Boston, MA, and Oxford, UK | 27 October 2016 | As it celebrates its 125th anniversary as the world’s first land preservation organization, The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) has announced a significant portion of its extensive historical collections is now available online for the first time, via a partnership with digital preservation specialist, Preservica. The online catalog features The Trustees’ extensive collections, ranging from museum quality art and objects to historic and present day photos, manuscripts, news clippings, and artifacts that document and illustrate the unique stories of the Trustees properties and the families who once owned them across the state.
The Trustees is a member-supported, non-profit organization that cares for some of Massachusetts’ most treasured natural, scenic, and historic sites, including reservations and historic houses across more than 27,000 acres in 75 communities. Founded in 1891 by pioneering landscape architect Charles Eliot, The Trustees’ mission is to “preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional historic and ecological value in Massachusetts” and to conserve the character that makes Massachusetts’ landscapes and communities unique.
Key pieces of history within the organization’s collections include historical documents such as original letters written by Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, accounts of early Massachusetts cabinetmakers, and Charles Eliot’s scrapbook documenting the founding of The Trustees, a 140-page account of clippings, letters, pamphlets, and more. The collections also feature images from The Trustees’ 116 sites, including Agassiz Rock, with its dramatic glacial boulders, and Appleton Farm, one of the oldest working farms in the country.
Using Preservica’s Cloud Edition, considered a gold standard in the industry, The Trustees have deployed a digital preservation strategy that will not only ensure their unique digital collections are “future-proofed” and useable by future generations, but also accessible online for the general public, researchers, and staff to search, browse and view. Visit The Trustees website frequently to continue to explore its ever expanding online collections.
“Today, we’re celebrating this milestone as another step in our mission to engage current generations in understanding and appreciating the need to preserve and protect the history of our land for the future,” says Cindy Brockway, Trustees’ Program Director for Cultural Resources. “Preservica will help us continue to bring our stories to life for our visitors by allowing us to create and maintain a living and dynamic digital archive, that not only safeguards our digital materials, but also allows us to be relevant and responsive to the needs of new audiences beyond our properties and programs.”
During the planning stage of the project of the portal, the Trustees’ Archives & Research Centre (ARC) team initially approached preservation and access as two separate components, interviewing both digital preservation vendors and web development agencies to separately take on what was originally thought of as two distinct project phases. “We realized, however, our goals would be best served if we used a single system to preserve as well as provide access to our digital assets,” adds Alison Bassett, Manager of The Trustees’ Archives & Research Centre. “We were thrilled to discover Preservica and learn they have created similar platforms for so many of our colleagues and esteemed institutions like Yale University and the Museum of Modern Art.”
After sending out an RFP and receiving 13 responses, Bassett’s team selected Preservica on the recommendation of History Associates, a Rockville MD consulting firm that helps organizations use their historical content to enrich the present and find the right technology solutions for their needs. “We chose Preservica’s Cloud Edition because we knew it would allow us to provide the same level of care to our digital items as we do with our physical collection materials, and because it will safeguard The Trustees’ digital materials for future generations by ensuring that the files that are preserved today can be migrated to formats that can be used and read by the applications and technologies of the future.”
“What is unique about this project is how diverse the archival materials are, and how dedicated The Trustees are in providing an academic and scholarly approach to its history and archives,” says Preservica CEO Jon Tilbury. “We are delighted to be working with them to make their digital collections available online for access by new audiences. This very much reflects what many cultural institutions are now aiming to achieve: using digital preservation to create real value, rather than simply locking their digital material away for safe-keeping as a one-time activity.”
Of The Trustees’ 116 Properties, the ARC curators and archivists chose to start the project working with collections surrounding three historic houses, all of which are National Historic Landmarks: the Old Manse in Concord, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, and Castle Hill in Ipswich. Collections surrounding 13 other properties are also represented online, including Allen C. Haskell Park, Appleton Farms, Chestnut Hill Farm, Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate, FarandNear, Long Hill, Long Point Wildlife Refuge, Monument Mountain, Notchview, Powisset Farm, Stevens-Coolidge Place, Weir River Farm, William Cullen Bryant Homestead and World’s End.
The online materials are catalogued using local guidelines and adaptations of national standards. Generally, several controlled vocabulary systems are used for names and descriptive terms: the Getty Research Institute’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus, Thesaurus of Geographic Names, and Union List of Artist Names; and the Library of Congress Authorities database.
The quality of the images accompanying the records ranges from high quality to screen quality. Some records do not yet have custom images.
You can view The Trustees new online digital collections website here; which are also accessible via mobile devices.