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Boston Public Library Serves Historical and Cultural Institutions Across Massachusetts

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Library for the Commonwealth service increases access to digitization

mapUnder the designation as Library for the Commonwealth, Boston Public Library serves all residents of Massachusetts and offers free resources to public libraries and other historical, cultural, and educational institutions across the state. Since 2011, the library has worked to digitize and preserve collections from 145 organizations in nearly 100 towns across Massachusetts. These digitized items will be shared online via, which is a BPL-built and maintained repository and portal where statewide collections will reside for future generations to discover.

“Massachusetts is a state with a deep and rich history. Our goal with this service is to broadly share Boston’s diverse collections alongside the treasures of other organizations throughout the Commonwealth,” said Amy E. Ryan, President of Boston Public Library.

This summer, Boston Public Library offered trainings about the digitization process to public libraries within Massachusetts. In conjunction with Digital Public Library of America, the BPL hosted workshops designed to assist public librarians in identifying their local history and genealogical collections for digitization and eventual exhibition. Librarians learned how to prepare their items for digitization and inclusion in the Digital Public Library of America, which draws content from Digital Commonwealth. Online exhibitions are planned for 2015 that will showcase the digitized content.

Current digitization work for other libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies includes items from Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, and the Natick Soldiers Research, Development & Engineering Center. Initially supported by a federal Library Services and Technology Act grant awarded through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, statewide digitization efforts are now supported through state funding in conjunction with the BPL’s role as Library for the Commonwealth.

Boston Public Library’s development of the Digital Commonwealth repository system provides a means of managing and preserving digital collections to ensure they will be accessible to future generations. Collections in Digital Commonwealth include thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings from member institutions which are now openly accessible to researchers, students, and the intellectually curious.

Visit to learn more about Boston Public Library’s statewide services to residents and to other institutions.

Image: Map of Arnold Arboretum showing location of the trees and shrubs. Map digitized at the Boston Public Library.

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