Fig Newtons and the Kennedy Biscuit Company

Today is National Fig Newton Day!

In 1892, Philadelphia native and bakery machinery expert James Henry Mitchell patented a device that could simultaneously create a cookie dough and its filling–a small pie with jam or preserves surrounded by dough. Mitchell persuaded the Kennedy Biscuit Company of Cambridgeport to try his new machine and shipped one to Massachusetts. Soon, the company began mass-producing the fig cakes at their factory. The company dubbed this new concoction, then marketed as a nutritional cake, the Fig Newton–so named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts. Later, the Kennedy Biscuit Company and the New York Biscuit company merged to form Nabisco, which still manufactures the cookie as simply “Newtons.” Following Nabisco’s move to New Jersey, the plant was occupied by Fenton Shoe Company and was later purchased by MIT. Today, the building has been converted into mixed-income housing and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Entrance to the courtyard of the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts at 129 Franklin Street

The Bakery Oven
One of Frank Kennedy’s many innovations was the use of the reel oven. This type of oven allowed a continuous baking process which both increased production capacity and improved product quality. The original reel ovens were powered by a 50-horsepower steam engine. Located directly in front of you is one of the original six ovens with a new internal assembly suggestive of the very first reel oven.

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Rendering of the Kennedy Biscuit Company reel oven introduced in 1869 by Frank Kennedy. The oven was incorporated in the building’s renovation and can still be seen today.

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The Bakery Buildings
In 1875, the first brick structure was erected on this site. Cambridgeport was experiencing rapid growth as it shifted its economic base from trade to heavy industry. Twelve separate additions were erected between 1875 and 1937, and the 250,000-square-foot complex employed up to 650 people.

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North side of the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts in 2019

Nabisco moved its operations to New Jersey, and the Fenton Shoe Company occupied the building from 1956 through 1986. The building was subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and won the 1990 Preservation Award for its conversion from a factory to mixed-income housing.

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Gate post of the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts featuring a cracker-like design plaque.

The Biscuit Company
In 1805, the Kennedy family started in the bakery business. Forty years later, Artemas Kennedy moved the business from Milton, Massachusetts and built a wood frame building on the Cambridgeport site. Steam power was introduced to the production process in 1855. Artemis’s son, Frank A. Kennedy, took over the business shortly thereafter, and the bakery was renamed the “F.A. Kennedy Steam Cracker Bakery.”

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Kennedy Steam Bakery card, ca. 1910. CHC Postcard Collection.

In 1890, Frank Kennedy merged his bakery with the New York Biscuit Company, which later merged with the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco).

Frank Kennedy served on Nabisco’s Board of Trustees until his death.

The Bakery Products
The Kennedy Bakery product line consisted of three cracker types – soda, butter, and sugar – as well as several varieties of cakes and cookies. Familiar names include Lorna Doone, Arrowroot and Social Tea. Other Nabisco products include the still-popular Oreo cookie.

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Gate post of the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts featuring cracker and cookie details.

In 1892, a device that extruded dough into a continuous tubular shape was purchased by the company. After experimenting with various fillings for this cookie sandwich, Frank Kennedy finally selected a brand of his fig preserves. It had been the company’s custom to name its new products after local towns – Fig Cambridge and Fig Shrewsbury were considered as possibilities for this new invention. However, an employee who lived in nearby Newton suggested the name of his hometown instead. Thus, a famous snack was born, the “Fig Newton.”

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Fig Newton advertisement, date unknown. From The New York Times article “The Newtons Cookie Goes Beyond the Fig” (30 April 2012).


Sources:

Cahn, William. Out of the Cracker Barrel: The Nabisco Story, From Animal Crackers to Zuzus. Simon and Schuster, 1969.

Historical exhibit located in the lobby of the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts, 129 Franklin Street, Cambridge.

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Building and Structure Documentation Collection: Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory

Today, we are highlighting a building from our Building and Structure Documentation Collection. This collection documents buildings and structures in Cambridge that were either demolished or significantly altered. In this case, the materials were compiled as a condition of approval by the Cambridge Planning Board for a proposed replacement project.

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Close-up view of south facade of Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, Naito Chemistry Complex is under construction at the left of the photograph, 1999-2000.

For each building or structure, the corresponding box often includes an architectural description of the building or buildings, a narrative history, and archival photographs, negatives, photograph key(s), and/or electronic copies of the files and photographs. Today we are featuring the documentation of the Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory.

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Copy photograph of Wolcott Gibbs circa 1895. Original in Harvard University Archives.

The Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, named to honor Harvard University Rumford professor Oliver Wolcott Gibbs, was originally constructed in 1913 to address issues of limited laboratory space at Harvard.

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View northwest, perspective view of Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory in 1913. Original in Harvard University Archives.

Located at the head of Frisbie Place, the building was designed by architect and 1876 Harvard graduate Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr., nephew of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for research in physical and inorganic chemistry.

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View into cold storage room and laboratory, second floor, Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, 1999-2000. This room was not part of the original building plan.

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View west from east side entrance into Gibbs Memorial Laboratory basement, 1999-2000. Note autoclave in center of photograph.

 

The laboratory cost $85,000 to build. During its construction in 1912, the Harvard Crimson noted that “The Wolcott Gibbs Laboratory will be unique in this country, and in fact will be the foremost institution of its kind in the world. The proposed group of buildings, which will cost a million dollars, would give the University an unrivaled place in the field of chemical science.”

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View of vestibule from front hall, first floor of Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, 1999-2000. Note the six light transom set above the doors. An arch at the top frames the individual lights and mullions delimit them. The frame around each light resembles a pier arch.

The building was constructed with a high degree of integrity of design including elements derived from classical, Roman, medieval, late Gothic and Corinthian architecture. In the 1960s, the laboratory was remodeled for inclusion of biochemistry laboratories, and in the early 2000s, the building was demolished.

Look for more building and structure documentation in future posts!

Polaroid and the Land Camera

On this day in 1948, the Land Camera first went on sale. Developed by the Polaroid Corporation, and named for its co-founder Edwin H. Land, this mechanism was the first of its kind—a camera with instant film.

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Images from a Polaroid Land Camera catalog, ca. 1950s

Polaroid was co-founded in 1937 by scientist and inventor Edwin H. Land and Harvard physics professor George W. Wheelwright III. The company was originally known for its polarizing sunglasses, a product Land had invented following his self-guided research in light polarization. The name “Polaroid” was coined by Professor Clarence Kennedy of Smith College, a mutual friend of Land and Wheelwright.

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Advertisement for Polaroid “sun goggles” and sunglasses appearing in the Cambridge Chronicle, 11 July 1940

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Pair of Polaroid sunglasses from the CHC Objects Collection with case and informational insert, ca. 1930s-1940s

Land studied chemistry at Harvard but left without a degree and moved to New York City in the late 1920s. Without the backing of an educational institution and laboratory, he invented a system of instant in-camera photography—Polaroid film.

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Land, shown here with an early instant photograph, first demonstrated Polaroid’s instant photography system to the public in 1947. Bettman/CORBIS

The Land Camera was constructed in a similar way to traditional film cameras: light entered a lens and was reflected onto light-sensitive film, recording a negative image. Where the system differed was in its delivery of the print. Land’s system contained both the negative film and a positive receiving sheet joined by a reservoir. This pack held a small amount of chemical reagents that started and stopped film development. Rather than sending the exposed film off to a laboratory to be developed, consumers could produce a developed photograph in one minute or less.

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Edwin Land at the Polaroid Corporation in 1940

Polaroid originally manufactured sixty units of the Land Camera to be sold during the 1948 holiday season. Fifty-seven were put up for sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston, all of which were sold on the first day.

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Christmas decorations on Jordan Marsh store, photographed by Leslie Jones, December 1957. (Boston Public Library Print Department © Leslie Jones)

Land ran the company successfully until the late 1970s. Land died on March 1, 1991 in Cambridge and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

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The Polaroid building at 784 Memorial Drive, originally built for the B B Chemical Company in  1938, was occupied by Polaroid from 1966-1996.

For more information on Polaroid or Edwin Land in Cambridge, contact the CHC at histcomm@cambridgema.gov.

Resources:

“Invention of Polaroid Instant Photography.” Edwin Land and Polaroid Photography. 2015. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/land-instant-photography.html#invention_of_instant_photography.
American Chemical Society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks program.

Newly-Digitized Images – Lois M. Bowen Collection

We are happy to announce the addition of 28 images to our CHC Flickr account. These images come from the Lois M. Bowen Collection. Bowen was a Cambridge-based photographer and entrepreneur who owned a camera shop, Cambridge Camera and Marine, in Harvard Square from the 1940s to 1995.

Kodak film cannister owned by Lois M. Bowen

Kodak film cannister owned by Lois M. Bowen, ca 1960s

Ms. Bowen was a freelance photographer for several organizations and publications around Cambridge and Boston, including The Architects’ Collaborative and Architectural Forum Magazine, as well as advertising agencies and admissions publications for colleges and universities.

Cover: "Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building"

Cover: “Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building”, June 1964

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Pages from “Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building” featuring the work of Lois M. Bowen, June 1964

Bowen’s work was primarily focused on architecture, but her photographic subjects spanned the Northeast and included documentation of her own life and community.

View of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

View of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, 4 September 1978

Contact sheet: images of Strawberry Banke

Contact sheet: images of Strawberry Banke, October 1966

In addition to the photographic materials there are business papers and documents as well as personal correspondence and ephemera.

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Interior view of Cambridge Camera and Marine, ca. 1960s

Interior View: 14 Old Dee Road

Interior View: 14 Old Dee Road in Cambridge, ca. 1960s

Visit our Flickr page to view these images and more from this collection.

Building and Structure Documentation Collection: 55 Wheeler Street

Today, we are highlighting a building from our recently opened Building and Structure Documentation Collection. This collection documents buildings and structures in Cambridge that were either demolished or significantly altered. In this case the materials were compiled as a condition of approval by the Cambridge Planning Board for a proposed replacement project.

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55 Wheeler Street: interior view of reception area

For each building or structure, the corresponding box often includes an architectural description of the building or buildings, a narrative history, and archival photographs, negatives, photograph key(s), and/or electronic copies of the files and photographs.

Documented structures in this collection include buildings from the former Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Company, and the Fogg Museum from the Harvard Art Museum Restoration and Expansion Project. Today we are featuring the documentation of the Abt Associates office complex at 55 Wheeler Street.

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55 Wheeler Street: exterior facade

The Abt Associates Office Complex, much of which is less than 50 years old as of 2018, is located at 55 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, Mass. Abt Associates – which relocated to other offices in Cambridge in 2017 – is “a consulting firm that specializes in combining social sciences, computer forecasting, operations analysis and systems engineering to address technological advances and social change.” (Historical Narrative, Westbrook Properties Documentation). The firm grew rapidly in the 1960s and ‘70s, and the complex was repeatedly enlarged to enclose a series of beautifully landscaped quadrangles; almost every occupant enjoyed an exterior view.

The internationally renowned architect and urban planner Imre Halasz (1925-2003) was one of the most important designers associated with the complex. Halasz came to the US from Hungary in 1957 and taught at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning for forty years. His firm, Imre & Anthony Halasz Inc., operated from 1957 to 1991. Halasz was also responsible for the master plan of the NASA Electronics Research Center (later the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center) in Kendall Square.

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55 Wheeler Street: courtyard view

Abt Associates was formed in Cambridge in 1965 by Dr. Clark C. Abt. The company’s Cambridge location is significant for its associations with an “iconic social sciences research and consulting firm that was forward-thinking for its time, providing child care, a restaurant and recreational facilities for employees.” (Memo, Liza Paden, June 28, 2017).

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55 Wheeler Street: pool, looking southwest

Look for more building and structure documentation in future posts!

WWII Ration Books

We have recently added a set of WWII ration books to our collection. These books belonged to a Jewish family who lived at 20 Worcester Street, Cambridge, in 1942.

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Hyman Yale Brown was born in Boston on November 2, 1905. Hyman was working as a clerk in Boston when he married Rose Shapiro of Cambridge on August 17, 1930. Rose was born on June 28, 1907. Both were graduates in the Class of 1928 from Northeastern University and received bachelor degrees in law that year.

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War Ration Book One issued to Hyman Brown on 4 May 1942.

During his lifetime, Hyman was a member of the Beth Israel Brotherhood, a District Warden in the civilian defense City Public Safety Program, and aided in the campaign of Republican candidate for Congress, Vincent Mottola. The Browns were devoted members of the former Beth Israel Synagogue at 238 Columbia Street.

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War Ration Book One issued to Edward Mordecai Brown on 4 May 1942.

At the time of their marriage, Rose was a lawyer in Cambridge, and following the ceremony and a camping trip honeymoon, the newlyweds moved in with Rose’s parents at 20 Worcester Street in Cambridgeport. They later had two sons: David in 1932, and Edward in 1937. The couple was living at the Worcester Street address when they and their two sons were issued ration books in 1942.

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War Ration Book Four issued to Rose S. Brown ca. 1942

During World War II, each American was issued a set of ration books. All family members, even children, possessed ration books and a customer would not be able to purchase specific rationed goods without also surrendering a ration stamp.

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Pages and stamps from War Ration Book Four issued to Rose S. Brown ca. 1942

Each ration book held stamps that could be exchanged at a local grocer for rationed items such as coffee, sugar, grains, meat, and canned goods. These small booklets were designed to cut down on profiteering as a result of import restrictions and goods shortages. The program’s goal was to distribute goods evenly among those on the Home Front while maintaining supply for military overseas.

If you are interested in studying these ration books or have other research inquiries, please contact our Archivist, Emily Gonzalez, at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov.

New Collections Available!

We are happy to announce that we have recently processed and updated finding aids from several collections in our holdings. Scroll down for descriptions and sample images from the following collections: Patsy Baudoin Collection of Cambridge Prints and Photographs, Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection, Honors and Awards Collection, Alan McClennen Senior Collection, Cambridge Militia Records, City of Cambridge Veterans’ Graves Registration Cards Inventory, and William Lawrence Galvin Collection.


Patsy Baudoin Collection of Cambridge Prints and Photographs

This collection, sometimes known as an artificial collection, consists of photographs, drawings, and prints of historical houses and locations in Cambridge.  Also included are several page clippings from various books including the Historic Guide to Cambridge, Ever New England, and other area guides to historic houses.

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One (1) pencil sketch: Johnston Gate, Harvard Yard by W. Harry Smith (Artist)

Most of the houses depicted in the prints were built pre-Revolutionary War, from 1660-1763, and have a long history of famous residents, including Margaret Fuller, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John White Webster.  Additionally, many of the houses are listed as National Historic Landmarks including the seven houses that make up “Tory Row” on Brattle Street.

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Longfellow in his study ca. 1870-1880. Photographer unknown.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection

This collection is composed of five boxes and two flat files containing Edwin F. Bowker’s professional correspondence as a civil engineer and surveyor. Included are surveyor’s notes and records, draft sketches, manual calculations, notes on markers, drawings, plans, transcripts regarding property boundaries from deeds, and correspondence from mid-1886 through 1919.

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Documents related to property at Hasting and Monson Streets, 1920

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Honors and Awards Collection

This collection contains certificates honoring the Cambridge Historical Commission and various Cambridge businesses and organizations for their service to the built environment of this community.

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Plaque and pencil sketch for the City of Cambridge Ruth L. Barron Award for Outstanding Community Service, 2014.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Alan McClennen Senior Collection

Included in this collection are maps, development studies, town reports, and traffic studies for the City of Cambridge with the bulk of the materials dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. Alan McClennen served as the Planning Director for the City of Cambridge from 1958 until 1968. Researchers interested in viewing the Alan McClennen Senior Collection will be engaged by topics on community development in the City of Cambridge during the mid-twentieth century. We would like to give a special thanks to volunteer Steve Kaiser, for to his contribution to the spreadsheet and box list for this collection.

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Booklet for Alewife Brook Park created by AD Little/Cambridge Corporation, 1968

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Memo on Railroad Grade Separations by the Cambridge Planning Board, 5 December 1950

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Cambridge Militia Records

This collection contains nine record books detailing militia records for the City of Cambridge for the years 1846-1886. Each book contains lists of names recording those enrolled in the Cambridge Militia. At times these lists are accompanied by marginal notes.

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Militia roll: 1877 (“Ward Two Book”)

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Cambridge Militia Ledger: 1846-1859

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

City of Cambridge Veterans’ Graves Registration Cards Inventory

This collection contains veterans’ graves registration cards, filed in alphabetical order, for graves in various cemeteries in Cambridge. A majority of the graves are registered at Mount Auburn Cemetery and Cambridge Cemetery, but also include others, such as the North Cambridge Catholic Cemetery and Belmont Town Cemetery.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

William Lawrence Galvin Collection

The collection contains print and photographic materials of William L. Galvin’s professional records and architectural drawings. This collection consists of correspondence, writing, articles, government records, photographs and drawings that depict Galvin’s professional career. The core of the collection consists of drawings for over 1,000 architectural projects, of which about 530 projects in Cambridge have been cataloged.

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Proposed Dormitory – Social and Recreational Center, Lesley College, undated

For the first time, indexes to photographs in the Galvin collection as well as rolled items not related to Cambridge are available. Follow the links above to view PDFs of these lists.

Over a 50-year career, 1927-1979, Galvin made a significant impact on the landscape of Cambridge through his numerous projects and constant support for progressive land use to fit a modernizing Cambridge community. This collection provides valuable insight into Galvin’s personality and professional work that has left a lasting mark on the landscape of the City of Cambridge.

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Drawing of Shea Cleaning Plant and Showroom, undated

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

To view the above collections, please make an appointment with our archivist, Emily, at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov. Our research hours are: Monday: 4:00-7:00 pm | Tuesday: 2:00-4:00 pm | Wednesday – Thursday: 10-12 and 2-4 pm.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to process collections and make them available for research!

 

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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

References:

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

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.

Scrapbooks

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.

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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.

Photographs

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

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.

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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 egonzalez@cambridgema.gov or 617.349.4683.