Getting to Know Your CHC Staff: Part 5

Welcome back to our ongoing series featuring the staff members who do wonderful work here at the CHC! This post introduces our new Survey Director, Eric Hill.



Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Amherst, New Hampshire a quaint, historic New England village with an abundance of Colonial homes.


Where did you go to school? What was your degree?

I went to the University of New Hampshire and studied Geography with a focus on urban and human geography. Immediately after graduating, I moved half way across the country to Norman, Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture where I studied Regional and City Planning.


Amazing Collegiate Gothic architecture at OU.


What are your interests or hobbies?
My favorite thing to do is travel. My goal is to visit all major world regions by the time I am 30 years old (still have a couple years to go). Besides travelling, I enjoy watching documentaries, hiking, and photography.


Photo from my most recent trip to Paris and London.


Name some fun facts about you.

  • I am a sports fanatic and follow all New England sports teams along with the Oklahoma Sooners Football program and Paris St. Germain for soccer.
  • During graduate school, I got the opportunity to spend a month in Lusaka, Zambia and worked with children, teachers and a non-profit to work on designs for new schools and it was an experience that I will never forget.
soccer, zambia

Before I got beat in soccer by kids half my age in Zambia.



When did you start working at the CHC?
I started working at the CHC in September of 2018 and previously worked for the Boston Landmarks Commission as a Preservation Planner.

Acorn St

Acorn Street in Beacon Hill Historic District. I was the Preservation Planner for the neighborhood while in Boston.

What do you like best about working at the CHC?
My favorite part (so far) about working at the CHC is learning about the rich history of Cambridge and the layers of development from the Native American settlements of the past to the high-rise mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods of today.

Do you have other professional pursuits?
I hope to dive deeper into the modern movement and post-war Cambridge and advocate for the preservation of the (in my opinion) underappreciated and less well-known architectural styles and typologies of the 1940s-1980s.

Kimbell Art

My favorite building (Kimbell Art Museum) by my favorite architect (Louis I. Kahn). Sadly, Louis I. Kahn did not have any projects in Cambridge.

Give us a glimpse into your daily work or a current project.
Currently, I am giving myself a crash course on the centuries of people, events and places that make Cambridge, Cambridge. I am also reading up on the district guidelines for the Half Crown-Marsh Conservation District as I will be the planner in charge of design review for it.

What is your favorite photograph, artifact, or collection at CHC?
So far, my favorite collection is the W. L. Galvin Collection due to the quality and quantity of old plans and drawings of projects built, unbuilt and demolished.

Memorial Theater_Galvin

(Cambridge Memorial Theater drawing, 1931)

What do you like best about living or working in Cambridge?
Cambridge is a melting pot of not only architectural styles and history, but of people and cultures. It is a great place to work and during my lunch breaks, I always make an effort to walk around and enjoy the various cafes, shops and neighborhoods.


Did You Know?

Welcome to the first installment of a little blog series, “Did You Know?,” where we  highlight some of the documentary resources available at the CHC.

During the summer, we receive a lot of phone calls and emails inquiring after the Old Burying Ground in Harvard Square (sometimes referred to as the “Old Burial Ground”). Many people visit from out of town and would like to know where their ancestor, or person of historical interest, was buried — do we have a map of the burying ground? What about lists of burials? Records of specific epitaphs?

The answers: Yes, we have documentation on all of those things! It is important to note that, although this was the only burying ground in Cambridge until the early 1800s, many burial plots today remain unmarked.

Those interested in finding out more about the Old Burying Ground can make an appointment to check out the resources at our office, or find some of the digitized resources online.

Check out our list of some of these print and online resources:

  • We have a copy of the book, Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge, (1845) by William T. Harris. This publication is also available online at Google Books.



  • We also have several other useful books in our office.



Paige’s essential early Cambridge history book, complete with helpful Supplement and Index, lists out the residents of Cambridge and their relations from 1630-1877. We often use this to figure out if a person died in Cambridge.


Consulting Cambridge’s vital records to 1850 can also help locate a burial record. Cambridge Church Records, Records of the Town and Selectmen of Cambridge, and Proprietors Records of the Town of Cambridge, may also provide interesting genealogical clues and contextual information on the goings-on in early Cambridge.

  • For more information on the history of the Old Burying Ground, check out the book “Building Old Cambridge: Architecture and Development” (2016) by Susan Maycock and Charles Sullivan. The City of Cambridge’s Department of Public Works has an excerpt from the book on their website:
  • Other cemeteries in Cambridge:
    • Cambridge Cemetery, opened 1853, 617-349-4890
    • Roman Catholic, Archdiocese of Boston’s Genealogy and Cemetery Locations, 781-322-6300
      • North Cambridge Cemetery on Rindge Avenue, Cambridge, opened 1846
      • Sand Banks Cemetery (aka Mt. Auburn Catholic or Cottage Street cemetery), on Cottage St., Watertown, Searchable Database
    • Mount Auburn Cemetery, opened 1831, 617-547-7105
    • (No longer a cemetery) Cambridgeport Burial Ground, opened 1812, closed 1865. When this cemetery on Broadway in Cambridgeport was closed in 1865, existing burials were relocated to the new Cambridge Cemetery or another cemetery selected by the family of the deceased. The former burial ground was then re-purposed as a public park and called Broadway Common/Broadway Park and later renamed Edward J. Sennott Park.

To see these resources in person, or for answers to other questions, feel free to call the Historical Commission at 617-349-4683, or email us at histcomm at Additionally, check out our other documentary resources on our page here.

Getting to Know Your CHC Staff: Part 4

Welcome back to our ongoing series featuring the staff members who do wonderful work here at the CHC! This post introduces our Archivist, Emily Gonzalez.


Emily showing one of her favorite items from our collections – Motor Boot Spats once made by the Cambridge Rubber Company

Where did you grow up?

My family moved quite a bit, but I mainly grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. The East Coast feels like my home now, but I’ll always be a Midwestern gal.


You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to the MN State Fair

Where did you go to school? What was your degree?

For undergrad I attended Lawrence University, a small school in Appleton, Wisconsin, and earned my BA in English Lit and Spanish. I did my graduate studies in Library Science and History at Simmons College here in Boston.

What are your interests or hobbies?

I love movies and documentaries, both old and new. I love visiting museums and historic sites, traveling, and trying out new restaurants. I just signed up to volunteer with Broken Tail Rescue, a local animal rescue organization, and I am super excited. About once a season I’ll force myself to run a road race (usually a 5k).


I love old photographs. This one is of my grandpa Les and his siblings on a farm in South Dakota.


I also like cross-stitch, particularly the subversive kind. Image credit:

Name some fun facts about you.

  • I’m first-generation Cuban American, but I didn’t become fluent in Spanish until I was in college.
  • The summer after college I worked at a fast food kiosk inside of a zoo in St. Paul. It was called “Zooper Food.”

Thanks for the free corndogs, Zooper. Image courtesy of Google.

  • My fiancé and I have a tuxedo cat named June. She rules the household.


When did you start working at the CHC?

November 2015.

What do you like best about working at the CHC?

No one day is like the other. There are always new research requests, collections to process, reorganize or digitize, and cool archival discoveries. I also love learning about the ins and outs of historic preservation through my colleagues.

Do you have other professional pursuits?

I’m an active member of the Society of American Archivists and New England Archivists, and I’m on the Collections Committee at the Cambridge Historical Society.


Archivist fashion

Give us a glimpse into your daily work or a current project.

A “typical” day could involve answering a research request, checking in with volunteers on their latest projects, discussing ongoing projects with my colleagues Meta and Emily, writing up text for promotional materials, emailing with other city departments or organizations about outreach activities, chatting about next year’s Cambridge Open Archives event, or meeting about the next steps in our big digitization project (“C-DASH”).

Because I manage our archives operation here, I don’t really do a lot of collections processing, so it’s nice when I do get to scan some historic photographs or reorganize a collection. I’m lucky in that I have such amazing archives assistants and colleagues, and that the CHC had library science interns and archives volunteers working on our collections for so long before I came here.

What is your favorite photograph, artifact, or collection at CHC?

I love the old restaurant menus in the Cambridge Ephemera Collection. The Wursthaus menu from August 6, 1962, is probably my favorite. Look at the “Businessmen’s Luncheon” – what a deal!   [Note: The Wursthaus was a restaurant located at 4 Boylston Street, now JFK, in Harvard Square]

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(Cambridge Ephemera Collection, CHC002).

I also love images that capture great facial expressions, like this one from our Cambridge Recreation Department Collection (CHC011).

emg-recdeptWhat do you like best about living or working in Cambridge?

The quirky, intelligent community and how much love they have for the City’s history.


New Guest Post from our Mayor’s Youth

My Time Working as a Mayor’s Youth for the Commission

Hello, I’m Raimi. I am interning at the Cambridge Historical Commission for half of the summer of 2018, through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. I started to be interested in history during 6th grade, because that was the first year we had a real dedicated history class. That year we learned mostly about geography, pre-civilization humans, and the bronze age. Eventually my gaze fell upon history in the last 200 years or so, especially the Cold War, and very ancient history.

(This could be either of the two things I just mentioned)

(This could be either of the two things I just mentioned)

History is what I want to do with my life, and I’m glad I got this chance to work in an actual historical workplace. I deal with mostly filing and photocopying. One of the coolest projects was when I made a spreadsheet of almost 400 photo negatives, which took a little over 3 days to complete.

What I like best about interning here is that there is usually something new to do every day. To be specific, one day I might be photocopying entire books, and the next I could be filing away slides. My favorite artifact here at the CHC is this long petition for a new water source with over 2000 signatures, including one Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

A few facts about myself is that I have a cat named Moonlight, and a dog named Lola, but my favorite animal is the Venezuela Poodle Moth.

I enjoy reading, and my favorite book is Lirael by Garth Nix, but I would say the most well written book I’ve ever read is Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Last thing I want to say is that if you’re in high school you can get job experience right now. It doesn’t even have to be a MYSEP job, it could just be volunteering at your school library. So don’t wait and start early.

Photo Morgue Digitization

In a recent study published in The American Archivist, Laura McCann details the history of photo morgues, and their importance considering the newspaper industry’s shift from print to digital media. Ms. McCann is a conservation librarian in the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department at New York University (NYU) Libraries. In light of our own newly-opened photo morgue collection (detailed below), her article has been summarized here.

When the use of photographic images began to appear alongside news print, only larger newspapers could afford full-time photography departments. Thus, many small establishments turned to news agency photography departments to compete and meet the growing demand for photographic images.


“Billows of smoke pour from the John P. Squire Co. meat packing plant, as fireman battle to bring the blaze under control” (14 April 1963). Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection.

While the negatives and their copyright were usually maintained by the parent agency, the smaller papers developed “photo morgues” to organize and manage photographic print assets obtained from the news agencies and other parties. A caption or tag line, along with copyright information and a date, would usually be recorded on the verso of a print or on an affixed section of paper.


“Cambridge, Mass., June 17 – Ellsberg residence” (17 June 1971). Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection.

Over the past few years, the CHC has collected many prints from various newspapers in the greater-Boston area. This collection, Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection, contains black-and-white prints taken by newspaper photographers to illustrate stories regarding the city of Cambridge. Images in this collection represent a wide breadth of topics including protests, political figures, buildings, and city projects, thus documenting the social change and architectural evolution of Cambridge in the 20th century.


“Courtroom cages outlawed” (1963). Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection.

In an effort to reach those interested in Cambridge history, we recently sent these images to undergo digitization by Digital Commonwealth. The entire collection can be viewed by clicking here. This process is ongoing, and we plan to add more digitized content in the coming months.


Screenshot from the Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection image “Cambridge ‘Sparks’ and his radio scooter”. Cambridge Photo Morgue Collection.

We hope the opening of this collection will bring interest to the images and inspire additional exploration. For further resources, check the Library of Congress list of Newspaper Photograph Morgues.


McCann, Laura. “The Whole Story: News Agency Photographs in Newspaper Photo Morgue Collections.” The American Archivist 80, no. 1 (2017): 163-188.

Cambridge Open Archives

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Open Archives, and for over 2 weeks in June, 15 libraries and archives in Cambridge opened their doors to the public to show off selected items from their collections – all for free.

Folks who were unable to attend Open Archives might wonder: what is Open Archives, and what does it mean?

Cambridge Open Archives, sometimes called the Cambridge archives crawl, is a free event in which members of the public are invited behind the scenes at various Cambridge archives, libraries, and collecting institutions. It is a fun way to promote the unique collections of our city’s wonderful archives, while also raising awareness of historic materials, larger historic themes, and preservation.

Open Archives is also based on the belief that archives and collections should be free and open to everyone. The idea that information be free and accessible, that you can find out about a community’s history, or simply explore the holdings of a unique archive, is often still seen as a radical idea. We always hope that after Open Archives is over, attendees go back and make research appointments with some of the sites they visited.

Several cities around the country also participate in similar programs, including much larger events like the Archives Bazaar in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles.

(Above: Previous Open Archives events)

Cambridge Open Archives was started in Cambridge in 2010 by the former Cambridge Historical Society Executive Director, Gavin Kleespies (now Director of Programs at the Massachusetts Historical Society). Here’s what Kleespies has to say about the early days of Open Archives:

When it started, I had just moved back to Cambridge from Chicago and [was] in the process of getting re-acclimated. CHS was an institution that had a low public profile so I was going around the city and introducing myself and the Historical Society to organizations and community leaders. As a part of this, I met with Jim Shea and Anita Israel at the Longfellow House and Bree Harvey and Meg Winslow at Mount Auburn Cemetery. In both cases they invited me into their archives and pulled amazing examples from their collections. I thought, the Cambridge Historical Society has a great collection, but very few people use it and many people aren’t even sure it is available to them. Longfellow House and Mount Auburn have huge visitation numbers and are known across the country, but many people are unaware of the great archival collections they hold. It just struck me that there are these three great collections, that people would be really excited about if they saw them, but they just don’t come in contact with them. Then I thought, well, we’re basically all on the same street [Brattle], let’s just have a tour.

The first year was a lot of fun, so I started reaching out. I think CHC was added in the second year, but that was a little odd, since it was just on its own and was not walking distance to CHS, Longfellow or Mount Auburn. So I worked with Kit [Rawlins] and Charlie [Sullivan] and we came up with a group of city departments that had collections and were close to CHC. After that we put together a group to help plan the tour each year. Working with Alyssa [Pacy], Kit, Charlie and a group of other folks, we reached out to Harvard, MIT, churches and masons etc. I think at its largest, we had 13 institutions participating one year.

After the first year or so, Cambridge Open Archives began to be planned around a specific theme. Some of those themes have included “Adventures in Gastronomy,” which highlighted cooking and food themed collections, such as the Julia Child collection at the Schlesinger Library; “Cambridge in the 1860s”;  “Spaces: Profane and Sacred”; “Living and Dying in Cambridge”; and “New Acquisitions & Old Treasures.”


Asked about one of his favorite past Open Archives themes, Kleespies talked about the MIT Lewis Music Library’s take on “Adventures in Gastronomy.” Kleespies was very interested in seeing how the Music Library would incorporate gastronomy into their collection presentations — food and music? But according to Kleespies, the Music Library’s archivist took the creative route and set up a whole “dinner table” complete with candles, tablecloth, and a full menu featuring different musical compositions, including the German Vegetable Orchestra.


Since 2015, the staff here at the Cambridge Historical Commission have served as the coordinators of Cambridge Open Archives. This year, the Open Archives theme was “Archivists’/Curators’ Choice.” Staff from participating archives were encouraged to choose collections items that they loved or that possessed special meaning; that fit a certain theme within that specific archive or museum; or some of the more unique, bizarre, or interesting materials in their collections.

If you attended any of the Cambridge Open Archives repositories this year, feel free to comment on this blog with your thoughts, or send us any pictures you may have taken.

We hope you enjoyed this quick history of Open Archives, and hope to see you at next year’s event!

New Finding Aids Added to ArchivesSpace

You can now access two more of our finding aids on our ArchivesSpace database!

Cambridge Recreation Department Collection



Images from the Cambridge Recreation Department Collection, CHC011

Squirrel Brand Company Collection

Squirrel Brand adv card IMG_20151222_113527

Image of ephemera from Squirrel Brand Company Collection

Explore other collections and digital materials here.

What is ArchivesSpace?  How is this different than viewing finding aids in the regular PDF format? Check out a previous blog post for answers to these questions.

Let us know what you think of this finding aid format!

Getting to Know Your CHC Staff: Part 3

This month, we are highlighting our fabulous commission staff! We would like you all to learn more about our employees and the wonderful work they do here at the CHC. The third post in this series features Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner.


Sarah and canine friend, Penny.

Where did you grow up?

I’m half Yankee and half Texan having grown up between Williamstown, Mass. and Wichita Falls, Texas.  Everything is bigger in Texas but I am happy to have settled in New England where I have lots of family and you can’t cook an egg on the sidewalk in summer.

Where did you go to school? What was your degree?

I got my undergraduate degree in Art History from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. My graduate studies Historic Preservation Planning were at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

What are your interests or hobbies?

I like old things. That’s what drew me to historic preservation as a career so I could work with old buildings. I enjoy collecting antiques and vintage items for the same reason. I keep a toe in the art history side of things by serving on the board of trustees of the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum in Arlington, Mass. Cyrus Dallin sculpted many famous public sculptures around Boston including Paul Revere (North End), Appeal to the Great Spirit (MFA), and Anne Hutchinson (State House).


The Paul Revere Monument in Boston’s North End. Sculpture by Cyrus E. Dallin.

Name some fun facts about you.

I love dogs.  I play bridge.  I like Spurs basketball.

When did you start working at the CHC?

I started fresh out of grad school in the fall of 1996. I was two.

What do you like best about working at the CHC?

It’s something different every day. A different building, architect, or historical topic to investigate.


This photo of Cambridge Street at Third Street (looking east) shows the Lechmere National Bank on the far left. This building was recently designated a Cambridge Landmark by the City Council.

Give us a glimpse into your daily work or a current project.

I type a lot of minutes and process a lot of permits. But my favorite thing is when I can dive into a research project or assist someone else in finding what they need for their own research. Recently I was documenting the diner cars of Cambridge. You can learn more about this in our blog post: New! Lunch Carts and Dining Cars of Cambridge, Mass.


This picture has it all: a Cambridge diner, vintage automobiles, and eclectic old buildings.

What is your favorite photograph, artifact, or collection at CHC?

Soon after I started at CHC, I was invited to join the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project, an informal group dedicated to documenting Cambridge women, historical events, and women’s organizations. We have a lot of biographical files on women and women’s organizations. I’m currently researching Cambridge suffragists so we can have a good idea of Cambridge’s role in the suffrage movement prior to 2020, the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.


Florence Luscomb of Cambridge sells The Woman’s Journal newspaper and advocates for woman suffrage.


Thank you to Sarah for answering our questions–stay tuned for more staff bios coming soon!

MayDay in the Archives (a belated post)

May 1st has become known as MayDay in the archives world. Every year on May 1st, archivists and other cultural heritage professionals take time to assess the preservation needs of their collections and amend glaring problems.

In acknowledgement of MayDay, we would like to take this opportunity to communicate some quick tips for preserving your own archival materials at home. We will focus on relaying basic information for care and storage of the three most commonly saved items: scrapbooks, photographs, and documents.


Albums of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera weave a narrative of family history. However, the materials from which many scrapbooks are constructed can be harmful. Adhesives, dated plastic sheets, and newspaper accelerate deterioration of photographs and documents.

Harvard Sq trolley men

This image of Harvard Square trolley workers show how over time, adhesive can cause document and photographs to pull and create ripples.

We recommend scanning your scrapbook pages to create a digital surrogate, or removing items in danger of damage. If you want to keep your scrapbooks intact, make sure to store them in a dark area with a lower temperature (at least below 75° and at 65° if possible) and a lower relative humidity (below 65%). Often, linen closets work well for this purpose! Store your scrapbooks in a box made of acid free-materials.


Printed images communicate stories and are seen as proof of events and past existence. Yet, the people and places within these images can quickly fade if not taken care of properly.

Interior View: 33 Washington Avenue

This photograph has begun to yellow, likely due to the acidic paper to which it is mounted.

Photographs should be placed inside acid-free folders or archival plastic sleeves and kept inside in a dark room or closet with a lower temperature and relative humidity.

If your photographs have been rolled for a long period of time and are now stuck, consult a professional who can humidify and flatten your print safely. If you scan your photographs, you will be able to view it whenever you like, and lessen the effects of UV and humidity on your physical prints.


Documents such as letters, postcards, and paper records provide us with descriptions and evidence. Often, these items are unique and become more fragile over time. If you have paper in your family collection, separate pages from harmful materials such as newspaper or staples.


The acidic paper of this Signet Hosiery Company membership book has begun to yellow, and the staples are in danger of rusting if not kept in a cool, dry place.

Like scrapbooks and photographs, make sure to store your documents in a cool and dry location (not an attic or basement). Store documents in acid-free containers, ideally inside folders and a box.

If you would like to learn more about how to preserve documents, photographs, scrapbooks, or other materials you may have, contact our archivist, Emily at or 617.349.4683.