World Bicycle Day 2020: A reflection on bicycling history, community archives, and the COVID-19 pandemic through a historical scrapbook

Drawing of a man on a high-wheeler bicycle under a heading that reads Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary 1897-1942

The title page of the Hub Cycle and Radio Company 4th Anniversary scrapbook, published in Boston in 1942.

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

June 3 was World Bicycle Day! In preparation to write this post, I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections’ quarterly meeting in May 2020. While officially it was to do a little recon for this post, it was a delight to witness some of the “behind the scenes” of their unique archiving project. University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) at UMass Boston holds a substantial amount of information for bicycling research and aspires to expand upon these collections and to become a national resource on bicycling history. This work is done with the invaluable guidance of the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections, who advise UMass Boston archivists on collecting activities and generate ideas and plans for outreach, fundraising, and other community-engaged activities related to the Bicycling History Collections.

Black and white photograph of woman on bicycle under a heading that reads 1942 Wartime Model

A photo of the 1942 Victory bicycle, a special model of bicycle made during World War II, designed to use as few materials as possible.

Though I have worked at UASC for a year, our Bicycling History Collections consistently surprise me with their breadth and depth—across time and space, representing a wide variety of materials and covering a expansive range of topics and individuals. The collections hold artifacts such as pins and patches, as well as paper documents such as the records of the Bicycle Exchange, a beloved bicycle shop that operated in Harvard Square for over sixty years, the records of the Committee for Safe Bicycling, a citizen-run organization that existed from 1957 to 1974, and the papers of Cathy Buckley, a Central Transportation Planning Staff employee who assisted with the planning, design, and construction of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway.

Newspaper article that includes a number of black and white photographs of people on different kinds of bicycles.

This clipping of an article from 1939 commemorates one hundred years since the first pedal bicycle was built by Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillian.

It was wonderful to attend the Friends’ meeting and hear about their continued efforts to archive bicycling history locally, regionally, and nationally, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed their most recent attempts to solicit new materials and brainstormed new avenues to explore. The meeting was the first one they held over Zoom, and the consensus, to my surprise, was that everyone enjoyed (and some even preferred) the remote format. They were particularly excited by the prospect of inviting bicycling history experts from outside of Boston to attend the next meeting—something actually feasible with an online meeting platform. It was both comforting and inspiring to know they are committed to their project even under the most uncertain circumstances.

Features different black and white drawings of people on tandem bicycles under the heading When Men Wore Handlebar Mustaches and Bicycles were Built for Two.

This page features images of tandem bicycles, with a reference to the chorus of the 1892 popular song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”: “It won’t be a stylish marriage / I can’t afford the carriage / But you look sweet upon the seat / On a bicycle built for two.”

I’d like this blog post to function in a few different ways: as a celebration of World Bicycle Day; as a spotlight for our digital holdings, which feels particularly important during a time when archives are remote-only; and as a way not just to spread the word about our Bicycling History Collections, but to acknowledge the Friends who make them possible.

This post features selected digitized pages from the Hub Cycle and Radio Co. 45th Anniversary scrapbook, donated to UASC by Lorenz “Larry” Finison on behalf of William Herve Vandal. The scrapbook was published in 1942 by the now defunct Hub Cycle and Radio Company to mark the occasion of the company’s forty-fifth year. More than a commemoration of the Hub Cycle Company however, it is an ode to bicycling itself. In the foreword to the scrapbook, the author hails the bicycle as “fundamental”: 

Six different black and white photographs of people on bicycles under the heading Bicycle Vacation Touring on Our Main Highways!

Photos of bicycle tours on America’s early highways, circa 1940.

In this year, 1942, when Wartime models in bicycles are the pronouncement of the government, when gasoline and tire rationing are the orders of the day, the bicycle has come into prominence. … The Hub Cycle Company’s almost five decades of association with the bicycle is illustrated by the pictures and notes we have saved. They are the reflection of experience and evidence of a business that means much to you… that means much to us at Hub Cycle, who have lived a lifetime with the bicycle.

Two black and white photographs of women and children on bicycles.

Photos of women and children on bicycles from American Bicyclist, a magazine published by the League of American Bicyclists since 1880. The League’s records (SC-0200) are held in University Archives and Special Collections.

The bulk of the scrapbook contains clippings of articles and photographs that document the cultural impact of bicycles in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Some are quite strange or amusing in 2020—such as the page that reminiscences about a time “when men wore handlebar mustaches and bicycles were built for two” (a reference to the song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”) or the photos of the “Beauty and Bikes on Atlantic City Boardwalk.” Some, while temporally distant, take on a new relevance during a time of quarantine and closure; most allude to, explicitly or implicitly, to the shortages and rations during World War II that led to the bicycle’s prominence—a reminder of other times Americans have been called to sacrifice any comfort or convenience for the greater good. I also look at photos like those of the cycling tours, when highways were dominated by bicycles rather than cars, and marvel at how often, how greatly, and how inevitably our world changes, again and again, even the parts that seem immutable.

Four black and white photographs of people right bicycles under the heading Cycling in Hollywood.

Photos circa 1935 featuring famous actors of the day on bicycles, such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, and Mickey Rooney.

Special thanks to Andrew Elder, Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections, and Larry Finison, author, historian, and member of the Friends of the Bicycling History Collections. If you’d like to view more of the Bicycling History Collections or learn how to submit materials, check out the links below. 

Black and White photograph of women on bicycles under the heading Patriotic Gas Savers.

This photograph promotes the bicycle as a patriotic, prudent, and “healthful” alternative to the automobile, during a time when gasoline and tire shortages restricted Americans’ transportation options. According to the caption, cycling also had the added “essential” benefit of keeping women’s figures “trim.”

One black and white photograph of two women next to a "Bone Shaker" bicycle and one black and white photograph of a man on a "Lamp Lighter" bicycle.

These photos show two early models of bicycles. The bone shaker, popular in the 1860s in France, was named for the uncomfortable, bumpy ride. The lamp lighter, or tall bike, was used in the 1890s to make lighting gas lamps faster and easier. Its seat was so tall that it usually required a ladder to mount it.

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News from the Mass. Memories Road Show: Updates for 2020

Mass. Memories Road Show film stripAlong with so many other public history and cultural programs, the Mass. Memories Road Show was forced to pivot away from live events in response to the COVID-19 crisis this spring. Still, the team at UMass Boston has been hard at work behind the scenes to make collections available and to emerge with a stronger program as soon as we can get back on the road again.

Here are a few updates about our program and activities:

Photograph of videographer at Brockton Mass. Memories Road Show

Photograph of videographer and contributor at Brockton Mass. Memories Road Show

Collection update

Videos from the Brockton Mass. Memories Road Show and Plymouth Mass. Memories Road Show are available online now. The images and stories are in production and contributors will be notified when they are available, likely sometime this summer.

Call for Research Participants

University of North Texas student, Ana Roeschley, is conducting a dissertation study on participatory archive projects like the Mass. Memories Road Show. Her research is on the impact of projects like the Mass. Memories Road Show on individuals and communities that participate in these projects. She is recruiting past participants of the Road Show who are over the age of 18 to be interviewed about their experiences with the Road Show. Interviews will be conducted virtually via the Zoom platform and participants will receive a Starbucks or Dunkin’ gift card. Download a flyer.

For more information and to participate, contact Ana Roeschley by emailing ana.roeschley@unt.edu or calling 512-809-3662.

Events update

The Mass. Memories Road Show events in Bellingham and Malden have been postponed indefinitely, and will be rescheduled as soon as it is safe to do so, most likely sometime in 2021.

Although we can’t know when we will be able to resume public gatherings, the Mass. Memories Road Show continues to welcome applications on a rolling basis for 2021 and beyond. Interested communities can apply here.

Institute of Museum and Library Services grant update

With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Mass. Memories Road Show team is developing a “roadmap” to guide libraries of all kinds and sizes through the process of organizing similar “participatory archiving” events and building digital collections on their own. We completed a survey of needs among libraries and cultural organizations throughout the United States, and plan to launch a test version of the roadmap later in 2020. Designed to be an interactive reference, the roadmap will lead users through a series of modules covering the important aspects of planning a participatory archiving event, including community outreach, metadata and archival description, and the preservation of digital materials.

Interested in learning more? Email sarah.collins@umb.edu.

New Mass. Memories Road Show website

Last fall, we launched a new website for the Mass. Memories Road Show program, which includes a video about the program. Visit the new website here, which features a variety of resources for local planning teams including volunteer training materials about each of the Road Show “stations” as well as sample publicity flyers and press releases.

Questions? Please contact Carolyn.Goldstein@umb.edu and visit blogs.umb.edu/archives for further updates.

Browse the Mass. Memories Road Show collection here.


The Mass. Memories Road Show is a statewide, event-based participatory archiving program that documents people, places, and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. In partnership with teams of local volunteers, we organize public events to scan family and community photographs and videotape “the stories behind the photos.” The images and videos are indexed and incorporated into an online educational database. Since its launch, the project has gathered more than 10,000 photographs and stories from across the state. It is supported in part by the Patricia C. Flaherty ’81 Endowed Fund at UMass Boston.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was established in 1981 as a repository to collect archival material in subject areas of interest to the university, as well as the records of the university itself. The mission and history of UMass Boston guide the collection policies of University Archives & Special Collections, with the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service reflected in the records of and related to urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, war and social consequence, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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Documenting the UMass Boston Community’s Response to COVID-19

University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston is interested in collecting the personal stories, photographs, videos, recordings, and other materials that reflect your experiences during the COVID-19 crisis.

How has life changed for you as a student, as a staff member, or as a member of the faculty? How are you staying connected to the people in your life and to others at UMass Boston during this period of social/physical distancing? What do you want people in the years to come to understand or know about this time period? In addition to the experiences of students, faculty, and staff, we want to hear from alumni and members of the larger UMass Boston community as well.

Examples of contributions to this project include (but are not limited to):

  • A reflective essay on your experience that you wrote for a class
  • Curricular materials that you created for a class that you are now teaching online
  • A photograph of your at-home workspace
  • An audio or video recording of an interview conducted with a family member
  • An original work of art
  • A poem or short story
  • A link to a blog post or social media content that you created

Contribute to the project here.

If you have any questions about this project, please email library.archives@umb.edu.

Take care, stay safe, and we hope to see you on campus again very soon.


Due to COVID-19, the Healey Library building and the Archives Research Room will be closed until further notice. University Archives and Special Collections staff are working remotely, however, and are available to help. Click here for updates and additional information.

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National Participatory Archiving Survey Results Available Now!

Map of United States showing which states responded to the surveyDuring summer 2019, University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey about participatory archiving, or the process of collecting and preserving materials in partnership with community members. The results of the survey will inform the development of an online resource to guide libraries of all kinds and sizes through the process of hosting a participatory archiving event. The project is inspired by UASC’s Mass. Memories Road Show program and made possible by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). 

The survey results capture the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of libraries and other cultural organizations already doing participatory archiving events and those that are exploring the idea of hosting an event. UASC collected survey responses from 208 respondents representing 33 states and the District of Columbia: 123 libraries (public, private, university, and K-12), 46 cultural heritage organizations, and 25 government agencies, as well as other institutions. 

The survey reveals a great deal of interest in participatory archiving across the country. 

Approximately one half of the libraries surveyed already hosted a participatory archiving event. Ninety-five percent of these libraries found success in building community, engaging participants, and building collections through these types of events. To share materials gathered, libraries provided in-archive use to the public, posted them to their own digital repositories and social media, and/or shared them through a consortium website or state/regional repository. The survey revealed that many libraries are still learning how to preserve the digital assets they collect at participatory archiving events. 

A slight majority (55%) of libraries surveyed have not hosted or taken part in a participatory archiving event. More than half of these libraries rated their interest in holding such an event as very high. Most of these libraries cited community engagement and collections activities (building, diversifying, filling gaps) among their primary goals. To effectively host an event, these libraries reported the need for personnel (staff or volunteers), time, and guidance on various aspects of the participatory archiving process. 

UASC looks forward to addressing these needs and other gaps uncovered in the survey. In addition, UASC will seek feedback from survey participants on the online resource when it is launched later this year.  

The report analysis covers a range of topics including community outreach, digital aggregator repositories, and preservation practices from the perspectives of libraries. Responses from other types of cultural organizations are contained within the dataset that can be found in the appendix.

If you have questions about the survey or the IMLS-funded project, please email library.archives@umb.edu.

Click here to read the full report and to access the data set.

Click here to learn more about the grant-funded project.

About the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston

UMass Boston logoThe Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston plays a leading role in the dynamic culture of teaching and learning at Boston’s only public research university, while also supporting the campus’ commitment to urban and community engagement. University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Healey Library collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service. UASC is committed to working with, promoting, and assisting community archives in the Greater Boston area and beyond through facilitating cross-organization collaboration and access to informational, educational, and practical resources relevant to archival procedures and best practices. Check in with Healey Library’s news and collections through FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Logo for the Institute of Museum and Library ServicesThe Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. They advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Grossmann Gallery hosts exhibition of student photographs

Exhibit flyer on a blue background titled, “Living in the Urban Ocean,” Student Photo Essay Exhibition, October 16, 2019- January 22, 2020 in the Grossmann Gallery, 5th floor - Joseph P. Healey Library

Flyer for the Student Photo Essay Exhibition, “Living in the Urban Ocean”

The photograph essay contest exhibition Living in the Urban Ocean is now on display through January 22, 2020, in the Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Joseph P. Healey Library. The exhibition has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the English Department, the Environmental Studies Department, and University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston.

Throughout the Spring 2019 semester, students enrolled in Intermediate Seminar: Writing and the Environment (English 270G/Environmental Studies 270G) investigated the social, cultural and historical locale of Boston Harbor through archival and library resources. In addition, students developed their own urban ocean relationships through creative writing, walking, and reflection. In the era of the smartphone, creating a photo essay provided students with an opportunity to share their semester’s work through a visual language which they already use daily.

Students were asked to situate themselves in their urban ocean environment and tell an eco-story through photography. Students used iPhones and personal cameras to complete their photo essays. The winners of the photograph essay contest were selected through an online poll for best story told without words.

The Grossmann Gallery is open during library hours (posted here).


University Archives and Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives and Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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