Category Archives: Collection

Maynard History on YouTube

We’re very excited to announce our YouTube channel is alive and kicking.   Several years in the making, we finally got everything set up and the first round of videos are available.

These videos, along with more detailed information, will be cataloged in our online collection – so anyone searching the collection will be able to find them whether they know about YouTube or not.

In the next few weeks we will begin posting our audio archives to this channel as well.  We hope to have most of our audio and video tapes available online before the end of the year. (The 8 and 16mm films are another matter entirely…)

Please check out the channel, which is available right there in the menu bar!

Happy New Year

We are ringing in 2013 with some updates to our online collection.   We are now running a new version of the Omeka software that we use to manage our digital archives.  What this means to you is that searching our archive is now faster and more accurate than ever before.

We’re still tweaking around the edges, but you’ll also see a new face to our online collection.   We also have a new page design.  One of the things we’re excited about is that the collection website now automatically adapts itself to whatever device you are using to access it — so it works great with regular computers and laptops, tablets and smartphones.

With over 1500 items currently available to the public and new items being added every week, we’re hoping you’ll enjoy these new capabilities to explore Maynard’s history.

If you haven’t tried poking around our great collection lately, give it a try.

Parker Street Hall Curtain

One of the truly rewarding aspects of our work here at the Historical Society, and in particular for the team that is working to catalog and put our collection online, is the connections that we are helping others make – with families and with people who share interests in things historical.

One of those came to light last week when I received a call from Chris Hadsel in Burlington, VT who was asking about the Parker Street Hall — she had come across a photograph in our online collection.  It turns out she is part of a group that restores theatrical backdrops/curtains called “Curtains Without Borders” and she knew who the artist was who painted the curtain in Parker Street Hall!  (She was calling hoping that it existed so they could consider restoring it.)

Chris told us that the Parker Street curtain was painted by Helen Tooker.   Chris provided this short biography: Helen Tooker was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1906. In the 1920’s, she studied art for a year at the Boston Museum, then married and moved to Taunton, MA, where she set up her “Bay State Studio” and taught art as part of the WPA. In the mid-1930’s, she and her sister and her best friend added theater curtains to the wide variety of art, calligraphy and sign painting that provided her with a living. The three young ladies would set out together and persuade local businesses to buy ads that were then painted on a muslin rolldrop. Although she produced theater curtains throughout northern New England, the only known surviving examples are this one at the West Windsor Historical Society at the former Ascutney Mountain Grange Hall, and two similar curtains in Maine.  Helen passed away in 1997.

We will continue to look for more photographs of the backdrop for Chris’s records, and while the Parker Street Hall curtain is almost certainly gone you can visit some of the places where Helen’s work is still on display and get a sense of what it was like to be in our hall in the 1930s…

You can see more on our photo of the Parker Street Hall in our online collection.

Please visit the Curtains Without Borders website to learn more about their wonderful work restoring these beautiful works of art across New England (and they are looking to expand across the nation).

Preservation requires Preparation

Like a number of small local historical collections ours has known some moments when circumstances combined to create a situation where some portion of the collection was put at risk.

While stored the lower level of Maynard Town Hall for over 30 years there were at least two events where water damaged some portion of the collection.   In a very real sense, the last event, which occurred in January 2008, set in motion the current preservation plan that we are now on (supported by both member funding and Maynard CPA funds).

For over three years now we have been slowly but steadily bringing our collection of Maynard’s history into a better state of preservation:  documents and photographs are being stored in a manner consistent with modern archival practices, the collection is being cataloged and digitized, and we have the use of a building that is providing us with reasonably safe storage.   This is all good.

It isn’t perfect, and given our limited resources it probably will never be.  But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare for those confluences of circumstances that always rise up to bite you in the butt.    The recent tornado that ravaged several towns just 60 miles to our west a few months ago was a bit of a wake-up call for me.  Following the tornado I was working in the collection room and thought “what would happen”.

While the MHS doesn’t have a formal disaster preparedness plan, our conservation survey and plan does dip into that territory a bit and now we’re taking a few more steps.

Many of our storage racks are near windows.  A direct hit by a tornado could scatter our history over a large swath of the commonwealth.  Not good and unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do about that at the current time.  Our space has lots of windows and unless someone wants to throw a LOT of money at us, we’ll have to live with that risk.  Fortunately the risk is incredibly low.

Which brings us to today — and we have the threat of a Category 2 hurricane (Irene) washing over us in the next 48 hours.  Current forecasts show a larger threat of rain rather than wind damage.   We’re on the second floor so flooding is not a real concern — but the roof leaking is.  [Note: The roof leaking threat is only there because we might get a LOT of rain in a short amount of time, creating a unique situation — we’ve had no issues with the roof leaking in the three years we’ve been here.]

So, for a small investment we thought it would be a good idea to put some plastic sheeting over the collection.   About 80% of the collection (and probably 90% of the documents/photographs) now has something over them.   Most of what is exposed would survive getting wet and we’ll keep a close eye on the building anyways.  We may even try to get the rest covered in the next 48 hours but there’s a bunch of diminishing returns at play (e.g., there are things on the floor that we simply have no way of getting off the floor, so if water comes in they are going to get wet.)

Our collection represents the combined efforts of hundreds of people spanning the past 150 years.   Our overriding goal as a historical society is to make sure that the “stories of Maynard”, which are held in the words, photographs, and artifacts that we manage are preserved for the future generations and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens.

Our online collection passes a major milestone

This soul-crushing winter has had one bright spot: we have been making phenomenal progress on the society’s online catalog (   We recently passed 500 publicly viewable items and we have another 800 other items in the database that we are working on behind the scenes — with more being added every week.

We estimate there are between 5000 and 6000 items in our collection so we’re pleased to pass the 10% mark (and humbled when we think of the other 90%).

Soon the the good weather will return and progress will slow down (unless we get some more of you to help us out) but at least we are making the best of staying indoors this winter!

Update: 1921 History of Maynard now searchable

We were so happy with how the automatic text recognition worked on the 1971 history book I went back and did a pass over the 1921 Gutteridge book. It, also, worked pretty well and I have uploaded the book with the text.

For those who don’t know what I’m yabbering about, the documents we are making available online are “scanned” pages, essentially pictures of each page all bound together in a single file (the PDF file). Your computer only knows that there are umpteen of these images (which it calls pages) but nothing else. The fact that there is text on them or not is irrelevant. But with some extra work we can instruct a program to “read” these pages and try to locate the text on it and turn it into words that the computer can understand. This is a task that in recent years has become pretty reliable for printed materials (handwritten work or poorly typed pages is typically unusable). This is what we did to the 1921 Gutteridge PDF file and now you can search for words, names, etc. within it — not just flip through pages. The process is far from perfect, but we’re seeing a high enough level of accuracy to make it available to the public. This makes the file much more useful for research.

So, for anyone who downloaded the book prior to today (18-Mar-2010) please download it again to get the updated version with the searchable text:

History of Maynard – 1921 – WIlliam Gutteridge

Seeking historically significant videotapes

We’ve just completed the digitization of nearly 40 video tapes in our collection.   The majority of these are recordings of various Society programs, but some document interesting events from our town’s history.

If you have a videotape of historically significant event / subject / person related to Maynard, please let us know about it and consider letting us make a digital copy of it for our archives.

Eventually we plan to make these videos, like everything else in the collection, available for everyone to view — but that might take awhile.

Carpet Loom Assembled


If any of our readers had visited the Society in the past 10 years or so while we were still in the lower level of Maynard Town Hall you might have noticed some fairly large wooden structures tucked in the corner collecting dust.  These were pieces of a loom that came from a Fairfield Street house and was used to make carpets at the turn of the 20th century.   Since we acquired this piece we’ve never had the room to assemble it — until last week…


During one of our Wednesday morning work sessions Len Palmer, Paul Boothroyd and I brought a bunch of pieces out to a work area and we took our shot at putting it together.  We didn’t think we’d get it right on the first shot (and we had a couple of small errors along the way) but we think we have an accurate reconstruction.


Today I spent some times working on the heddles.    If I’ve counted properly the loom is set up for 88 warp threads.  Untangling them after a decade of storage and at least 3 moves took a bit of time.


We are looking forward to having some folks familiar with looms and weaving help us with the next stages.

We’re going to do a light cleaning of the loom to remove (or mitigate) some mildew and dirt.  The loom needs some wedges to secure the major elements.  The weaver’s seat is also missing and we’ll likely cajole a local craftsman into building a replica.


Sometime next year we hope to load some warp threads on the loom and perhaps start weaving some cloth on it, perhaps, for the first time in 90 or 100 years.  When we do so, we’ll be sure to make a video of the process and share it with everyone.





Help support local history: Vote at Maynard’s Special Town Meeting

Maynard residents can directly help support the preservation of local history by voting in favor of Article 7 (Community Preservation Funds Appropriation) at the Special Town Meeting on May 19th.

There are 3 historical preservation projects included in this article.  One of the projects is a grant to professionally survey the historical collection of the town and to begin the process of creating a digital catalog of the collection.  The project is a joint effort of the Maynard Historical Society and the Maynard Historical Commission.   Our proposal to the Community Preservation Committee was enthusastically supported and we hope to get the same support from the community on the 19th.

If you are resident of the town, please consider attending Special Town Meeting (and Annual Town Meeting for that matter) and voting in favor of Article 7.

Thank you,

Dave Griffin
President, Maynard Historical Society