High School yearbooks provide a great snapshot of cultural history. The crispness of pre-War attire. The creeping shagginess of the 70s. The outdoor portrait backgrounds of the new Millenium. And of course we can’t forget the big teased hair of the early 90s. (Seriously, go check out 1991. We’ll wait.)
Just about every Abington High School yearbook dating back to 1929 is now online thanks to a digitization project coordinated by the Abington Public Library.
“The quality is amazing,” said Library Director Deborah Grimmett. “ They came out really good.”
The best part? It was all done for free by the Boston Public Library.
“It’s a great deal,” Grimmett joked.
The project started in 2018 when Abington received an archive assessment grant from the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners. With the help of a professional archivist, library staff reviewed its collection of local historical resources that makes up the Burton L. Wales History Room.
“As part of that project, it was determined that the biggest demand was for digitization of the yearbooks,” Grimmett said.
The Boston Public Library hosts a unit dedicated to helping local libraries, museums, historical societies, and other non-profit institutions preserve cultural heritage materials. The materials are then uploaded online to archive.org, which features terabytes of media materials, including millions of books, hundreds of Grateful Dead concert recordings, and the “Wayback Machine” website that preserves old web pages, among other things.
Abington librarians worked closely with their colleagues at the middle/high school library and Dyer Memorial Library, and put together a near complete collection of every Abington High School yearbook dating back to 1929. (The collection is missing 1936-1939, 1951-1953, and 1955)
Then COVID happened and the project was placed on the backburner. Finally, this past fall Abington reconnected with the Boston Public Library, which had resumed the digitization efforts. And because this was the first project Abington had requested help with, it was given priority status.
So three weeks ago, the yearbooks were boxed up and delivered by an Abington library staff member to a delivery dock at the Boston Public Library.
Grimmett said they weren’t expected the work to be completed until December – possibly even January because of the upcoming holidays. Instead, they were notified Tuesday that all of the yearbooks were now available online.
“We were surprised it was done so fast,” she said. “We’re thrilled.”
The timing couldn’t be more perfect, with the Thanksgiving holiday a popular time for high school friends to reconnect and have reunions. The library’s collection of yearbooks is also the most popular section of the Wales Room, according to Grimmett.
“The idea you can now look at them from home is really amazing,” she said.