The archives: an invaluable resource for historians

Page 1 of the March 12, 1770 Boston Gazette

As an intern with the History Department at the Bostonian Society, I have spent a great deal of time researching in the library and archives. Filled with a great variety of sources and information on eighteenth century life in Massachusetts, this is an invaluable resource for historians like me, who want to know what exactly life was like for the people who lived in Boston at that time. Archives are a very important resource for historians, with most if not all scholars undertaking archival research at some point in their lives. By looking through sources from the time, historians can often verify or confirm newfound ideas and arguments.

Here at the Bostonian Society, we have an extensive archival collection. Most recently, I have been using the newspaper collection quite a bit, looking at one document in particular. I am currently working on editing The Proceedings, which is the Society’s scholarly publication, with the next issue focusing on the legacy of Crispus Attucks and other African-Americans from the eighteenth-century. For this reason, I have been looking at an article from the Boston Gazette and Country Journal from March 12th, 1770. This was the first publication issued following the Boston Massacre of March 5th, which happened right outside the Old State House. Attucks is named in this article as the first victim of the Massacre, which also states that he was born in Framingham. As this issue of The Proceedings will be focusing on Attucks’ roots and slavery in Massachusetts at that time in general, it is useful to me both as an editor and as a historian to look at items such as this, in order to uncover how events were portrayed at that time. The version that we have of this newspaper is actually a re-print from the early 1900s, as it was such a popular edition.

Having access to sources such as colonial newspapers and to resources like the archives of the Bostonian Society in general, is very important for historians. Working so closely with such artifacts is often the most exciting part of the research process, as it allows us to feel truly connected to the people and places of the past. Using the archives has been one of the best parts of my internship, and I’m looking forward to continuing to research in them over the coming months. I would encourage anyone interested in archival research to book an appointment with Elizabeth, our Library and Archives Manager, and come in to look at this fascinating collection!