Museum digitization projects support preservation and interactive learning

March 15th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Document and Information Capture | Document Management

Digitization projects are on the rise as historical societies look to preserve aging records while making them more accessible to the public.

The NewsTribune reported that Illinois' La Salle County Historical Society recently took the initiative to digitize the museums photo collection. Curator Ashley Baron, along with other volunteers, have deployed document imaging technology to scan the photographs, which have been in the museum's collection since 1967. Baron told the source that the project began last year with the support of an Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board grant, and the museum has already digitized approximately 2,700 photos. Baron has also been composing notes with additional information that will be scanned with the photographs, some dating back as early as the 1800s. Once the notes and photos are scanned to the electronic database, people will eventually be able to search the archives by subject matter and category. Baron explained that the next phase of the digitization project will be enabling the community to take advantage of the digital portal.

"That's my goal," she told the news source, "To have us up online and more accessible to the public."

The Markham Economist & Sun reported that the Markham Museum has begun a similar project, which is funded by the province's museums and technology fund. Markham Master of Public Policy Helena Jaczek explained that one of these initiatives is aimed at digitizing audio archives to allow visitors to better access history through online exhibits in addition to virtual museum tours.

"Our museums, art galleries and heritage institutions are cultural destinations that engage, inform and inspire us all," she told the source. "This support will help the Markham Museum use technology to help share our stories, which encourages visitors to explore history firsthand."

Making history last
A $42,000 grant has allowed the museum to convert audio into digital files that will be archived and posted to the online collection. Museum curator Janet Reid explained that this was imperative for preservation as older tapes were beginning to deteriorate, causing some of the content to be lost.

"This is a conservation project just as much as a digitization project," she told the source. "So, this is great timing for the grant."

According to the news source, this is the third grand the museum has received for historical preservation through digitization. Several years ago, the museum began scanning more than 10,000 pictures dating from between 1880 and 1950 as part of a mapping project. A second grant enabled the museum to launch a new project which allowed residents to upload their own photos of historical buildings and add commentary, encouraging community engagement in local history.

By utilizing conversion services, museums across the country can ensure that records, photographs, film and audio materials are preserved for years to come.

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