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Grant number: PG-52463-15

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City of Somerville (Somerville, MA 02143-1740)
Nadia Dixson (Project Director: May 2014 to present)

Small Cities as Building Blocks: Preserving Somerville's History

A preservation assessment and the purchase of archival supplies for the City of Somerville’s 900 cubic feet of public records and photographs.  Settled in 1629 as a section of Charlestown, Somerville, Massachusetts, was one of the earliest English settlements in the United States, and in 1930-50, it was the most densely populated city in the United States.  The collection includes a comprehensive array of Board of Aldermen records, Property Tax Records, Board of Health Records, Recreation Department Photo Collection, and Records Showing the Development of Commissions to Protect Special Populations, ranging from the 1840s to the present.  The collection documents the political aspects of urbanization, demonstrating the role of small cities as the building blocks of larger urban areas.  In addition to other public outreach, the archives plans to partner with the Somerville Public School System to support the state-mandated U.S. history curriculum.

The City of Somerville’s 900 cubic foot archive, covering 1842 to present, illustrates the urbanization process in microcosm. Over 170 years, this tiny city abutting Boston abandoned farming, became a manufacturing hub, suffered economic collapse and embraced urban renewal. The archive contains Board of Aldermen decisions, land ownership and tax records, health department responses to infectious diseases, early Recreation Department photos, and the history of one of the country’s first Women’s Commissions. In the process, it highlights a time of great change in the Northeast, how national policies trickle down to small communities and how small communities become the building blocks of larger urban areas. Somerville is requesting $5,999 to hire a consultant who can help it determine short- and long-term preservation needs as the City seeks to consolidate its municipal properties, including the current archive site, and purchase its first archival-level storage supplies.

Project fields:
American Government; U.S. Regional Studies; Urban History

Preservation Assistance Grants

Preservation and Access

Total amounts:
$5,999 (approved)
$5,981 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2015 – 6/30/2016