Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meet Betsy Sherman!

I’m a graduate student from Simmons College in Boston working on the CLIR project for Northeast Historic Film during the spring semester. I’m working towards a Masters of Library and Information Science degree, with a concentration in Archives Management. My professional background is in journalism; I’ve been a film critic for several Boston publications, most notably for the Boston Globe over a span of 14 years. I look forward to using my geek-o-rrific knowledge of cinema and showbiz history working in a media or pop culture archive.

For this project, I’ve been working with two collections of home movies that touch upon work issues: the Whipple Family Collection and the Janice V. Smith Collection.

The Whipple Collection consists primarily of films shot during the 1920s, mostly at the family’s summer home in Plymouth, Mass. Sherman Leland Whipple was a prominent Boston attorney during the first part of the twentieth century; he and his wife’s extended family and friends populate the films. In addition to family frolicking, there is a passage shot outside of the Chilton Company factory in Webster, Mass. (which was run by a member of the family), and one of ice-industry workers cutting ice on a river.

I made contact by phone with a descendent of Sherman Whipple, and was quickly plugged into an email network of relatives, including a woman who is one of the babies in those home movies. I look forward to finding out more about the context of what we see in the collection.

The Janice V. Smith Collection contains films shot by Janice’s mother, Helen V. Bird, from the 1940s through 1961. Along with the chronicling of a middle-class family’s life in Quincy, Mass., there are scenes of Janice’s dad, Charles A. Bird, playing minor league baseball. Mrs. Bird also got her camera out to document workers moving the family house to another street to make way for the Southeast Expressway (an important Boston-area highway) in 1957.

I haven’t yet made contact with Smith or any Bird relatives, but I did have this rather weird occurrence: Since a clipping of Charles’ obituary mentions that he played basketball for some amateur teams, including that of the West End House (a social club in the neighborhood of Boston where both my parents grew up), I asked my father if he’d ever heard of Charles Bird. He doesn’t remember Bird as a baseball player, but swears he can remember a Charlie Bird playing basketball for the West End House when he was a kid. Dad, how come you vividly remember watching someone play basketball in the NINETEEN-THIRTIES, but you can never remember where you put your reading glasses?

But it isn’t all watching movies and doing detective work on the donor families. I’m also learning how to describe and catalog film collections so they can be made useful for researchers. This aspect of the project complements the work I’m doing in the two courses I’m taking at Simmons this spring, Archival Access and Use (taught by Susan Pyzynski) and Photographic Archives (taught by Martha Mahard).


Katrina Dixon, Media Cataloger, Northeast Historic Film said...

I really love how your dad remembers Charlie Bird! I also enjoy thinking about how wonderful it felt for him to let that memory (and the others it may have inspired) back in.

Chris Wertz said...

Hi, I was a member of the West End House too (some 50 years or so later). Did you ever transfer the The Janice V. Smith Collection? I would love to see the baseball footage.

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