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A few months ago, a quirky facebook page called “Dirty Old Boston” caught our attention. Each day, the page became home to more and more images of Boston “back in the day” – focusing on the gritty, pre-gentrification days of our beloved city. The administrator, who has a wicked sense of humor and loves a good turn of phrase, made us laugh out loud with his photo captions and running commentary on the photographs he was posting.

As chroniclers of Boston and New England arts, history and culture (see our titles here) – we quickly fell in love with the concept. Over the past few months, we have been working with Dirty Old Boston creator and administrator Jim Botticelli on translating his much-loved Facebook page into a book. It is a complicated task (hence the name the Dirty Old Boston PROJECT), but we are thrilled to be involved. Learn more about the project and how to share your own photos here.

Crowd-sourcing history is a fascinating topic that we are all just starting to understand. While sharing old photographs on Facebook is a relatively simple endeavor, translating that to a book project poses some challenges:

  • Getting images that are large enough (and in good enough quality) to print in a book. The pictures that people post on facebook are often sized down so that the site isn’t weighed down with enormous images. For a book project, though, the bigger, the better. We’re asking people to send in the biggest, best-quality, highest resolution images possible.
  • Working though the murky world of copyrights and ownership. We want to share images that are taken by and/or owned by the people sending them to us. There are a lot of great images out there, many taken by fantastic photographers – we just want to ensure that those photographers are getting credit for their work and that we have permission to put the photos in the book. The best photographs for this book are going to be the ones taken by everyday people of everyday things from the past. We want the photographs found in dusty shoeboxes hiding in attics across the region.
  • Finding a wide representation of Bostonians. Any look back to the past requires us to ask: “whose history is it?”  With this project, we want to ensure that we are getting the word out to a large enough audience to get a rich, varied look at what Boston was like in the decades after World War II.

Despite these obstacles, we are excited to take the leap and see what we discover. We want to thank the loads of people who’ve already submitted their photos and the accompanying stories–with a bit of good luck and some hard work, we’ll conquer all these challenges and produce a book that all of us can truly be proud of!

The Dirty Old Boston project is where modern technology and social media meets history and nostalgia.

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