The last stop in my Massachusetts research tour was Springfield, MA. About half my WIP takes place in this town so I had to come to take a look and, of course, drop by the city archives.
Springfield History Library and Archives
Location: Basement of the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA 01103
Resource Type: Archives
- maps and photographs (interior and exterior) of 1860s-1870s Springfield
- information regarding everyday working class life, holidays, and traditions during the 1860s-1870s
- information regarding the 19th century inventor featured in my manuscript
Unexpected Find: Springfield Directory and Business Advertiser for 1867-1868 and 1868-1869 (FYI, this publication is a forerunner of the 19th century version of the 20th century white and yellow page directories
What to expect
Unlike Boston, which has a dizzying number of historical repositories scattered about, Springfield has just a handful. With the notable exception of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield’s Museums are clustered around a quad on 21 Edwards Street, and the archives is located in the basement of the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. You must pay a fee to access the archives (see their website for details), and if you are a Dr. Seuss fan, you may want to opt to buy the all-museums ticket and allot extra time to see the Seuss Museum. Parking in the museum lot is free, however.
The people of Springfield have been quite good at preserving their history. Their archives contains an impressive collection of documents, photos, maps, ephemera, and books, and this place seems to be a popular stop for Civil War era researchers. However, unlike the Boston museums, their collection is not searchable online. As such, you will need to submit requests to archivists Cliff McCarthy and Margaret Humberston. Basically, you give them the topic or era you are interested in, and they will retrieve the pertinent material for you. It is not necessary to email requests in advance (the day I visited, the archives received two drop-in researchers), but I’d recommend it to maximize your time there.
By the way, Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Humberston were fantastic. I’d exchanged emails with Mr. McCarthy prior to my visit, and they had a heap of materials ready when I arrived. It included a DVD documentary of the inventor I was researching, and Mr. McCarthy was kind enough to let me use his desktop computer to watch it.
As you might guess, the atmosphere at the Springfield Archives is much more relaxed than the MHS. There are no lockers, and my husband and I were free to look through materials together. As we worked, we chatted with Ms. Humberston, and based off our conversation, she came up for additional suggestions for me, which included this location’s unexpected find: their collection of Springfield Directory and Business Advertisers. For a writer of historical fiction, these books are a gold mine. They’ve got everything from the names of all the city officials to omnibus schedules.
All in all, it was a pleasant and productive day of research in Springfield. Many thanks to Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Humberston!
And that concludes the recap of my Massachusetts archives and museum tour. Hopefully you’ve found it informative!