I am constantly amazed by the Internet’s capacity to function as a sort of flying carpet to the past. Anyone who has tumbled down the rabbit hole of discovery using a subscription database like Ancestry.com knows this thrill. A few years ago, The Seattle Public Library Foundation helped the library cover the cost of a subscription to the Seattle Times Historical Archives database. This means that anyone with a Seattle Public Library card can dive into Seattle’s past 24/7, from home, wearing pajamas if they want to.
Right now I am deeply involved in the editorial process for the biography I’m writing, Looking For Betty MacDonald: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I, due out in autumn 2016 from University of Washington Press. Betty’s father Darsie Bard graduated from Harvard in 1903, and I needed more details about what life would have been like for a Harvard student during that era.
If I lived in Boston, I would have hopped on the T and headed to Harvard’s archives — there’s not much I enjoy more than visiting an archive where I’ve not been before.
I emailed the archivists at Harvard, but while I waited for their reply a lucky Google search brought me to an amazing digitized time capsule all about life at Harvard in 1900. Luckily for me, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s time there overlapped with Darsie Bard’s, and this website explores FDR’s college world.
I was especially delighted to be able to click on sheet music icons and listen to the digitized songs Darsie and “Frank” might have heard being plunked out on piano during their college days. Sometimes spelunking the web turns up the most amazing portals, doesn’t it?
May 1, 2015