Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, January 1917
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
In late December, I introduced readers to Lady Gertrude Codman Carter, whose diary we will be exploring month-by-month through 2017. While a fairly regular diarist, Gertrude Carter’s journal skips from the end of December 1916 to February 8, 1917 without clear explanation. Thus, our January installment of this series will be slightly atypical as I introduce you to Carter’s diary through the look, feel, and format of the volume itself.
Unlike last year’s diary, which contained line-a-day entries with little or no elaboration, the Carter diary is a wealth of variation. While physically designed in a pre-printed format much like the line-a-day-diaries of Margaret Russell, Carter’s diary is a large format of 11.5 x 7 inches, three days per page. As you can see, Codman uses the design of the pages as only a loose guide; to begin with, she has repurposed a pre-printed volume meant for 1915 for her record of two years later. This thrift, perhaps caused by wartime shortages, requires her to correct the numerical date for each entry as well as the year printed next to the month on each page.
The page above, with which the diary opens, is preceded by the rough edge of several torn pages. Were the pages removed because they were unused, or was their information within them the diarist or descendent did not wish to be seen by future eyes? Impossible to tell from the volume itself.
It is also clear from Carter’s entries that, in some cases at least, the details were added in retrospect. “Another engagement,” she writes under February 10, a Saturday, “(doesn’t say what - so I imagine it was a life…)” … any suggestions for what that final word may be? To what other record is she referring, the record in which she failed to record her engagements? Another mystery.
An artist, Carter’s record incorporates the visual. The photo affixed to the February page above is pasted on the date without remark, appearing to be an image of a construction site of some kind -- perhaps work being done on Ilaro, the residence Carter was designing for her family. On other pages, we will encounter fanciful sketches and brilliant paintings, such as this tiny island sketched in an otherwise dense page of writing and the “Study of Captain Silver’’s Parrot,” both found in the volume for 1916.
In February, we will delve into the stories shared in the diary itself, including a long narrative recording about a what Carter deems a “real case of telepathy,” and the long, deathly shadow of the ongoing war.
Do you have specific questions about Codman’s life or diaries? Leave a comment below! Throughout the year, I will be exploring Codman’s biography and context, and will be happy to take requests.
If you are interested in viewing the diary yourself, in our library, or have other questions about the collection please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.
| Published: Friday, 20 January, 2017, 12:00 AM
Reference Collection Book Review: Bay Cities, Water Politics
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
During a year when much of Massachusetts is experiencing drought conditions and water use restrictions have become a reality in the lives of many in the Commonwealth, it is timely to consider what our regional history of water use and management has been. In the recently-acquired Bay Cities and Water Politics: The Battle for Resources in Boston & Oakland (University Press of Kansas, 1998), historian Sarah S. Elkind documents the political development of water use policies in two geographically and culturally divergent areas of the United States: eastern Massachusetts and the San Francisco bay area. Briefly surveying early water use policies in both the Boston area and the East Bay, Elkind focuses her historical narrative on the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when first-generation water systems began to strain under increasing demand and each region had to determine a way forward.
In Massachusetts, where clean water delivery and sewage disposal had long been framed as a public health concern, the political elite were able to build the case for a regional system that put water and sewage into the hands of state agencies. The voters supported the creation of “new institutions, controlled by engineers and bureaucrats...because they face pollution and water supply problems that their municipalities had repeatedly failed to solve” (114). On the East Bay, meanwhile, water resources became a struggle over private versus publicly-held water supplies as powerful commercial interests resisted attempts to establish publicly-controlled regional deep into the twentieth century.
In both regions, Elkind argues, “rural activities and economies were sacrificed for urban prosperity in spite of the continued nostalgia for America’s rural past” (155). While each region developed temporary solutions to both water supply and waste disposal, these systems remained vulnerable to increased demand for clean water and the growing environmental burden of pollution. Regionalism, Elkind argues, was a Progressive-era solution to challenge of water resource management. By creating infrastructure somewhat immune to the local politics of individual city or corporate interests, regional solutions created water systems that provided clean water to citizens and removed waste. However, regional technologies “ultimately impaired the ability of...natural systems to absorb the byproducts of modern industrial life” (171). By the late twentieth century, regional entities came under harsh criticism from citizen activists in both Massachusetts and California as water battles took center stage in regional politics once again.
For a book on water politics, Bay Cities and Water Politics is a fairly dry read. Elkind relies on government records, the personal papers of key figures, newspapers, pamphlets, and other print materials to construct her history. Readers unfamiliar with the individuals, municipal agencies, and corporations involved may get lost in the play-by-play accounting of regional politics at work. Nonetheless, the title will be an essential resource for anyone needing background on Progressive era water and sewage politics in Boston. It complements the work done by Carl Smith in City Water, City Life (University of Chicago Press, 2013) documenting water supply politics in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago before the Civil War.
Boston & Roxbury Mill Corporation records, 1794-1912.
Elizabeth S. Houghton papers, 1916-1999; bulk: 1955-1999.
Allen H. Morgan papers, 1923-1990.
Lemuel Shattuck papers,1676-1909; bulk: 1805-1867.
Quincy family papers (1665-1852) in the Quincy, Wendell, Holmes, and Upham Family Papers, microfilm edition.
| Published: Friday, 9 September, 2016, 12:00 AM
Reference Collection Development: Watch This Space for New Titles!
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
During the past fiscal year, the MHS used income from hosting the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar to increase our reference collection development efforts. As a research library, it is crucial for the MHS to have up-to-date scholarly and reference works that support in-depth exploration and analysis of our manuscript, print, and art and artifact collections. In recent years we have depended primarily on the generosity of donors to add recent publications to our collection. We are excited that the Boston Summer Seminar income allowed us to be more proactive in strengthening our scholarly and reference holdings.
During the winter of 2016, our reader services team reviewed and updated the reference collection development policy, identified priority areas for acquisition, and surveyed trade publications for relevant titles. In June we were able to purchase over fifty titles in the following key areas: artifacts and material culture reference works, art and photography history and reference, Boston and local history, environmental history, immigration and emigration, New England in a global context, research fellows’ publications, World War I, research strategies and techniques, and twentieth century political and social history. Most of these titles are now cataloged and available upon request for review in the MHS library’s reference or reading rooms.
Beginning in September, reader services team members will highlight some of these newly-acquired works here on The Beehive, in the form of summary reviews paired with suggestions for which MHS collections might benefit from consultation with the work under review. We hope that these short reviews will encourage you to explore our scholarly and reference holdings for titles that support your work with our rare and unique collections material.
The MHS library also continues to welcome the donation of recent scholarly works that make use of or fit with our holdings, as well as being open to suggestions for titles that may be useful additions to our scholarly and reference collection. Offers of donation or suggestions for acquisition should be directed to the reference librarian Anna Clutterbuck-Cook at email@example.com.
| Published: Friday, 26 August, 2016, 12:00 AM
#BSS16! A Second Year of the Boston Summer Seminar @ MHS
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
Tomorrow night will be the final celebration for 2016 participants in the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar, a three-week program offered by the Great Lakes Colleges Association and hosted at the Massachusetts Historical Society. After a successful inaugural year, we had a competitive group of applications submitted to the Seminar last winter, from which we selected three teams to join us this June. Over the past three weeks, we have been excited to get to know a new group of soon-to-be alumni BSS16 participants:
“Northern Black Lives Matter: The Experience of Black Northerners in the Era of Southern Emancipation”
Marcy Sacks, Chair & John S. Ludington, Endowed Professor of History
with students Corey Wheeler and Elijah Bean
“Boston and New England in Atlantic Contexts”
Frank “Trey” Proctor III, Chair & Associate Professor of History
with students Rachael Barrett and Margaret “Maggie” Gorski
“Haunted Subjects: Occult Practices and New Literary Traditions in Nineteenth-Century America”
Danielle Skeehan, Assistant Professor of English
with students Amreen Ahmed and Sabina Sullivan
These three teams have been with us since June 6th, conducting research at the Massachusetts Historical Society as well as the Seminar’s other partner institutions: the Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library, Houghton Library, Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections, and Schlesinger Library.
The Seminar’s guest presenters this year were Kimberly Hamlin, Director of American Studies at Miami University of Ohio, and Stephen R. Berry, Associate Professor of History at Simmons College. Hamlin spoke to the group about her research on evolutionary theory, gender, and race in the archive; Berry walked participants through the intricacies of using ships’ logbooks as sources of information on the practice of religion at sea.
A new feature of the program this year, enthusiastically received by the group – despite the windy evening on which it was scheduled! -- was the opportunity to participate in a walking tour, Boston’s Construction of Self, which introduced our participants from the American Midwest to some key moments and public history sites in central Boston.
We wish all of our 2016 participants a fruitful last few days in the archive and a productive return to campus this fall. Learn more at bostonsummerseminar.org and, if you are a faculty member or student one of the GLCA member institutions, watch for BSS17 call for proposals which will be posted and circulated during the upcoming fall semester.
| Published: Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 12:34 PM
Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History: Massachusetts History Day 2016
By Anna J. Clutterbuck Cook, Reader Services
Massachusetts History Day 2016, on the theme of “exploration, encounter, and exchange in history” is in full swing across the state of Massachusetts with the MHS as its official sponsor. In recent years, over 7,000 middle and high school students from across the Commonwealth have participated in MHD and -- as in the past -- winners from the 2016 state competition will have the opportunity to join thousands of other middle and high school students from around the country at The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in College Park Maryland (June 12-16, 2016).
Sabrina Panetta (Saugus, MA), discusses her submission in the Senior Individual Exhibit category, “Hidden Beneath the Surface,” with three volunteer judges. Photo courtesy of Kerin Shea, Massachusetts History Day.
“It’s like a science fair, but for history,” is how I like to describe the competition to those who have never heard of History Day before. Each year, an annual theme is announced by National History Day (NHD) within which students will select and research a topic, articulate a thesis, and present their historical analysis in one of five categories: documentary film, exhibit board, live performance, research paper, or website. The students present their work on competition day and are interviewed by volunteer judges who evaluate the quality of their historical research, analysis, and presentation.
This year’s theme of “exploration, encounter, and exchange in history” was a broad umbrella underneath which students have explored topics ranging from the economic and cultural exploitation of Hawai’i to the investigative journalism of Nellie Bly to Copernicus’ theory of a heliocentric universe.
There are many different ways to support Massachusetts History Day as individual historians and as cultural institutions. Since 2012, my wife and I have been involved as volunteer judges, getting up early on a Saturday morning to meet with junior historians to give them a chance to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.
There is still time to volunteer as a judge for the 2016 Massachusetts state competition on Saturday, April 9th!
Another option for supporting MHD is by offering special prizes for a best project in a particular topic (for example “labor history”) or type of primary source material (oral histories or photographs, for example). Since 2014 our family has been sponsoring a book prize at the district and state competitions for the best individual project in women’s and gender history. As professional historians, we are excited to encourage the work of those who will be our future colleagues and supporters - and we hope you will consider doing the same!
If you do not live in Massachusetts and are interested in NHD opportunities in your local area, find your state affiliate here. And if you want to watch the competition from afar, be sure to follow @MAHistoryDay for great competition day photos and updates.
| Published: Friday, 11 March, 2016, 9:47 AM