Deteriorating Negatives

This blog post was authored by our spring Simmons University archives intern, Brittany Fox.

Sometimes the life-cycles of records must come to an end. Despite unremitting efforts to preserve our holdings, the nature of the material can lead to irreparable damage. Recalling that April 21-27 was Preservation Week, today we are highlighting how sometimes items must be removed from a collection to protect the safety of other records.

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Certain negatives from our Cambridge Engineering image collection have deteriorated due to improper chemical processing during their creation. The negatives have seized, buckled, and bubbled, which has compromised their physical integrity. There is no way to stabilize this type of deterioration and the mutation can cause damage to other negatives in physical proximity. When negatives undergo this type of decay, they can give off acetate gas. This anomaly, also known as Vinegar Syndrome due to its vinegar-like smell, can initiate similar decay in nearby negatives. Therefore, we have decided to discard these negatives.

But fret not, we have digitized and saved them as high-resolution images. Although they will no longer be preserved in their original form, we have maintained access to the content through digitization. Print copies have also been created as a backup precaution.

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Scanned version of negative, 33-35 Pearl Street

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Mass Ave at Everett St

While the preservation of our negatives is a major priority, it is also important to learn about their context as well. They were part of a collection of over a thousand 5” x 7” negatives dating from the late 1920s through the 1960s that were given to the Commission by Cambridge former City Engineer James Rice in the early 1980s. Between the 1920s and 1940s a member of the City Engineer’s staff functioned as the city’s official photographer, collaborating with the City Solicitor, the Department of Public Works, and the Cambridge Police Department. Whenever a citizen filed a claim or directed attention toward an issue or hazard that arose in the city, such as potholes, dangerous sidewalks, and motor vehicle accidents, the City Engineer send a photographer to the site. These photographs were used when the complaints were taken to the city courts to be rectified.

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Graflex Speed Graphic Camera

The negatives were acquired by the CHC along with the City Engineer’s Graflex Speed Graphic camera. In order to make an image the photographer would have inserted a sheet of unexposed film into a film holder in the darkness of a light-proof bag. Once secure so that no light would inadvertently expose the negative, the film holder would be inserted into the camera. A film holder could accommodate two pieces of film, so to make a dozen images the photographer would have to prepare and carry six bulky film holders. This particular type of camera has a focal plane shutter and a removable dark slide. It was meticulous work to get just one photographic negative and we have hundreds in the collection! Executive Director Charles Sullivan took several photos with this camera for publication in the Commission’s 1988 book, East Cambridge. Large format film and photo-processing labs are difficult or impossible to find today, so the camera will probably never be used again.

Some of the damaged negatives pulled from the collection exhibit automobile accidents, buckling sidewalks, and an exposed pipe in a giant hole. While they were intended as evidence for court hearings, the images also have secondary uses. They incorporate everyday snapshots of life in Cambridge between the 1920s-1940s, from the fashion of the passersby to the models of the cars. While these few images do not tell a very broad story, the collection in its entirety has a high future research value.

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Automobile crash, Belmont and Bird St.

If you are interested in this collection or any of our other resources, please make a research appointment at histcomm@cambridgema.gov. Our research hours are: Monday: 4:00-7:00 pm | Tuesday: 2:00-4:00 pm | Wednesday – Thursday: 9:30-11:30 and 2-4 pm.

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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!

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.

Johnston Gate, Harvard Yard

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.

Longfellow in his Study

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.

New Finding Aids Added to ArchivesSpace

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

Cambridge Recreation Department Collection

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Images from the Cambridge Recreation Department Collection, CHC011

Squirrel Brand Company Collection

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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!

Now Open: Cogswell Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Elise Riley.

At the turn of the 19th century Cambridge’s built environment entered into a period of flux. New buildings and streets were added as the city developed. Neighborhoods expanded as houses were built into the burgeoning urban landscape. Beginning in 1910, the neighborhood of Shady Hill saw the addition of several streets including Irving Street, Bryant Street, and Francis Avenue.

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Top Left: “E” – Bryant St. from corner of Irving St., May 3, 1912. Top Right: View from Irving Street. Bottom Left: View from same point as above, September 1920. Bottom Right: View from same point as above, September 2, 1916.

The Charles N. Cogswell Collection (P014) consists of a scrapbook and loose photographs that depict these changes to the built environment in Cambridge, as well as daily life, in the late 19th century. Charles N. Cogswell, a Cambridge resident and Boston architect, lived at 61 Kirkland Street from 1882 until his death in 1941, aged 76.

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Charles’s brother George Cogswell on a penny-farthing.

Cogswell attended Harvard University and went on to study architecture at M.I.T. and at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, Paris. While the bulk of his professional work took place in Boston, Cogswell dedicated his free time to capturing the changing architectural landscape of his Cambridge neighborhood.

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Top right: April 30, 1910. The beginning of the extension of Francis Avenue through to Museum Street, before the Andover Seminary Building was constructed. Bottom left: 61 Kirkland Street. Bottom right: [Francis Ave.] View from same point on September 2, 1916 [Professor Chas H. Haskins-House in distance]

Shady Hill is located east of Harvard Yard, right next to what is now the Harvard Divinity School. The Cogswell Collection is unique because it captures the in-between moments of growth in Cambridge and shows what the city looked like as construction was happening.

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Cogswell’s neighborhood was also home to several notable Cambridge residents. While Cogswell lived on Kirkland Street, around the block on Irving Street lived Harvard professors William James and Josiah Royce.

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Views from Irving Street, 1891.

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Aerial view of Irving Street, 1888.

E.E. Cummings and Julia Child would later live on this same block of Irving Street, the Childs in Royce’s former home at 103 Irving Street (above).

In his scrapbook, Cogswell also included snapshots of daily life and events in and around Cambridge.

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Cyanotype photographs of a regatta on the Charles River, 1887 or 1888.

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Family dog, Kinch, on the Cambridge Common.

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Top: View of Holmes Field, 1886 or 1887. Bottom: Shaw Barn on Kirkland Road after the fire, April 7, 1886 (owned by Prof. G.M. Lane).

The finding aid will soon be available on our website. To view photographs from the collection, check out our Flickr page, or email histcomm@cambridgema.gov to make an in-person research appointment. The Cambridge Historical Commission also holds files on 61 Kirkland Street and the other addresses mentioned in this scrapbook.