic church to our shelves.

Exploring the evolution of social and religious thought in colonial Boston through the story of the New North Church, Mr. Wells and his coauthor Steven Fanning deftly reveal the rich, complicated, and at times tumultuous history of Boston. Surveying the period between 1713 and 1864, the book follows the New North Church as it evolves from its founding by Puritans, to its transformation into Congregationalism, and its further progression to Unitarianism.

As they relate the stories behind these changes, the authors introduce the many prominent members of the New North Church, detail the construction of new church buildings, and even recall an infamous story of murder and intrigue. The Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archives, Dr. Peggy Bendroth, also makes a contribution, offering an analysis of the church's transition from Puritanism to Congregationalism.

With transcriptions of marriage, baptism, membership, and death records, along with facsimiles of important documents, New North Church : from birth to death in early Boston offers a wealth of relevant information for genealogical researchers and history enthusiasts alike. The library's copy is available for members to check-out, along with copies of Charles Chauncey Wells's previous books: Preachers, patriots & plain folks : Boston's burying ground guide to King's Chapel, Granary, Central and Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Ground guide.

November 14, 2014

There are still a few seats left for Dr. Bendroth's popular seminar on the history of the Congregational Christian tradition. Sign up today.


What is Congregationalism and who are Congregationalists? To find these answers we look back into the history of this influential spiritual tradition whose roots so many Americans share. This one-day seminar will provide an overview of the Congregational Christian tradition, from its beginning to the present-day.

In an informal setting, we will cover three and a half centuries, from Congregationalism's English Puritan roots to the denominational mergers and divisions which created the national organizations as they exist today.

Executive Director and historian Peggy Bendroth will lead an in-depth exploration and help participants discover the origins of their own beliefs and gain a greater understanding of their shared foundation.

There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion. Lunch is provided.

 

Thursday, November 20th
10:00 am - 2:30 pm

Members — $20
Non-members — $35

Register through EventBrite.

November 10, 2014

There is still time to sign up for this week's free lunchtime event.


Join us for an hour of poetry and conversation with theologian, poet, and mysitic Charles H. Harper.

Chuck Harper began writing poetry soon after his graduation from Yale Divinity School and it quickly became a passion. His poetry is seen regularly in journals, including Mobius, the Aurorean, Avocet, The Lyric, and The Deronda Review. He is the author of four poetry books: Sorting Things Out (2008), Making A Life (2010), Gratitude (2012), and Fragments (2014). A resident of Plymouth, MA, he is a member of the Tidepool Poets, a frequent participant in POETRY: The Art of Words, and leads poetry appreciation workshops at the Plymouth Public Library. To learn more about Chuck and read examples of his work, visit his website.

Having served the Boston area, as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Chuck was the founding Executive Director of the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries. The CMM is an interfaith collaboration of urban and suburban congregations working to address critical social justice issues.

Chuck serves on the Congregational Library and Archives Advisory Circle.

 

Thursday, November 13th
noon - 1:00 pm

Free.
Register through SurveyMonkey.

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