New England Quaker Records to be Digitized
The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Records—rich and voluminous materials of Quakers going back to their mid-17th-century beginnings—will be the focus of a new digitization project by the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center (SCUA), in the UMass Amherst Libraries. When the project is completed, the vital records and meeting minutes heavily consulted by historians and genealogists will be available in SCUA’s digital repository, Credo, on the web, and through the collaborative Massachusetts digital portal, Digital Commonwealth, of which SCUA is a member.
Thanks to the efforts of Rob Cox, head of SCUA at the time, the records arrived at UMass Amherst in 2016, after having been on deposit at the Rhode Island Historical Society. Almost immediately, SCUA staff began to receive requests for research help in the collection, many from patrons unable to visit in person. Demand for access to the records, along with the age and fragility of many of the materials, have made digitization imperative.
“The UMass Libraries are proud to be engaged in the preservation of these rare materials, as they are in high demand by researchers all over the world,” said Nandita Mani, Ph.D., dean of University Libraries. “Our work in digitizing these records not only preserves them for the future, but in fact reduces barriers to access and makes them available to all.”
Beginning in late January 2023, the first group of 283 bound volumes will be sent off-site to be scanned and will be temporarily unavailable. Digitization will be performed by the Internet Archive scan center, part of the Boston Public Library’s Library for the Commonwealth program, which provides digitization services to Digital Commonwealth members. SCUA staff anticipate the process of digitizing each group of bound volumes will take four to six weeks and that all 787 of the record books will be available online by end of summer 2023.
SCUA maintains an active partnership with the New England Quakers, jointly stewarding the historical records of the organization. The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Records includes records of most of the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings, in addition to the Yearly Meeting, as well as documentation of a range of committees and programs created and administered by the Quakers. The vital records have historically been kept by the Monthly Meetings and are probably the most frequently consulted.