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W.B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives: Collection Highlights

A guide to the historical materials and resources available in the W.B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives

Hyannis Normal School


The Hyannis State Normal School opened on September 9, 1897 with thirty-two students. The number of students increased to forty (nine men and thirty-one women) over the next three months. All but two were from Barnstable County.

The two-year course work included classes in psychology, history of education, pedagogy, school organization, school government, and school laws of Massachusetts. In addition, students learned methods of teaching English, mathematics, science, and “expression” (drawing, vocal music, physical training).

Even though the school enjoyed an excellent reputation across the state and nation, it nearly closed in 1932 and again in 1939 due to funding issues and declining enrollment. The outbreak of the Second World War quickened the drop in enrollment. In 1942 the Massachusetts Maritime Academy was allowed to share facilities with the college.  And in 1944, the school was permanently closed.

The W. B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives preserves the history of the Hyannis Normal School and holds many of its original records and photographs.  Visitors may view the yearbooks, course catalogs, scrapbooks, faculty publications, and other materials in the our reading room.  A portion of these materials can also be seen at this online exhibit, created in cooperation with Bridgewater State University.

Cape Cod Canal

The Cape Cod Canal was officially opened on July 29, 1914.  The W. B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives has an impressive collection of maps, legal documents, brochures, event programs, news publications, government reports, and related materials which document the history of the canal, from the first investigative surveys of the area completed in the nineteenth century, to the fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1964, and everything in between! 

Kelsey Photographs

Richard Kelsey was a very prominent and successful Cape Cod photographer, producing images of the Cape that were published in newspapers and guidebooks from the 1940s through the 1980s.  His photographs reflect every aspect of Cape Cod life, including the architecture, nature, people, and events of the area.  He is perhaps best known for his aerial photographs, taken during his numerous solo flights and used by later geologists and scientists to document changes in erosion and landscape.

The Kelsey Collection contains several thousand original photographic prints, slides, and negatives.  Below is just a sample of what the collection has to offer!

Photograph taken by Richard Kelsey of the rescue of 32 crew members after the Pendleton was destroyed in a severe storm off Chatham in February 1952.




Aerial photograph of North Truro, taken by Kelsey.  Date unknown.