Read All About It: Abbot Public Library

By: Matt Kiley - Advantage Archives

Abbot Public Library partnered with Advantage Archives to make newspapers spanning more than 140 years online at your fingertips!

Abbot Public Library Director Patti Rogers said “Researchers have long had the Marblehead Messenger and later, the Marblehead Reporter at their fingertips — but only if they walked over to the Abbot Public Library where the paper, dating back to 1871, lives on microfiche. Now, that information is as close as their personal computer.”

Advantage digitized 150 years of the Marblehead newspapers and made the content available online at marbleheadpl.advantage-preservation.com.

Due to copyright, newspapers from 1977 – 2017 can only be accessed from inside the library but papers between 1871 and 1976 are available online from anywhere.

You get connected to the voice, you’re there,” she said about reading the articles. “It’s a treasure and now it’s available to anyone interested in Marblehead history, or the people who lived here.

The newspaper is now digital and most importantly, searchable by key word, a huge leap from the accessibility on microfiche.

Rogers said she began thinking about an alternative to microfiche when she received a call from someone whose treasured copy of the local paper had been destroyed in a hurricane.

After exploring a couple of different options, Rogers said she settled on Advantage Archives. With the help of a $31,000 grant from the Shattuck Foundation, Abbot Public Library had Advantage digitize 245 roles of microfilm and put it on the website.

This means people can do their own research and they can share what they find with their family on social media or attach it in an email, “it just seems such an incredible leap over this,” Rogers said indicating the microfiche machine that still sits on a table in the library.

With the Advantage database people can narrow a search to a decade or a specific date. They can plug in a name, a specific phrase or word and hit search. Rogers said if the users can click on “Resources” on the menu bar to get more instruction and “helpful hints” for using all the search capabilities.

Or, like Rogers, you can just play with it. Rogers plugged in Abbot Public, March 24, 1877 and a page including a Town Meeting article subtitled, “Marblehead to have free library” pops up. She admits it’s easy to get lost in reading the old articles and she’s had fun searching things out.

“You get connected to the voice, you’re there,” she said about reading the articles. “It’s a treasure and now it’s available to anyone interested in Marblehead history, or the people who lived here.”

Like Sean Casey, who calls his extensive research on Marblehead during the World War II era a hobby. He, along with historian/author Dan Dixey, tested the program for Rogers. “I think I’ve read every page of the 1940s Messenger,” Casey said.

Casey said he loves that he can “squeeze” his search to look for very specific things or broaden it to all things WWII in Marblehead. It has eliminated the need to cross reference everything, he said. But, “more than anything, it’s just the things you come across,” he added.

One day, while perusing the archives, Casey came across his own great-grandfather’s obituary, which was clearly published post funeral because it listed the pallbearers. “It was kind of quirky,” he said. He also came across a mention of himself. Casey said the older papers often include random information about a resident coming home from the hospital or a trip.

“I came across one item in 1965 and it was me, I had been released from Mary Alley Hospital,” he said with a laugh. Casey called the data base phenomenal in terms of research, and entertainment value. “It’s probably taking up more of my time actually, because I’m reading all of these papers,” he said.

Rogers said the online papers are also a great resource for organizations like the Historical Society, have unlimited potential for those researching family genealogy and for students.

“We haven’t even begun to see what kind of fun the high school kids might have with it,” she added.“Newspapers are the most valuable, the biggest treasure the could could preserve for itself. ‘Primary source’ is not just a cliche.”

The archive is now complete and available online at marbleheadpl.advantage-preservation.com. To read the full article on the Abbot Public Library project visit Abbot Public Library digitizes Marblehead Reporter/Messenger.

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