Special Collections at the Gleason include documents, photographs, maps, and records unique to Carlisle that are of interest to researchers and genealogists. The Library also has artifact collections currently housed off-site at the Carlisle Historical Society and archival storage


For a century, what is now the Hollis Room was the home of the historic collections of the Carlisle Historical Society and the Town of Carlisle. When the library renovation was completed in the summer of 2000, the collections were moved to the Carlisle Historical Society, with the exception of the library archives. The Carlisle Historical Society now houses the Town’s and their own object and document collections in their headquarters, the Heald Homestead.

In 2020. the materials in the Gleason Public Library’s archives were newly processed and arranged. A finding aid is available to assist researchers in locating materials. The collection contains documents and records unique to Carlisle that are of interest to researchers and genealogists.


Collection History
In 1916, W. Irving Heald, formerly of Carlisle, bestowed a valuable collection of approximately one hundred Civil War artifacts from the battlefields of Gettysburg to the Town of Carlisle. Heald had purchased the collection in 1890 from Joel Danner, a resident and museum/shop owner located in Gettysburg, PA. Joel Danner subsequently sold additional pieces to the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center collections.

Since 1916, the Gleason Public Library has been responsible for the collection on behalf of the Town of Carlisle. For many years, the collection was displayed in the Library’s Reading (Hollis) Room and stored in the Library’s attic. When the Library’s renovation began in 1999, the collection was put into offsite storage. In 2001, the Library gave the Carlisle Historical Society temporary custody of the collection to house in Heald House.

Over the years, the collection has deteriorated, due in large part to the passage of time, but also due to poor storage and handling conditions. In 2013 the Library began a yearlong investigation into the best options available for the long-term preservation of the collection. In 2015, thanks to the generosity of the residents of Carlisle through the Community Preservation Act, the Library received a grant to conserve items in the collection, including the flag. The following has been completed to help bring the collection into archival quality:

  • Textile conservator was hired to preserve three textiles, including the Civil War flag
  • Arms conservator was hired to preserve thirty-four non-textile and non-leather items
  • Leather conservator was hired to preserve seven leather objects
  • Museum software was purchased to catalog the collection
  • Photographer was hired to photograph the collection for digitization
  • Off-site archival quality storage space was purchased to store items safely

The collection will be safely stored in environmentally stable conditions (with proper temperature and humidity controls) within an archival storage facility. The library director and project manager of the collection, in consultation with the Carlisle Historical Society, will rotate artifacts out of the storage facility every 3 to 4 months to put on exhibit at Heald House or the Gleason Library. Exhibiting only a handful of artifacts at a time will allow the library to highlight the background of individual objects through research and display, and use them relationally to connect with Carlisle’s own history. The collection will remain in stable condition for Carlisleans to discover and learn from for years to come.

To check out our Gettysburg Collection virtually start here

WILKINS NOTEBOOKS (Old Houses and Families of Carlisle): NOW ONLINE

The core of the Gleason’s local history collection is the 25 volumes of the Wilkins’ Notebooks (Old Houses and Families of Carlisle), researched, written, and assembled by Martha Fifield Wilkins during her tenure in Carlisle as the wife of the minister of the Congregational Church. The result of over a decade of research, the Notebooks contain local history and lore, genealogies, photographs, poems and drawings, and a wealth of information illustrating the history of Carlisle.

In 2012, the Wilkins Notebooks were digitized through the Internet Archive in cooperation with the Boston Public Library, supported by a grant the BPL received from the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) and funded by the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act). You can flip through the notebooks online, or download a copy to your computer.


Town Histories

Military Histories

Vital Records to 1850 for Carlisle and surrounding towns

The Wilkins Notebooks and the History of the First Parish Church – now available in full online at the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/gleasonpubliclibrary

Photograph Collection

Lewis French Collection

Old Home Day Collection

Numerous small local history document collections

Carlisle Mosquito: print and microfilm

Carlisle Journal/Concord Journal Scrapbooks


This guide provides a list of print resources at the Gleason Public Library for researching Carlisle’s history. The guide is in PDF format: Carlisle History Guide


A listing of maps housed in special collections. Check out the PDF format: Map Collection


SubjectDateAvailable Formats
Cal Adrian1987audiocassette
Herb Bates1987audiocassette
Father James Byrne1987audiocassette, transcript
Guy Clark1995videocassette, audiocassette, transcript, DVD copy (request)
Kathy Coyle2010DVD (request)
Cutter Home1998videocassette, DVD copy (request)
James (Jim) Davis2002audiocassette, transcript
Rachel Page Elliott1997videocassette, audiocassette, DVD copy (request)
Garthe Family1985audiocassette & genealogy
Great Brook Farm1998audiocassette, transcript, DVD copy (request)
Anna P. Johnson1996videocassette, audiocassette, transcript, DVD copy (request)
Inga MacRae1996videocassette, audiocassette, transcript, DVD copy (request)
Sharing stories: an oral history about Ellen Miller2010DVD (request)
Al Peckham1986audiocassette
Beulah Swanson1996videocassette, transcript, DVD copy (request)
Helen L. Wilkie1996videocassette, audiocassette, DVD copy (request)

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