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Thousands of archival images tracing the development of transportation in Boston are now available in our Collections Access Project.
Historic New England acquired the Boston Transit Archive in the mid-1980s with the goal of making the material available to the public. Digitizing the thousands of gelatin dry plate negatives included in the collection was a particular challenge. Exposed directly onto fragile 8″ x 10″ sheets of glass, these images provide an unparalleled view of Boston and its environs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In 1986, we began creating microfilm copies of each image. Our online collections database, launched in 2010, allows us to share these images with a worldwide audience.
More than 8,000 images from this collection are online, with more to come. Many of the images document the materials that were essential to day-to-day transit operations, such as pipes, ditches, and machinery. But there are also surprises. Some images raise as many questions as they answer:
Browse the archive and tell us your thoughts in the comments section of each record.