BOSTON (CBS) – The high school yearbook is a rite of passage, a remembrance of days gone by, for better or for worse.  Now, thanks to the Boston Public Library, thousands of yearbooks from Massachusetts high schools are available, online.

Remembering those old pictures might strike fear into the hearts of many, but as historical documents, yearbooks can’t be beat.

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It’s all happening in a dimly lit room on the lower level of the BPL.  Page after page, after page, after page, turned by hand and digitized, creating an online database of yearbooks.

Boston Public Library is creating a digital database of high school yearbooks (WBZ-TV)

“The strange hair styles and strange dress codes from years gone by, those may be as interesting as historical documents, town records. That’s all in there,” said BPL President David Leonard.

That’s right, the hair, the activities, the prom are blasts from the past.  The yearbooks range from the 1920s to today, a chronicle of their times.  The team has put thousands of yearbooks online from about 140 Massachusetts cities and towns.

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David Wade’s yearbook picture from Tewksbury High School (WBZ-TV)

“These are people you spent four intense years with,” said Tom Blake, who leads the effort.  “These were printed once. You can’t call up some publisher or book company and say, I lost my 1985 yearbook, please send me another one.”

“It’s a one print run and then it goes away. So this is a preservation project in many ways,” Blake added.

Yearbooks from across Massachusetts are being uploaded to an online database. (WBZ-TV)

That creates a second chance to relive those golden days, and remember highlights like who was most likely to succeed.

“It tells us what was important within a very intense, social context,” Blake said.

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To find the yearbooks go to:  https://archive.org. Search your school. If they’ve digitized your yearbook, it’ll be there. And remember, it’s only Massachusetts schools.

David Wade