A watercolor of Christ Church (ca. 1781) by Joshua Green is among the 150,000 items in Harvard’s collection. Courtesy of Harvard University Archives “Dear Sister,” wrote John Hancock on May 1, 1754, as a 17-year-old Harvard student, “I wish you would spend one hour in writing to me.”Before leaving what years later would become his famous signature, he wrote, “Your ever loving brother, till death shall separate us.”The letter to his sister Mary, shedding light on Hancock’s raw emotions as he studied in Cambridge in the years before the Revolution, is a sample of the riches in manuscripts and archival material available online at The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.Harvard Library’s Colonial North American exhibition and ongoing digitization initiative is displayed in Pusey Library. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerLaunched Monday, the website of the Colonial North American Project so far includes 150,000 images of diaries, journals, notebooks, and other rare documents from the 17th and 18th centuries.Part of the University’s endeavor to digitize all its collections and make them available free of charge, the Colonial North American Project is unique because of its scale. According to a 2011 survey, the material is scattered through 12 repositories — from Houghton Library to the Harvard University Archives to Loeb Music Library.In elegant script, the documents provide a glimpse into the life of North American colonies through the eyes of real people who wrote about family affairs and daily life but also about slavery, Native Americans, education, science, and revolution.“We’re bringing history alive,” said Franziska Frey, the Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian and head of Preservation and Digital Imaging Services.Interns from Harvard’s Weissman Preservation Center handled notebooks with care as they prepared them for the cases in Pusey Library. Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer“It’s a treasure of cultural heritage,” added Frey, who is overseeing the digitization process and the overall project. “If photography would have existed at the time, we would have found photographs in our collections.”In many of the diaries and journals, fanciful yet vivid illustrations accompany meticulous details of life and death, painting a dramatic picture of the Colonial era.For example, Harvard mathematics Professor John Winthrop kept account of all the deaths, in a “bill of mortality,” in Cambridge between 1759 and 1768. He wrote there were “235 deaths in 10 years.” Among the most common causes, he noted, were accidents, fever, consumption, and dysentery.Winthrop, who taught at Harvard from 1738 to 1779, was matched in avid note-taking by his wife, Hannah. Both kept diaries, journals, and personal almanacs. Their son James, a justice of the peace, followed the family tradition. In one journal entry, he wrote: “On the fourth day of December in the year of our Lord 1791, I joined in marriage Cato Bancroft & Nancy Cutter, both of Cambridge, negroes.”“We’re bringing history alive,” said Franziska Frey, who is overseeing the digitization process and the overall project.The Winthrop family documents are among those showcased in the “Opening New Worlds” exhibit in Pusey Library, to run through March. The exhibit includes a notebook with lecture summaries for a physics course given by Winthrop. It also features handwritten sermons by the Rev. Samuel Willard, who led Harvard in the early 18th century, as well as the teenage Hancock’s letter.Student notebooks from the era, many distinguished by their illustrations, are also part of the exhibit. In his math notebook from 1782, Joshua Green included a watercolor rendering of a quaint village crossed by a river to explain how to survey a river. A page from Samuel Griffin’s “Mathematical manuscript.” Courtesy of Harvard University Archives An inscription on this illustration reads: “To the Governors of Harvard College this Perspective View of Hollis Hall is humbly presented by their dutiful pupil Jonathan Fisher, September 27th, 1791.” Courtesy of Harvard University Archives William Boyd’s watercolor, “A North East view of the house of Samuel Webber, A.A.S., and of the Court House in Cambridge, by an actual Survey,” is remarkable in its detail. Courtesy of Harvard University Archives On a recent morning, Saira Haqqi and Abigail Merritt, interns with the Weissman Preservation Center, handled some of those notebooks and relished the experience.“It’s part of the joy,” said Haqqi, “being close to these objects.”Merritt agreed: “It’s amazing to see how the individuality comes out in the handwriting and the drawings.”With 150,000 images, the Colonial North American Project, supported by the Arcadia Fund and the Sidney Verba Fund, is one-third complete, said Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, University archivist. Work is ongoing at several libraries to digitize the remaining 300,000 images of Colonial North American manuscripts in 1,654 collections.“We discovered material that hadn’t been well cataloged, that may have been hidden or forgotten,” said Sniffin-Marinoff. “We want to bring it all out.”A panel with presentations on the history and scope of the Colonial North American Project will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Lamont Library. A pen-and-ink drawing of an “end view of Massachusetts Hall” by Samuel Welles. Courtesy of Harvard University Archives A glimpse inside
Second, strive to keep the fall vegetables healthy and actively growing. Healthy plants are lesssusceptible to insects and diseases. Mulches not only conserve moisture; they help reduce soil temperatures and check weedgrowth, too. It’s drought, not heat, that damages fall vegetables. So water the garden regularly when itdoesn’t rain enough. True, fall gardening will have a few ups and downs during the growing season. However, therewards of fresh vegetables will make it all worthwhile at harvest time. All the heat and sweatwill be forgotten when the food is on the table. In most cases, this won’t be a hard decision since the crops have already matured and arestarting to look ragged. Destroy everything that doesn’t look good. Put the plants in thecompost pile unless they’re heavily infested with insects and diseases. Shorter-season vegetables such as turnips and leafy greens can be delayed in seeding untilSeptember. You can still plant turnips and all of the lettuces. If weeds infest the site, turn them under or destroy them. Many gardeners also choose to addmore organic matter to improve the tilth of the soil during this preparation stage. High-quality vegetables and ample soil moisture go hand-in-hand. Failure to provide enoughwater (1 inch or more per week) will stress the plants and reduce yields. First, review pertinent literature on insects and diseases. Learn to tell the difference betweenproblem and nonproblem situations. Know what bug you’re looking at. Mulching is really important in fall gardening. When you plant, put down a layer of anorganic mulch such as straw, leaves or compost. Even a layer of newspaper can be veryhelpful. Before you can prepare the soil for the fall garden, you need to decide what to do with theremains of the spring garden. Vegetables with a 60- to 80-day maturity cycle such as collards, rutabaga, cabbage, snap beansand lima beans should have been planted in early August. However, there is hope in keeping these pests at tolerable levels if you follow a few strategies. It’s not uncommon for insects and diseases to get their share of the fall garden. Most of theproblems with insects and diseases are because their populations build up from spring throughsummer. As many other plant crops decline, lots of insects are just looking for something tohop on. For most parts of Georgia, August is the main planting month for fall gardens. Somevegetables, though, can still be planted even in mid-September. Third, check the vegetable plants often for signs of insects and disease damage. When youdetect enough damage, use an approved pesticide if that’s what’s called for. Sometimes it isn’tneeded. Aphids, for instance, may be really bad, but you can often just wash them off. Work the soil to 6-8 inches deep. Remember, poor soil preparation will yield a poor stand,and poor stands mean low yields. Mostly, though, mulches are good insulation. They help protect the roots from fluctuations insoil moisture and temperature. That not only helps in the heat that’s still hanging around butwill help insulate the roots from the cold to come. They have another benefit with leafy vegetables, as they keep water from splashing soil up onthe leaves. That will make them easier to clean up when you harvest and will put less grit inyour greens.