Beacon Street Blog

October 18, 2011

While researching last Monday's post about Christopher Columbus, I spent some time in a section of our collection that hasn't completely made it into the online catalog yet -- our general world history materials. There I found an interesting little book about the Viking voyages to northeastern North America around AD 1000.

[] In The Pre-Columbian Discovery of America by the Northmen (2nd ed. 1890), author B. F. DeCosta used descriptions from the Icelandic sagas to figure out exactly where the events chronicled in the Norse oral histories might have taken place. Even lacking the archaeological and geological evidence found in the late 20th century, he made some pretty good guesses with the information he did have.

DeCosta's text proposes that the locations described in the sagas fall along Cape Cod and Nantucket / Martha's Vineyard, possibly even as far west as Mount Hope Bay in Rhode Island. It's a pretty reasonable conclusion based on the geography and climate of the area. He also relied on the expertise of prominent Danish scholar Carl Christian Rafn, whose theories about Norse monuments in southern New England were later disproven.

Recent discoveries place the adventures of Leif Ericson and his countrymen farther north along the Candadian coast from Helluland (probably Baffin Island or northern Labrador Island) to Markland (eastern Labrador) and Vinland (Newfoundland, and possibly Nova Scotia). The long spit of land described in the sagas is probably not Cape Cod, but the northern tip of Newfoundland at the entrace to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence; a Norse settlement dating to the early 11th century was uncovered at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960.

We tend to think of the Vikings as pagans who worshipped Odin and Thor and the rest of the Norse pantheon, but many western Scandinavians of the time, including Leif Ericson and the inhabitants of Iceland, converted to Christianity at the insistence of King Olaf I of Norway. It took more than a century for the majority of the Scandinavian peoples to become Christian and accept papal authority, so it's likely that some of the first European settlers in North America practiced a form of Christianity heavily influenced by their pagan traditions.

For a more in-depth description of current Viking knowledge, take a look at the National Museum of Natural History's Viking Voyage exhibit. It contains some fascinating information about the travels of the Norsemen, the lands and peoples they encountered, and the modern science that is helping connect the legends of the sagas with solid facts.


October 17, 2011

The Central/Western Massachusetts Resource Sharing library network (C/W MARS), along with the Central and Western Mass. Regional Library Systems (CMRLS and WMRLS) have put together a collection of digitized photographs showing the agricultural and industrial history of those regions.

[]Digital Treasures contains hundreds of photographs from more than 40 institutions. They depict everything from sawmills to fishing, furniture design to optics, tire manufacturing to home canning clubs during World War I, and much more. There are also military records and personal papers, like an account of a young woman's dowry from 1830, and the will of the first settler in Southbridge. They provide a peek into the smaller parts of local history. You might even find parts of your own past if you look.


October 14, 2011

Beneficent Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island was organized in 1743. The structure depicted here was completed in 1810, and remains the home of the congregation to this day.

Providence, RI : Beneficent Congregational Church.

The building was extended in the late 19th century, funded by a donation from industrialist and philanthropist (and prominent member of the church) Henry J. Steere, in honor of his father, Jonah. In the 20th century, the exterior was refaced in red brick. Beneficent Church is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about Congregational churches in Rhode Island, search for "Congregational churches - Rhode Island." in the library catalog.


October 13, 2011

Hello, I'm Christopher Stowell. I am originally from Burlington, VT and recently moved to Boston to attend Simmons College. Before attending Simmons I studied at Saint Michael's College and received a B.A. in psychology with minors in sociology/anthropology and religious studies. After I graduated from SMC I worked in the mental health field for a few years as a residential counselor and had clients dealing with a wide range of issues.

When I made the switch to Library Science, I was actually going back to what I originally wanted to do before attending SMC, as I worked for a number of years in a public library and loved it. This fall I will be working along side Sari and April to tackle the ongoing Old South Church project.


October 11, 2011

I'm Jaime Bonney and I am interning this year at the Congregational Library, not as a librarian-to-be but as an aspiring pastor. In turning to the stacks instead of the pews, I hope to join the long line of "scholar pastors" who treasure, safeguard, and learn from the long arc of history that holds the present, and it is in particular with an ear to "empathetic listening" that I turn to the library's holdings.

As my first project, I have been exploring the uncatalogued records of German Americans in the mid-19th to early-20th centuries. My first assignment: to read an unknown German-language newspaper, Sonntagsblatt für Schule und Haus (Sunday Paper for School and House), and figure out what it is. After reading its first article, I believe it is a publication intended for children's religious education. It tells a simple story about the conversion of a young girl, mostly through an allegorical tale of providing water to a broken flower. As a piece of writing, it is perhaps of little merit, but as a window into the state of the German Evangelical Church in the second decade of the 20th century, the writing, its quality, its themes, its mission of reaching children, may have much to reveal. I look forward to many more forays into this paper and other treasures of the German-language archives.


October 10, 2011

[]The version of American history taught to most American schoolchildren says that Christopher Columbus discovered the American continents (more specifically, the Caribbean islands and Central America) while on a quest to forge a western trade route between Europe and India. This is true enough, of course, but it is also quite simplistic. It's the details that make the story really interesting. For example:

  • Due to an error in his calculations, Columbus believed the span of ocean between the Canary Islands and Japan to be only about 2,300 miles -- less than one-fifth the actual span between them, and a distance proven to be navigable with the ships of the time. Luckily for him and his crews, that is the approximate distance to the islands he dubbed the West Indies.
  • The maps created in the early 1500s as a result of his voyages indicate that cartographers in southern Europe knew little or nothing of the Norsemen's journeys from Iceland and Greenland to Vinland (now the Canadian maritime provinces and coastal New England) almost 500 years earlier. In fact, some maps don't even include any significant land masses west of the British Isles, indicating a dismissal or perhaps even outright ignorance of their existence.
  • Despite encountering native peoples who neither looked like the inhabitants of India, nor spoke their language, Columbus so adamantly persisted in calling them Indians that the moniker has stuck even into the modern era. (The preferred terms now, of course, are Native American, Amerindian, or First Nations, depending on who you ask.)
  • In his 1493 letter to the royal treasurer of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus talks effusively about the friendly (and mostly naked) natives*, who didn't mind the Europeans claiming their lands, trading trinkets for valuable commodities like precious metals and cotton, renaming all the islands in honor of the Spanish court and Christian saints, or building whole settlements to house the men and the goods they were stockpiling for transport back to Spain. They were even helpful enough to point out which island might have cannibals on it**.
  • Columbus and his crew introduced Catholicism to the islands. When relayed back to Pope Alexander VI, this fact led him to grant dominion of the New World to the Spanish in perpetuity. This did not go over very well with the other Catholic nations of Europe, as you might imagine.
  • There are many portraits of Columbus, but few look particularly similar. All that can be gleaned from them, along with contemporary written descriptions, is that he was a fair-haired man with a long nose and pale skin who sunburned easily.

The true nature of history is contained within the word itself. It is a story, always changing depending on who is telling it, how much information they have, personal biases, societal values, and a thousand other factors. From a modern perspective, Columbus may seem like a plundering conquerer of relatively peaceful peoples, but in his lifetime, he was celebrated as a bold explorer who brought new wealth to his homeland and the light of salvation to a continent of heathens. Whatever his true motivations may have been, one thing is almost certain: Our country would not be what it is today without him.



* The original name of the people on Hispaniola is unknown. Modern scholars refer to them as "Arawak" or "Taino", though both terms appear to have been adopted by the tribes after the Spanish settlement.

** The purported cannibals were the Caribs inhabiting what is now Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles. Columbus believed them to be "the people of the Great Khan" (i.e. Mongolian warriors). While they did engage in some ritual consumption of human flesh follwing victories in battle, it was by no means their regular diet.

October 7, 2011

We will be closed this coming Monday, October 10th, in observance of Columbus Day.

All of our digital resources will still be available, of course, but if you want more in-depth assistance by phone or email, you'll have to wait until we get back into the office on Tuesday.

We hope you have a pleasant weekend.

October 6, 2011

The Old South Church Project is up and running again this fall with two new interns from the GSLIS Archives program at Simmons College. Sari Mauro (who is also the new Archives Assistant here at the Congregational Library) and Christopher Stowell were excited to get started in the "plastic room" on Tuesday and are already planning out what they will be focusing on this semester. As of the end of the spring 2011 semester, the collection is believed to be about 50% processed. With that much under our belts, I suspect there will be a lot of headway made this semester.

Sari and Christopher will be providing updates here on the blog at least two times before the end of their time on the project, so keep an eye out for their posts. For an overview of the Old South Church Project, see Jessica's entry from this past March.


October 4, 2011

Samuel Lamson Gould was a Congregational minister and doctor. Born in Topsfield, Mass., he graduated from Bowdoin Medical College in 1832. He practiced medicine in Searsport and Orrington for the next six years. He then studied theology under Wales Lewis Brewer in Dixmont for two years and was ordained at Bristol in 1839. During his ministerial career, he held pastorates across western Maine, including Boothbay, New Portland, and Phillips.

Gould, Samuel L. (Samuel Lamson), 1809-1892. Portrait.

Dr. Gould married twice; fathered ten children with his first wife, Ann; and lived to be almost 83 years old, outliving most of his children. His son (and namesake) Samuel, served as a surgeon in the Navy, and died in battle in Florida during the Civil War. Another son, William, joined the Army and died in Virginia in 1864 just before the Seige of Petersburg. Three of his seven daughters - Mary, Clara, and Alice - married, but don't seem to have had children of their own.

Gould does not appear to have been a prolific writer, but judging by his obituaries he was very well liked by his patients and congregants.


October 3, 2011

Two German sites -- both with English interfaces available -- are making thousands of books available for free online.

[]PaperC has more than 16,000 textbooks and dissertations in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish covering dozens of subject areas. The first 10 pages (enough to see the title page and table of contents) of each book are viewable without logging in. All of their materials can be read for free by registered PaperC and Facebook users. Texts can be also be purchased for download, either as whole books, chapters, or individual pages. Browse their titles in history or religion to see if something catches your eye.

[] Digi20 is a project of the Bavarian State Library that "was developed in the context of the long-term project "Digitalization of the DFG (German Research Society) special subject fields". It concentrates on the digitalization of literature not in public domain, predominantly in the field of humanities and social sciences with an emphasis on monographs." So far, it has made 4700 titles from three major German publishers available online, with approximately 1750 more planned for the next few years. The texts themselves are primarily in German, but a good translation program should at least give you the gist.


September 30, 2011

[] We've been members of Digital Commonwealth almost since the beginning, and we've been using the digitization services provided by the Boston Public Library (conveniently just down the street) for several years. Now, thanks to a fantastic grant, the BPL is able to offer free digitization to DigiComm members for the next year. Keep reading to find out how in their press release.

The Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts is pleased to announce the application process by which current Digital Commonwealth members may apply for free digitization services from the Boston Public Library (BPL).

A recent grant awarded to the Boston Public Library by the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) and funded by the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) provides an excellent opportunity for organizations that either are currently individual members of Digital Commonwealth, or are interested in joining. Digital Commonwealth is a statewide collaboration focused on providing access to digital resources of cultural institutions in Massachusetts.

The online application form is now available at Starting in October 2011, during the year-long grant, requests will be reviewed each month and approved requests will be scheduled quarterly. Organizations interested in digitizing entire collections of photographs, or manuscripts, or a series of books or bound volumes are encouraged to apply. The BPL might limit the number of images digitized for one institution to approximately 50 bound volumes (1,500 pages) or 5,000 individual items (e.g., photographs, manuscript pages, posters) depending on the number of applications it receives. Although the BPL cannot currently digitize microforms, roll film, audio, or video, we encourage you to include these formats in your application so that we may evaluate which services to provide past the term of this grant.

The BPL is prepared to accommodate as many valid requests as possible. The BPL reserves the right to prioritize the sequence of scanning based on various factors including when the collection is ready for digitization, how long the organization has been a member of the Digital Commonwealth, and workflow-related issues (e.g., size, format, quantity).

This program is one highlight of a new partnership between the Digital Commonwealth and the BPL. Through this partnership, the Digital Commonwealth and the BPL will work together towards a shared goal of creating, maintaining, and expanding a successful and thriving statewide system to provide access to digital resources in Massachusetts.

Membership at either the smaller cultural institution level or larger cultural institution is a requirement to be considered for free digitization services. The Digital Commonwealth’s website includes a page with information about membership fees as well as the rights and responsibilities of members ( Digital services to the third membership category, Group Sponsoring Organizations, will also occur during the grant, but the BPL will be working directly with one main representative from each group to target digitization services that will supplement and complement their existing digitization efforts. Organizations that currently are group members (within the Group Sponsoring Organizations) can apply for the free digitization services if they become individual members of Digital Commonwealth.

Digital Commonwealth members who receive free digitization services from the Boston Public Library during this grant project will need to complete tasks associated with the creation of metadata for the digital objects created during the grant and also need to commit to making the digitized items available online through the Digital Commonwealth system. The BPL is prepared to conduct customized site visits and consultations in order to assist in this process. Digital Commonwealth will also be conducting a series of general workshops to support member digitization issues.

This is a great opportunity for institutions who have been hesitant to spend a ton of money having their collections scanned. Even if you don't plan to make the resulting images available to the general public, they can be a great way to send non-circulating research materials to your patrons who can't come see them in person.

We hope you'll take advantage of this funding, and help expand the Digital Commonwealth catalog. Go look!


September 29, 2011

Second Church in Newton, West Newton, Massachusetts was organized in 1781 as the West Parish church of Newton. The caption on the print reads, "Congregational Church, West Newton. / Organized October 21, 1781. / Present Church Edifice Erected 1848."

Newton, MA : Second Church of Newton.

The building shown here was replaced in 1916 by a more Gothic structure across the street, which is still in use today.

September 27, 2011

The World Council of Churches and have just launched a new digital repository of theological resources. "The Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (GlobeTheoLib) is a multi-lingual global digital library on theology and ecumenism that offers access to more than 200,000 texts, documents and other academic resources." It combines a large number of research materials -- both free and subscription-based -- in one convenient place for the use of anyone studying religion or ethics.

GlobeTheoLib aims to:

  • use new digital models of information exchange to create greater visibility for theological knowledge and insights from churches of the global South;
  • make use of information and communication technologies to counter imbalances in global theological education systems;
  • respond to the needs of theological colleges, faculties and institutes for quality resources for theological education and research;
  • overcome barriers to accessing existing digital content;
  • support and enable well-equipped participation in the teaching of Christian theology, the generation of ecumenical and intercultural perspectives, and the formation of a new generation of ecumenical leaders.

GlobeTheoLib has a special focus on intercultural theology and ecumenism, including contextual theologies, world mission and missiology, gender and theology, interreligious dialogue, theological education, and World Christianity.

For individual registered participants, such as theological researchers, educators and students, GlobeTheoLib offers free-of-charge access to:

  • journals, magazines, books, training material, dissertations and news documents on theology and ecumenism, with a focus on full text documents
  • licensed content such as journals, reference works, and e-books

Registered participants may also submit their own documents and publications to GlobeTheoLib.

Participants have access to other online libraries of, such as the Global Digital Library on Ethics, as well as the networking facilities and online workgroups of

Though registration is required to access the GTL resources, the process is quick, free, and allows you to specify your fields of interest. It also allows you to create and join workgroups, through which you can collaborate with other researchers around the world.


September 26, 2011

[]Doing research online just got a little easier.

We mentioned a while ago that the JSTOR digital archive was planning to make some of their out-of-copyright materials available to non-subscribers for free. They have now released a number of titles, including many that will be useful to some of our researchers.

We have added links in our catalog to the JSTOR archives for 18 journals we own, such as the The Journal of Religion and its predecessors, and are considering a number of others to be cataloged as electronic resources. We hope that you find these articles useful.


September 23, 2011

Born in Machias, Maine, Samuel Harris attended Bowdoin College and Andover Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1841, after which he held pastorates at Conway, Mass. (1841-1851), and Pittsfield, Mass. (1851-1855). Harris was a professor of Theology at Bangor Theological Seminary from 1855 to 1867, then became the fifth president of Bowdoin College, where he served until 1871. After resigning from Bowdoin, he returned to teaching for 25 more years as the Dwight Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School.

Harris, Samuel, 1814-1899. Portrait.

During his later years, Harris also wrote extensively, publishing his four best known works: The Kingdom of Christ on Earth, The Philosophical Basis of Theism, The Self-Revelation of God, and God the Creator and Lord of All.

For more information about Samuel Harris and his writings, search for "Harris, Samuel" in our online catalog.


September 22, 2011

Statistics may not be a glamorous field of study, but it sure is useful to researchers in pretty much every discipline. If you're interested in modern American religions, you'll probably want to take a look at the Religous Congregations Membership Study for 2010.

Just as the U.S. government takes a census of its citizens every 10 years, the National Council of Churches and the Glenmary Research Center have conducted surveys of American religious bodies for the past several decades. Their latest data from the 2010 study can be found on The Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA), and preliminary maps are available on the RCMS site for more visual learners.


Go take a look!


September 20, 2011

Don't forget, the next installment in our Brown Bag Lunch series is tomorrow at noon.

"Women of Smoke and Fire"

During and after the Civil War, many women volunteered as teachers to former slaves through the American Missionary Association. Join longtime Christian educator Faith Johnson as she highlights a few of their stories, the dangers and prejudices they faced, and why so many more women than men answered the AMA's call.

Bring your lunch and a curious mind.

12:00 - 1:00 pm

No registration is required, but we appreciate an RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

September 19, 2011

The American Congregational Association seeks a highly qualified half-time Director of Development to:

  1. Establish a development office that will support the operation of the Congregational Library and nonprofit tenant mission.
  2. Assist in a capital campaign and long-term support for the ACA's historic building at 14 Beacon Street in Boston.

Until now, the American Congregational Association's income has come primarily from rents and investments. The ACA seeks to expand this base by hiring its first Director of Development in order to seek greater income from foundations, individuals, and churches.

The successful candidate will have the skills to establish a highly successful development office, be comfortable working in a small, collegial environment, and be sensitive to the culture of religious organizations.

The Director of Development will be responsible for the development and implementation of a comprehensive fundraising plan that will increase the organization's support from individuals, corporations, and foundations. S/he will work closely with the Executive Director, Chair of the Board's Development Committee, and Board of Directors.


  • At least five years of relevant fundraising experience.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in raising funds from individuals and foundations.
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail; ability to manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously.
  • Ability to initiate and manage projects independently.
  • Exceptional writing skills, including the ability to create compelling documents to engage a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Experience with fundraising databases (ACA uses eTapestry), web and social media management experience required.
  • Interest in the mission of the American Congregational Association.
  • BA/BS required. Masters preferred.

Please send cover letter and resume to Jeff Katz at No phone calls, please.

September 16, 2011

This image of First Congregational Church, Sandisfield, Massachusetts, shows a crowd gathering on the steps of the church. The church was organized in 1756. The caption reads, "5445 Photograph. Congregational Church, Sandisfield, Mass. 150th. Anniversary, Aug. 27, 1906." A note on the back reads, "Burned ca. 1909."

Sandisfield, MA : First Congregational Church.

According to a descendant of The Art Store founder, this was part of a series by a local photographer named George Taylor. The information on another image of the church indicates that it was Sandisfield Congregational's third meetinghouse, built in 1852 and destroyed by a fire in May 1908.

After the loss of their meetinghouse, the congregation was listed as "inactive" in denominational yearbooks for several decades, but never managed to reassemble or construct a new church building. Sandisfield is a small enough town that the congregants of First Church probably just joined the nearby New Boston Congregational Church or scattered to the churches in surrounding towns.


September 15, 2011

Some of you may remember Sari from her summer volunteering here in 2010. Sari was instrumental in the publication of our walking tour booklet, "Exploring Boston's Religious History". It was during this period that she made the decision to pursue a master's degree and become an archivist. This fall Sari began her course work at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). Sari is a graduate of Elizabethtown College in English Literature, Political Science and Religious Studies. This past summer she assisted in the organization of the archives of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC). Sari is the daughter of Board member, Rev. Betsey Mauro.

We are pleased to have Sari on our staff.


September 13, 2011

As one of my first projects when I started here at the library in June, Jessica asked me to continue to re-house the lantern slide collection of William Eleazar Barton that she had started. It was a simple and satisfying project that required no learning curve or institutional memory and also was perfect for those times when your brains started hurting from the deep thinking you are doing for more challenging projects.

Once I was finished I went to add the slides to the rest of the Barton collection, and that was when I realized that the finding guide could probably use a bit of revamping. So began my first finding guide overhaul here at the Congregational Library. It was fun, the collection was super interesting, and I learned a lot about how to create a Congregational-Library-approved finding guide.

For your informational pleasure, a bright, shiny new finding guide is now available on our website: William Eleazar Barton papers, 1888-1953.

This collection contains the papers of William Eleazar Barton and family from 1888-1953 (with the bulk covering 1888-1930). Papers include correspondence; writings such as sermons, lectures, articles and outlines for books; photographs, scrapbooks, and printed materials; Barton's lantern slide collection; and materials created and related to Barton's son and author of "History of Business", Bruce Barton.


September 12, 2011

This semester we have another type of intern joining our ranks. Trevor Winn is a student at Boston University in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program. Last spring Trevor asked Peggy Bendroth if we would be able to sponsor his internship. He has a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science from Olivet Nazarene University and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University. He is interested in expanding his experience in theological librarianship and the history of Congregationalism. With his degrees and library reference experience, we welcome him to the library to assist with the review of the materials we acquired from the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). Trevor is a member of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and is a Merit Scholar at Boston University.

Join us in welcoming Trevor.


September 9, 2011

[]If you've done any research in an academic setting within the last decade, chances are good that you've used the JSTOR article database. Until this week, all of their full-text articles could only be viewed through a paid subscription, usually at a university or large public library. In response to recent attempts to steal their content, however, JSTOR has moved up their scheduled plans to make more than 500,000 out-of-copyright articles available for free.

They haven't announced specific journals yet, but with more than 220 titles included in the Early Journal Content program, we are hopeful that some of them will be useful to our patrons. As these resources become available, we will list the ones most likely to be of interest in our online catalog.

To read more about the (minor) controversy behind this decision, take a look at the recent Library Journal article, which includes a demonstration video for JSTOR's upcoming free content.


September 9, 2011

If you haven't visited our main website lately, you might not have noticed that we will be closed to the public on Monday, September 12th for our board's quarterly meeting.

The staff will still be on hand to answer all your research questions by phone or email, so feel free to contact us using those methods.

September 7, 2011

Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, Washington was founded in 1869. The structure depicted here was the fourth used by the church, constructed between July 1911 and May 1912. It was located at Fourth Avenue and University Street, downtown Seattle. The building was demolished in 1966 to be replaced by the church's current home.

Seattle, WA : Plymouth Congregational Church.

The photograph used to create the original postcard was taken by the short-lived firm of Nowell & Rognon.  The partnership between noted Canadian and American photographers Orville J. Rognon and Frank Nowell only lasted about two years (1911-1913) after the two met through their participation in the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909.

For more information about Washington churches, search for "Congregational churches - Washington (State)" in our online catalog.


September 6, 2011

The next installment in our Brown Bag Lunch series is just a few weeks away.

"Women of Smoke and Fire"

During and after the Civil War, many women volunteered as teachers to former slaves through the American Missionary Association. Join longtime Christian educator Faith Johnson as she highlights a few of their stories, the dangers and prejudices they faced, and why so many more women than men answered the AMA's call.

Bring your lunch and a curious mind.

12:00 - 1:00 pm

No registration is required, but we appreciate an RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

August 30, 2011

As we bid farewell to Abraham Miller, Archives Assistant, we welcome into the library Steven Picazio. Steven started his Simmons GSLIS library internship today. He will be with us Tuesday and Wednesday mornings until December 2. Steven is a graduate of Saint Michael's College in Colchester, VT with a BA in English. This is his final semester at Simmons and he will receive his MSLIS in December 2011. He is interested in cataloging and is working with Rachel to complete sections of the collection not yet cataloged. Steven has been a sales associate at Borders in Burlington, MA.

Please stop by and say hello to Steven who will be spending time at the desk in the Reading Room.

We also have a new cataloging volunteer, Nishtha Lakhanpal. Nishtha began her studies at Simmons GSLIS in January 2011. Nishtha has both a BA and MA in English from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. Prior to beginning classes at Simmons, Nishtha was a Branch Associate at ING Financial in Toronto.


August 30, 2011

I don't like "goodbye". It doesn't sit well with me. I prefer the terms like "farewell" or "tschüss", German for "see you later", because they imply continuity, whereas "goodbye" seems terminal. Tomorrow, August 31, 2011, I will say farewell to the Congregational Library, when my tenure as Archives Assistant ends. This is not the end. This marks new beginnings for me and for the Congregational Library. This 1893 photograph of Pilgrim Congregational Church, Dorchester, Boston, Mass., serves as a fitting reminder. The photograph shows a throng gathered in the rain to watch the laying of the cornerstone for the new church structure.

Boston, MA (Dorchester) : Pilgrim Congregational Church.

I have worked at the Congregational Library since May 2010, after holding an internship at the library the previous fall. My accomplishments at the Congregational Library were greatly affected by my other jobs and my education at Simmons College, where I earned a M.A. in History and a M.S. in Archival Science, much as my roles at the Congregational Library will affect future jobs. I started at the Congregational Library by creating a framework for the library to continue cataloging the artifact and realia collections, such as objects collected by S. Brainerd Pratt. I have also worked on processing archival records. To aid future processors working on manuscript and archival collections, I created ways for staff to use Describing Archives: A Content Standard, an archival descriptive standard, at the library.

I have cataloged and digitized scores of images from the Image Collection, of which many are Congregational churches and Congregational clergy. Cataloging and digitizing images, by far, was how I spent most of my time. There are currently more than 1,300 Image Collection records in the online database, of which many were cataloged by my predecessors. There are new access mechanisms for finding and viewing these images. More than 150 images are on the Congregational Library Flickr page. The Congregational Library also has 55 records in the Digital Commonwealth system.

I am extremely lucky to have worked at the Congregational Library because my colleagues are warm professionals. What has made this job worthwhile is seeing how much you care for the topics that you are researching. I take pride in knowing that I have been able to work with you all to preserve and perpetuate the memory of Congregationalism, or the other topics in which you are interested. Please continue your work by following this blog, making use of the Records Management brochures, and by contacting the library with your questions. Sari Mauro will join the staff of the Congregational Library. I now say "tschüss" because I know that Sari will be a great asset to you and to the library.


August 29, 2011

As the summer draws to a close this week, we say goodbye to two more people.

Emily Anderson, one of our cataloging volunteers, is heading back to school. She's been with us since March, and has been very helpful in adding our acquisitions from Chicago Theological Seminary and some of our existing materials to the online catalog.

Abraham Miller, our part-time Archives Assistant, is also destined for greener pastures. Abe began his time here as an intern two years ago, and took over the assistant position when Sam Smallidge graduated from Simmons last year. Now Abe has finished the archival program as well, and is passing the torch to Sari Mauro, who volunteered here last summer. We are extremely grateful for all the hard work Abe has put into digitizing and cataloging the items in our Image Collection, as well as spearheading our participation in the Digital Commonwealth program. We will miss his dedication and good humor, but we know that they will serve him well as he moves on to bigger and better things.

We mention our interns and volunteers a lot on this blog. Because we have such a small staff, we simply couldn't accomplish some of the ambitious plans we have for our collections without their assistance. And since Claudette, Jessica, Rachel, and April are all graduates of the Simmons GSLIS program, they enjoy mentoring the next generation of library professionals, and cultivating some of the workplace skills that can't always be learned in a classroom. It's a win-win situation that we hope will continue for a very long time to come.

August 25, 2011

Dashiell (Steytler) Matheny
Dashiell, 2 days old!

Thanks, everyone for the well-wishes – our family is doing quite well and will be sure to visit the library in the next few months. A child named in honor of 20th century creative thought and raised by an archivist will find himself in the stacks often.


August 23, 2011

Our archivist, Jessica, mentioned last month that she would soon be going on maternity leave, and we're happy to announce that the time has finally arrived.

Dashiell Matheny was born early Monday morning. Mother and son are both doing great. We wish all the best to Jessica, her husband Matt, and the newest member of their family.

August 22, 2011

The story of William Brewster's split from the Anglican church in Scrooby, England, is well known. William Brewster and other religious dissenters met in Brewster's manor after leaving St. Wilfrid's Church. The following is a photograph taken of St. Wilfrid's Church in Scrooby for The Congregationalist in 1896.

Scrooby, England : St. Wilfrid's Church.

For more information about Scrooby and how we remember the religious dissenters, search "Scrooby" or "Dissenters, Religious" in the library catalog.


August 19, 2011

At long last, our second digital exhibit is ready for viewing.

Of Faith and Courage: The History of the ABCFM began as a display in our conference room as part of a bicentennial celebration for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Missionary facesThe visitors who saw it enjoyed it so much that we decided to create a digital version to share with everyone who couldn't make it to the library in person.

This exhibit provides a history of one of the most influential missionary groups of the 19th and 20th centuries, from its founding through its modern legacy. The ABCFM was a force for change, providing education and medical assistance to people around the world, from right here in the United States to Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. Learn the stories of the men and women who traveled so far from home, and the people and places they encountered.


August 18, 2011

[] The Disciples of Christ Historical Society has put together a beautiful timeline of the Stone-Campbell Movement that formed the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and its modern legacy.

It includes images of important people, places, and events from the development of the Christian tradition in America and around the world. There are even links to further reading for those interested in more details.

The Christian and Congregational traditions are very closely related. A branch of the Christian Connection merged with the majority of the Congregational churches to form the Congregational Christian Churches in 1931. Although the Disciples of Christ weren't part of that union, the resulting denominations have maintained a friendly relationship.

August 16, 2011

First Congregational Church, Hopkinton, New Hampshire, was formed through the following covenant, dated November 23, 1757. The covenants were used to outline the duties and obligations of those who joined the church as members. As people joined the church, they signed the covenant, seen at the bottom of the photograph.

Hopkinton, NH : First Congregational Church. 1757 Covenant.

Click here for a larger image.

This is one reason that church records are valuable for genealogical research: the records provide concrete dates and locations for persons. Two hundred and fifty year old records are important because they allow us to perceive eighteenth century America. Current church records can have enduring value for much the same reason. For more information on preserving your church records, please view the Congregational Library's Records Management resources.

For more information about church records, search "Church records and registers" in the library catalog.


August 15, 2011

If you've wanted to attend one of our records management workshops, but were unable due to distance or timing, you may have a new option. The Disciples of Christ Historical Society is offering an online course entitled Linking Your Church to History:

Regardless of your current skill level, you'll come away from this six-week online class with a clearer understanding of the importance of preserving church history and with stronger technical and managerial skills that you can apply immediately to the job.

Beginning September 6, 2011, each session includes online readings, offline assignments and culminates in a live online group discussion the following Tuesday evening. The last session concludes on October 18.

  • Six online sessions
  • Downloadable resources
  • Live group discussion

All this and more, for just $150.00

Register through the DCHS information page.

Records management and preservation are important, and a lot of the same guidelines apply, regardless of your denomination. Go learn!

August 12, 2011

Harpswell is a town located within the Casco Bay region of Maine. The meetinghouse, depicted below, was the meetinghouse used first by the Second Parish of North Yarmouth, Maine, organized in 1753. The church later reorganized as the Elijah Kellogg Church of South Harpswell during the mid-nineteenth century.

Harpswell, ME : Meetinghouse.

What strikes me about this print is the color. The unseen sun, at the horizon, is depicted with reds and oranges in the background, with the sky above still blue. Aesthetically, these colors fit well with the varied greens of the grass and the graves in the foreground. The color, combined with the detail, creates a rich image, where the visual image can stand beside the written word as a descriptive medium.

For more images of churches in Maine, search for "Church buildings - Maine - Pictorial works" in the library catalog.


August 9, 2011

First Church, Congregational, in Cambridge, Mass., is celebrating its 375th Anniversary this year. Alexander McKenzie (1830-1914) was minister at First Church from 1867 until his death in 1914. While at First Church, McKenzie published books, including a history of the church. McKenzie was born in New Bedford, Mass., and attended Phillips Academy in Andover. He was a graduate of Harvard College and Andover Theological Seminary. After ordination in Augusta, Maine, he was pastor at Augusta's South Church from 1861 until his transfer to Cambridge.

McKenzie, Alexander, 1830-1914. Portrait.

For more information on Alexander McKenzie, please read his necrology in the 1914 Congregational Yearbook, or search the online catalog for "McKenzie, Alexander, 1830-1914". Finally, for more information on First Church, Congregational, in Cambridge, search "First Church (Cambridge, Mass.)" in the catalog or view the finding guide for the church records.


August 8, 2011

[] Much like the Protestant denominations in the United States, members of the United Church of Canada and the Methodist churches set up missions across Canada during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to aid and educate the Aboriginal peoples they encountered during the country's colonization. Many of the records from those missions have ended up in the UCC archives at their headquarters in Toronto. Just as the Congregational Library is striving to make our missionary materials available online to researchers everywhere, the United Church of Canada has set up repositories for their digitized records.

Up and Down the Coast contains hundreds of photographs, documents, and even videos dating from approximately 1850 to 1975 that chronicle the schools, medical and marine missions, and other "Indian work" in British Columbia. While these materials may not offer the most flattering look at the missionaries themselves from a modern perspective, they are important records of Canada's national history and the recent history of the First Nations.

August 5, 2011

The following is a portrait of Ella June Meade. The lithographic print was created by Armstrong & Co. in Boston, Massachusetts. Other than the sitter's name and printmaker, there is not much information on this image.

Meade, Ella June. Portrait.

If you have any leads on who Ms. Ella June Meade was, please send us an e-mail or leave a comment below. For more information on searching the Congregational Library image collections, please refer to the Image Collection FAQ.


August 4, 2011

The following is an engraved portrait of Hiram Bingham (1789-1869), Congregational Minister and missionary. Bingham was a missionary, through the American Board, to Honolulu, in Hawaii, then known to the missionaries as the Sandwich Islands. The print was engraved in Honolulu in 1838, and impressed, from a lithograph, in Paris. Bingham served with the American Board for twenty years in Hawaii, between 1820 and 1840.

Bingham, Hiram, 1789-1869. Portrait.

It was during this period that the Kawaiahao Church was established in Honolulu. For more information on Missions to Hawaii, search the online catalog for the subject "Missions - Hawaii".


August 2, 2011

The following undated photograph is a portrait of Miriam Woodbury. Woodbury was a leader within the Home Missionary Society and acted as Secretary of the organization.

Woodbury, Miriam. Portrait.

For more information on Home Missionary Societies, search the online catalog for "American Home Missionary Society" or "Congregational Home Missionary Society".


August 1, 2011

One of my activities this summer has been to review and document the interns that I've supervised over the past 11 years. As it turns out, there have been a total of 41 volunteers and Simmons interns. This does not include the people who have reported to Claudette. It's amazing and overwhelming how much we have accomplished with these students' help. What's so particularly great is that there's a huge range of activities that have been done.

  • Old reliable: church and personal papers processed
  • Image collection scanning and cataloging
  • Displays created
  • Metadata created for our ongoing Massachusetts church records digitization project
  • Indexing for our in-house publication, The Bulletin
  • Multiple interns (as many as 3) working together on one project at the same time: Park Street and Old South Churches
  • Off-site work (again PSC and OSC)
  • Extensive use of wikis and requests for interns to participate here on our blog
  • Creation of new collections: specifically our Object Collection
  • Re-evaluation and revision of collections, particularly the Small Collections

As time goes on and I spend more time here, I'm less likely to request help on a straight-up 2 boxes to be sorted. I never thought that I was capable of keeping track of two interns on one project back in 2005, but now I'm not only request two interns for a project, but it's a highly complex, high-responsibility arrangement that has spanned almost 2 years at Old South Church. I have come to expect a great deal from the people who choose me out of the sea of internship choices and I am gratified by how much I get back in return.

Thank you again to the dozens of students I have had in my care and a preemptive thank you to those who will come to us in the future.

For those alumni that are keeping track here and want to participate in a where are they now segment, drop me a line. (Be sure to cc Claudette — see previous entry about imminent maternity leave on my horizon.) We'd love to hear any memories you may have of working here, of the project you did, and what you're doing now.


July 29, 2011

I have had such a lovely experience working at the Library. I have not only learned a great deal about Congregationalism from the materials I've worked, but also about the archival profession from the staff I've had the pleasure of spending time with.

Before this summer, my knowledge of Congregationalism was fairly limited. I knew that it was considered the "Pilgrim" church, and that individual churches were self-governing. Beyond this basic information, I knew hardly anything about the history or philosophy of Congregationalism. After 130 hours wading through archival material, researching and writing historical descriptions, I cannot claim such ignorance any longer! I have learned about the activities of prominent missionary organizations, such as the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the lives of prominent theologians (I had no idea that Jonathan Edwards had a sweet tooth!), as well as the impact of Congregationalism on New England society and politics.

Over the past six weeks, I have steadily worked on creating a digital exhibit of collections from the Small Collections (an artificial collection that consists of collections consisting of just one or two folders). Many steps went into the preparation of this exhibit, including appraising, researching, writing historical descriptions and, of course, digitizing collection materials. None of this would have been possible without the guidance and sage advice of Peggy and Jess, who kept me on the right track throughout the duration of this project.

Through completing this project, I have gained a tremendous amount of insight into the duties and responsibilities of an archivist and the evolving services offered by archives. I have learned about the challenges associated with creating and sustaining digital content and the significance of providing various avenues to facilitate discovery.

For me, this project truly embodied the merging of archival theory and practice. It allowed me to deepen the knowledge I've gained from graduate coursework and understand how the actual day-to-day workings of an archive contribute to evolving scholarly discussions and professional practices.

I had such a wonderful time at the Library; I don't think I could have asked for a more enjoyable or educational experience!


July 28, 2011

There are a lot of comings and goings here at the library:

Both our summer interns, Katherine and Peter, will be wrapping up this week. Everyone on staff is queued up for some vacation time, as one expects by this time of the season, and by this time next month we will be saying goodbye to Abraham and saying hello to Sari.

And finally a leave-but-come-back: The project I've been working on for the past 9 months is almost done and ready to meet the world. There's still some work to be done over the next few weeks at the cellular level. In other words, I'll be on maternity leave starting sometime within the next few weeks and returning in November. When the Little Bean has acclimated, there will be a notice here, per the request of several folks.


July 26, 2011

Many local congregations in Massachusetts have access to a source of funding for historical preservation, made possible through the Community Preservation Act. Some are already tapping these to cover the costs of preservation and digitization of their records.

The Library also has funding available for digitizing records, and we are actively encouraging local churches with records pre-dating 1800 to contact us. Our mission is to preserve these very important documents of the past, and to make them fully accessible to researchers.

Here is a map and a list of Massachusetts towns that have CPA funds available.

These two articles will show you how to access CPA for historical documents, and to use this public money for private owned assets like church records:

Documents are Historic Resources, Too (April 2009)

Can CPA Fund Private Projects? (January 2008)

Do you have old records sitting in a closet or under the stairs? Please contact us here and we can discuss other options. If you don't have access to CPA funding, contact us. We are here to help!


July 25, 2011

Using microfilm for research just got a lot easier at the Congregational Library. We are now the proud owners of a ScanPro 2000 microfilm scanner. It allows you to not just look at the microfilms as they are, but it also comes with image editing software to improve the experience. You can clean up older texts, magnify for easier reading, and select only the portions of the records you want. There are several output options as well -- print a hard copy, email files, or save files to a flash drive.

Just by playing around with the interface during my training, I can tell that some of our researchers are going to find this extremely helpful. If you've been daunted by the thought of using microfilm before, please consider giving it a shot on our new machine.


July 22, 2011

I've really been enjoying my time this summer as a Simmons intern at the Congregational Library. My work mostly involves cataloging books and sitting at the reference desk in the beautiful CL reading room. Over the last two months I've gotten to know the collection better, especially the library's important holdings of sermons dating back to the 17th-century. For many of these titles, the library has one of the few, if not the only print copy in the United States. It's been great to work with these books because they are especially valuable to researchers.

I've also worked on reference questions that have sent me searching through a variety of print, microfilm and archival sources ranging from Old South Church baptismal records to material on the founding of the first mission in Palestine. Along the way I have also become interested in the life of Henry Ward Beecher, whose father's portrait hangs prominently in the reading room. I'm now reading a biography of this impassioned (and a little controversial) pastor, abolitionist and orator entitled The Most Famous Man in America. You can find it in our collection.

Everyone at the library has been wonderful to work with, and I've learned a lot. I recommend taking a break from the heat and stopping by to get acquainted with some part of the library's rich and historic collection.


July 21, 2011

We're pleased to welcome scholars from the Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies once again this coming week. They are always a lively bunch who keep the staff jumping as we help them track down resources on their areas of interest.

If you're not attending CFTS and are planning to come into the library to do research of your own, we suggest avoiding those two days -- Wednesday the 27th and Friday the 29th -- so that we can offer you our full attention (and guarantee you a place to sit).

July 19, 2011

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions [A.B.C.F.M.] sent missionaries across the world to spread the gospel. While spreading gospel was one of the core missions, the A.B.C.F.M. missionaries also frequently engaged in soft-infrastructure development, which included setting up hospitals and schools. Cyrus Hamlin (1811-1900) was one such missionary who worked in Turkey from 1839 to 1876.

Hamlin, Cyrus, 1811-1900. Portrait.

Hamlin, ordained in 1838, worked under the American Board from 1839 until 1859 to train the youth in Turkey in theology, especially grooming the youth for work in the ministry. After leaving the A.B.C.F.M., Hamlin helped Christopher Robert found Robert College. Hamlin was president of the college until 1876, when he returned to the United States. He was later a professor at Bangor Theological Seminary, his alma mater, and president of Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont.

For more information on the missionaries in Turkey or the American Board in Turkey, search the online catalog for "Missionaries – Turkey", "Missions – Turkey", or "American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions - Turkey".