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Uncovering Boston's past

March 28, 2018

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Digital Team

After an inspiring visit to the City of Boston archives, we decided to launch a new video series highlighting Boston’s history.

It’s no secret that Boston is rich with history. From the American Revolution to the site of the very first public school, it’s a city with stories to tell.

In our new video series, “Boston Uncovered,” we’ll be taking a look at different, unique pieces from Boston’s history and getting the perspective from the City’s resident experts. Thanks to a wealth of records and artifacts, we hope to showcase compelling stories that would otherwise have remained hidden.

How this all started

As part of our ongoing efforts, the Digital Team is continuously checking in with departments across the City. We want to make sure City staff are getting the support they need with digital communications, whether that’s updating Boston.gov or even helping launch social media campaigns. When we visited the City’s archives last fall, we were blown away.

The Archaeology Lab and Archives and Records Department are both overflowing with artifacts from Boston’s past. Technically speaking, we were visiting as part of our jobs, but this felt more like a school field trip. There were pieces of a shipwreck kept in one room, pottery from the 1600s in another. We also came across the original records and signatures of the first women registered to vote in Boston. We knew we had to help amplify these stories and promote the great work being done in this area.

Pieces of blue pottery from the 1600s is on a rack in a room filled with artifacts.
Pieces of 1600s blue pottery from Dorchester School for Girls.

Our first video

To kick off the series, we’re sharing one of the first stories Joe Bagley, the City Archaeologist, shared with our team. The story is of a gravestone found during construction work in Boston.

The stone belongs to Sara Baker, who passed away in 1687. In the first Boston Uncovered video, Joe walks us through the work done recovering the stone, and the plan to return Sara Baker to her original resting place.

Meet the experts

As part of our series, we'll be featuring two City employees with close ties to Boston's history:

A photo of Joe Bagley, City Archaeologist
Joe Bagley, Archaeology

Joe Bagley has been the City Archaeologist since 2011. He works out of the City Archaeology Laboratory in West Roxbury, where the City keeps its archaeological collections. Joe works to educate the public in archaeology through different programs.

Joe has conducted archaeological surveys from the woods of Maine to the Florida Everglades.  He specializes in Native American archaeological analysis, historical archaeological analysis, and the archaeology of Boston.

Photo of Marta Crilly
Marta Crilly, Archives

Marta Crilly is the Archivist for Reference and Outreach at the Boston City Archives. She works at the Boston City Archives in West Roxbury, where she provides the public access to City of Boston records.

The records at the City Archives span several hundred years and include everything from taxes to voting to school records. Marta helps researchers find and use the records that they need,  and makes sure that electronic records are available for research now and in the future. The Boston City Archives has already digitized more than 20,000 photographs and documents that tell the story of Boston’s past.

What we have planned

After talking with Joe and Marta, we handpicked some compelling stories that we think you’ll love. These include artifacts from the Revolutionary War, a closer look at a shipwreck discovered near the Seaport, and a community petition signed by Paul Revere. You can expect new videos every Thursday, with our next video launching on April 5.

We’re excited to highlight some of Boston’s untold stories, but we would love your feedback. Is there a unique part of Boston’s past that you want us to uncover? Be sure to let us know about it by emailing digital@boston.gov. One last thing: if you're a history buff, don't forget to check out our new "Uncovering Boston's history" guide on Boston.gov.