Digital History Online Project

Update: All volumes of the Historical Collections are now beautifully scanned and available online. Each one is accessible on our Collections page.

The Topsfield Historical Society has been awarded a 2015 Partnership Grant from the Essex National Heritage Commission. The grant will be used to support our new Digital History Online Project which is producing Topsfield History Online, a central portal for finding online documentation and resources about the history of Topsfield and its residents.

Since the late 1600s, even before there was a formal town government, Topsfield citizens have been recording significant events as they took place. During the 1700’s, records of the Town and Church were recorded by dedicated citizens.  In the late 1800’s, The Topsfield Historical Society organized and published material now contained in the Town Hall Archives.  Much of this material was published in the early volumes of the Society’s Historical Collections. Since its inception over 100 years ago, the Topsfield Historical Society’s mission has been to preserve and publish these records. We have published thirty-four volumes of these materials over the course of our existence. Initially, this material was available to the public only through print copies owned by a few libraries or individual purchase. Recently early publications have become available on the Internet.

The initial stage of the Project is the creation of a robust website platform that will act as a central portal to existing and future digitized archives of the Society’s materials. These digital archives are currently scattered amongst a variety of websites including:,, various State websites, The Peabody Essex Museums’ Phillips Library and others. The purpose of the Topsfield website will be to provide a central location for finding these materials as well as providing indexing and search tools. The website will begin with providing links to currently available material on other sites. It will also provide a new indexed, digitized version of all 34 volumes of the Historical Collection.

The Project has already reached an agreement with the Boston Public Library to digitize all 34 volumes of the Society’s Historical Collections under a Commonwealth funded program for digitizing State records.

The work the Society will provide includes: a) completion of the indexing of the Historical Collections; b) creation of a new website with the newly digitized Collection, information and links to materials available on other websites and robust search tools to access information from all the sources. Future stages of the project include providing digital access to material still only available in the Society’s physical archives, providing curated online exhibits to promote public awareness and interest in our materials and a social media promotion campaign.

A review of the use of the various archival websites that contain some of the Society’s Collections shows that hundreds of people across the world have read on-line and downloaded this information about Topsfield's local history. Our mission, as a local historical society, is not only to preserve what has been handed down to us, but also to provide access to it for all  - historians, students, genealogists and any who are interested in our history. The Digital History Project is the Society’s move to broaden that access as widely as possible.

For questions about Topsfield's history and our digital history project, ask