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Boston Parks Records Dating Back To 1875 Now Online


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Parks and Recreation

Historians, scholars, friends groups, and open space advocates are among these who now have a window into the past as the records of the Boston Parks Commission have been digitized and put online through the Boston Public Library’s digital services team. 

The records, once confined to the original documents stored at the Roxbury offices of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, date back to the 1850s and include annual reports, information about the formation of the Emerald Necklace, and the minutes of one of the oldest Parks Commissions in the country. 

Copies of official Commission meetings, including many historical maps and plans, and annual reports are preserved in perpetuity and easily accessible to researchers and anyone else interested in this facet of Boston’s history and the decisions that helped shape the city’s park system.

The collection begins with the handwritten minutes of the first Parks Commission meeting held July 21, 1875.  The first volume continues with various proposals for new parks at a time when a good part of the city was still marshland and Back Bay was in the process of being created with fill transported from Needham.

Boston Public Library’s digital services team is responsible for digitizing and providing online access to the library’s collections. The work is done at two state-of-the-art digitization labs, using high-end digital cameras and flatbed scanners, in the Central Library in Copley Square. The digitized collections can be found under the “online collections” tab of the BPL home page. The department works to not only increase awareness of and access to collections and materials but also to partner with local communities to help share their stories.

During the past few years, the digital services team has been digitizing materials from other libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies from across the state. Exactly 100 different communities – 30% of all Massachusetts towns and cities – have been served by the BPL as members of the Digital Services team travel across the state for on-site digitization consultations and material transport. This service is supported with state funds through the Library for the Commonwealth.

To access the Parks Department records, go to the Archives section of the Department’s homepage at