State relents on rights fee to print WWI soldiers’ pictures

Every girl pulling for victory, WWI poster, 1918From

WORCESTER – An effort by local historians to put faces to the names on the city’s World War I memorial recently encountered an expensive hurdle in an unexpected place – the Massachusetts State Library.

The issue, concerning usage fees for images in the State Library’s collection, appeared on its way to being resolved this week, ending what had been, for the historians, a potentially costly predicament.

More than 60 photos of Worcester veterans who gave their lives in the “War to End All Wars” are in the State Library’s digitized archive of World War I photos. Some are likely the only images of these men in uniform.

The State Library wanted to charge $100 for each image from its collection used in a commemorative book being compiled to honor Worcester’s First World War fallen, researchers said.

That meant the historians who aim to honor Worcester’s Great War dead would have had to come up with more than $6,000 to print the soldiers’ pictures – enough money, the researchers estimated, to publish 500 or more copies of the book they hope to give away free.

That wasn’t all. If the book were expected to stay in print more than 10 years, the State Library was going to require a 50-percent surcharge – an additional $3,000 or more – for perpetual publication rights.

It was almost as if the State Library were “holding our guys hostage,” the project’s leader, Worcester State University history instructor Linda N. Hixon, said this past week.

“It could have been the only photo of them in their uniform,” she said of the digitized images. “It could have been the only photo of them.”

To pay to print the soldiers’ pictures in the commemorative books seemed “almost like ransom,” Ms. Hixon said.

The fees were outlined in a chart the State Library’s head of special collections, Beth Carroll-Horrocks, sent Ms. Hixon’s graduate assistant, Zach Washburn, in February. “We are obligated to charge a Use Fee, even for another state agency,” she wrote.

But after the Telegram & Gazette inquired this week, the State Library indicated it would be willing to consider waiving the fees for the Worcester research team.

“If you’d like to come into the State Library to continue your research and to see the other resources we have on this topic, we’ll be glad to talk to you (about) a waiver of the Use Fee for this project,” Ms. Carroll-Horrocks wrote Wednesday in an email to Mr. Washburn, which he shared with the paper.

State Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, serves on the State Library’s board of trustees. “There will absolutely be a waiver of fees,” Ms. Hogan, whose legislative district includes Bolton and Hudson, said Wednesday. “They will be working it out through the State Library with the students so that everybody gets what they need to do this very important work.”

The images, which are in the public domain, are part of the State Library’s digitized archive of more than 8,000 photos of World War I soldiers. The portraits were taken 100 years ago by the Boston Globe as Massachusetts soldiers went off to war. They were donated to the State Library in 1935. Since the images were created before 1923, any copyrights have expired.

“The State Library supports the research and information needs of our patrons, and welcomes groups to work with the library to achieve these goals,” State Librarian Elvernoy Johnson said, in a statement released Wednesday by the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance, the administrative domain under which the library falls.

The World War I Biography Project (, is the latest for Ms. Hixon and her Worcester State history students. Last year they researched each and every one of the 398 names on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, the Civil War monument on Worcester Common that was restored and rededicated in July.”

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