What’s Happening in the Osborne Library


When people ask, “what’s happening in the Library these days?” I generally say, “it’s business as usual.” This isn’t exactly true. Every day in the library is different and it’s never, never boring. The other day, for instance, I had a researcher who just won the Neaverson Prize for outstanding research in industrial archaeology from the Association for Industrial Archaeology, a British organization. He will be giving a talk in Ireland this summer about the Lowell dam and needed to look at our early images of the Lawrence Dam (a comparable engineering feat) in our print collection. He was also interested in looking at our New Bedford books and images for a future talk about that city’s textile industry.

I also recently received a group of trade catalogues from a California dealer, some of which I will purchase for the library. Among them is a circa 1900 catalogue of a yarn company with directions for crocheting college “throws” for Yale, Harvard, Bryn Mawr, etc.; a catalogue for Smyrna rugs (1905), a type of inexpensive oriental rug; another catalogue for the Klearflax Linen Rug Company (circa 1920); and a portfolio of “212 ideas for your post-war home” by the Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Co. (1942). They are small items but surprisingly useful for historical research.

Earlier this week, a woman who owns a knitting machine patented in 1866 e-mailed me asking for information about it. I was able to provide her with some background information about the company. A professor and filmmaker from MIT stopped by to research the history of shoddy mills (shoddy is wool fiber that has been reclaimed for other uses). She has also done extensive research in England and is passionate about the subject. We showed her our unprocessed collection of records from the Smith & Cooley Mill in Stafford, Connecticut, plus what we have in the book and trade catalogue collections.

Meanwhile, we are forging ahead on the IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) grant, which gave us money in the 2010-12 cycle to catalogue our print and photograph collections and mount those records (with an attached image) on the online Chace Catalogue. To date, we have approximately 2,300 records in the Chace Catalogue for this phase of the project. The total number of library records published to the Catalogue comes to 25,198. This is the second IMLS grant that has made it possible for us to make the library collections available to the public. Click here to visit the Chace Catalogue and do a quick search. You will be pleasantly surprised!

We also participated in another IMLS grant awarded to Simmons College. As part of this grant project, two interns from the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, created a wonderful book flip for one of our rare weaving manuscripts (a draft book). Check it out and keep on flipping until you see the great pages with the swatches: http://calliope.simmons.edu/athm/. As soon as we have the capability, we will mount it on our website’s library page.

In the meantime, Library staff continues to do double duty. Jane Ward, Assistant Librarian, leads a double life as Lulu, the Museum’s mascot. Lulu the Lamb appeared in the Apple Blossom Festival Parade in Westford on May 14 assisted by our Cataloguer, Margaret Duggan, with Margaret’s two sons, Christopher and William. Lulu also took part in the Lowell General Hospital Cancer Walk on May 15 and will be seen at the Fairy Tale Festival in Nashua on July 16 and the Lowell Folk Festival on July 30 and 31. Finally, this month I attended the Society for Industrial Archaeology’s annual conference in Seattle where the group toured a number of area industrial/factory sites. Many members who research textile mill sites and the history of the industry were in attendance and it was fun to swap news and gossip.

The Osborne Library, named after trustee and benefactor, Gordon Osborne, is always busy with multiple projects: accessioning and cataloguing our collections, incorporating UMass Lowell’s textile book collection into ours, answering research questions, buying books, periodicals, manuscripts and images, and accepting gifts in all of these areas. And it’s never, never dull.

Clare Sheridan

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