Inside the CHS

About Barbara

Barbara Austen is the Archivist at CHS and is responsible for all of the incoming manuscripts, which means she gets to read people's diaries or mail. She has a master's Degree in Library and Information Science and has been working in the museum and historical society world for 30 years.


Articles by Barbara:

Newgate Prison Document Acquired

April 21, 2016 · Collections, Manuscripts

A very recent addition to the CHS collection is a Revolutionary War era document related to Newgate Prison. Documents like these don’t come around very often.

A New Year’s Resolution?

December 31, 2014 · Collections

January 1 is a day when people traditionally reflect on the year past and make resolutions about the coming year. It is also a time perhaps to get a jump on spring cleaning.

An early Christmas present

December 24, 2014 · Collections

There are three hard drives clustered around my desk. These days I look less like an archivist and more like a computer geek.

What if it they only had 140 characters?

December 17, 2014 · Collections

The Williams sisters used every available spot on the paper to write their letters even when the paper was oversize.

Consumption

December 3, 2014 · Collections

The term consumption, particularly in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, means something very different today than what it meant in the 19th century.

Fitz Hollister’s Observations on Virginia

November 26, 2014 · Collections

Fitz Green Hollister was a young farmer from Washington, Connecticut, when he joined the 18th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, in 1861. His letters home and his dairies evidence a keen intellect and an eye for detail.

But gosh, he’s cute!

November 19, 2014 · Collections

Kids in the 1940s were not all that different from kids today. They don’t always get along with their parents, don’t always want to go to school, want to go to the movies (or play on their X-boxes today) instead of doing homework. Most of all, though, girls get crushes on boys!

Not another account book?

November 12, 2014 · Collections

CHS has an extensive array of account books ranging in date from the early 18th century to the later 19th century and covering every part of the state.

Our audiovisual heritage

November 5, 2014 · Collections

Monday, October 27, was World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, sponsored by UNESCO. We did nothing to publicly mark the occasion, but we are taking an inventory of our audiovisual collections in preparation for writing a grant proposal to get them digitized.

Research fellows at CHS

October 29, 2014 · Collections

CHS is a member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, a group of research institutions in New England that pool their resources to offer grants to scholars so they can spend several weeks at repositories in the region.

My nephew wants to know

October 22, 2014 · Collections

When new manuscript materials, whether a single item or a whole collection, come to CHS, I need to spend time getting to know the individuals whose names appear in the documents in order to put things into context.

William Blore proudly wrote his name inside his book of lace patterns. Ms 101711

William Blore’s lace pattern book

October 15, 2014 · Manuscripts

I wrote about the lace pattern book several years ago when we first acquired it and admitted I knew little of its history. Now I know more, thanks to William Blore’s descendant.

CHS Home School Day, October 6, 2014. Shadow an Archivist.

Shadowing an Archivist

October 8, 2014 · Collections

On Monday, October 6, CHS hosted home-schooled children and their parents for a day of workshops. I offered a session called “Shadow an Archivist” which 10 students attended. They were given a “collection” to review and process. These were copies of documents in a real collection from the Root family of Farmington, Connecticut.

Connecticut Digital Archive

October 1, 2014 · Collections

Do you remember the 5″ floppy disc, 8-track tape and VHS? The technology that created these and other forms of media is now obsolete. That is why we are moving our digital assets to the Connecticut Digital Archive hosted by the University of Connecticut.

Benjamin Talcott account book needs a new spine, among other things.

Talcott record books off for treatment

September 24, 2014 · Collections

Two Talcott account books, and several manuscript maps and documents went with archivist Barbara Austen to North Andover, Mass. for conservation.

American soldiers at the Battle of Long Island, August 27, 1777.

Still fighting the Revolution

September 10, 2014 · Collections

For the month of August I kept telling my husband nearly every day that I had been fighting the Revolutionary War all over again. And in a way, I was.

In a chicken coop like place

In a chicken coop like place

July 30, 2014 · Collections

I’ve seen movies and television shows that were set during World War I, but it still amazes me how relatively primitive things were in the early 20th century.

How many copies does it take?

July 23, 2014 · Collections

Sometimes you just don’t realize what you are looking at. I was reviewing the Wolcott papers to make sure I put the right volume- and object-numbered document in the correct “folder” of the finding aid (just one step in the project funded by NHPRC to get our manuscripts online through Connecticut History Online). I kept…
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Just what is on those tapes?

July 16, 2014 · Collections

On  Saturday, volunteer VivianLea Solek and I launched a project that will take years to complete, but which I think is very exciting.

John Trumbull, artist

July 9, 2014 · Collections

John Trumbull (1756-1843) was the son of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull and first cousin of M’Fingall poet John Trumbull. John the artist graduated from Harvard in 1773 and served as an aide to General Washington during the Revolution. In 1784 he went to London to study with the painter Benjamin West.

Blue cloth coats with red facings and white lining

July 2, 2014 · Collections

As we prepare for the July 4th holiday and enjoy the fireworks celebrating American independence from Great Britain, it is hard to realize that our country faced a rather treacherous beginning. I thought about that when reading a series of militia brigade orders from the 1790s.

Samson Occom- Getting More Collections Online

June 25, 2014 · Collections

The past few days I have been preparing the scans from the microfilm of the Samson Occom papers so I can publish them in Connecticut History Online. This is another of the collections we are getting online with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. I have already blogged about the Wolcott papers,…
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Oh, you meant that Smith!

June 18, 2014 · Collections

I love mystery stories and I find that reference questions let me play sleuth every once in awhile. That happened last week when a nice gentleman from South Dakota contacted me about a manuscript he had that was a “religious exegesis” on the book of Romans written in Greek and English. On the cover of…
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Dr. Thompson’s Celebrated Eye Water

June 11, 2014 · Collections

Joseph Thompson of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a letter to his uncle Dr. Isaac Thompson of New London, Connecticut, in May, 1842. Joseph related the peaceful death of two of his sisters within a week of each other and how devastated he felt. His mother, he mentions, is also dying. While the above tale is a…
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He survived Andersonville Prison

June 4, 2014 · Collections

Diaries and letters of Civil War soldiers from Connecticut form a large part of our manuscript holdings, so I don’t go out of my way to add more material unless it tells a previously unknown or undocumented bit of history. That is how and why we acquired a certificate issued to Alonzo G. Case of…
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“Book of letters”

May 28, 2014 · Collections

One of my tasks in getting the Oliver Wolcott papers digitized and online is quality control—looking at each image to make sure it is clear and legible. I am up to box 18 (of 59!). When I got to the volumes of draft letters in box 16, I noticed the “docketing” on the reverse. It…
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Are you Mickey Mouse?

May 21, 2014 · Collections

One question we often get in the Waterman Research Center from researchers handling manuscripts is, shouldn’t I be wearing gloves? Here at CHS we have determined that clean hands are less damaging to the documents than gloves would be. Note the emphasis on clean. Your fingers are highly sensitive to the edges of pages, can…
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A Who’s Who of the Early Republic

May 14, 2014 · Collections

Working with the papers of Oliver Wolcott Jr. really is like reading a Revolutionary War/Early Republic who’s who, as I mentioned in my previous post about our grant-funded project. I keep running across letters to or from the likes of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster.

Everything Kate

May 7, 2014 · Collections

I thought I would “jump on the Kate bandwagon”, as it were, for this week’s post. We actually do have in the collection some letters written by the stage and screen star. They provide additional proof that her heart still belonged in part to Hartford and more particularly to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.

Wolcott goes online

April 30, 2014 · Collections

With grant money from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division within the National Archives, we recently started a project to digitize manuscript collections that have already been captured on microfilm. The digitized images are going to be available on Connecticut History Online, and there will be links from our online finding…
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Daylight Practice Air Raid

April 23, 2014 · Collections

One of my favorite sources for historical content and context are diaries. Madeline L. Wells lived in Danielson, Connecticut, when she kept a diary that recently came into the collection here at CHS. She was about 22 in 1943 and kept a meticulous record of the major news stories of the day, all recorded in…
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Right to your door

April 16, 2014 · Collections

You mean to tell me that at one time the postal service did not bring my mail directly to my house six days a week? How could that possibly be?

Just part of the job

April 9, 2014 · Collections

Collecting history can sometimes be uncomfortable and it is often hard to retain objectivity. Such was the case with two recent acquisitions—a broadside advertising a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Woodstock in 1926, and two protest posters from this past Saturday’s rally to repeal Connecticut’s gun laws.

Hawaii Once Again

April 2, 2014 · Collections

One of these days, I will have to go to Hawaii because I keep coming back to it in my research and blog posts. Now I am going to be talking to a college class about Connecticut missionaries in Hawaii. In addition, next week is filled with Hawaii-related programs at Central Connecticut State University(CCSU) and…
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Do we ever learn from history?

March 26, 2014 · Collections

I am continually amazed by how history repeats itself, and not always for the better. We recently acquired a set of diaries kept by a young Waterbury man just prior to and during his study to become a doctor. James A. Root, Jr. was between college and medical school when he finally decided to keep…
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A behind the scenes tour

March 19, 2014 · Collections

On Tuesday a number of CHS staff had a cook’s tour of the archives of The Hartford, one of Connecticut’s premier insurance companies. I never realized that behind the imposing main building that is on Asylum Street, there is an entire campus of buildings and facilities.

Pesky research questions

March 12, 2014 · Collections

Don’t get me wrong, I love trying to help researchers find the “right” answer. But why do I always find the answer days or even weeks after the question was asked? Several weeks ago now, I had a woman here doing background research for a novel she is writing. Among other things, she asked me…
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Getting collections online

March 5, 2014 · Collections

Hurray! We just received our official award letter from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the granting arm of the National Archives. This $35,000 grant is going to fund the digitization of eleven manuscripts collections that have already been microfilmed. Microfilm is still the best option for preserving manuscript collections, but we all know…
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Fairly took away my breath

February 26, 2014 · Collections

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but love goes on forever. A letter recently received with the Keller family archive evokes both the holiday and the lasting power of love.

Catherine had her miniature taken

February 19, 2014 · Collections

One of CHS’s great friends recently donated another Charlotte Cowles letter to add to what we already have. Of course, I was pleased as punch! In this letter, again written from Farmington to her brother Samuel in Vermont, she indicates their mother is dictating what to write, but I still hear Charlotte’s voice. She relates…
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