Digitize--You Can Do It!
Hannibal, Missouri – “America’s Hometown” – birthplace of Mark Twain. In 1889 the Hannibal Free Public Library became the first free public library in the state of Missouri. Its current building, the Garth Memorial Library, was built in 1901. Like most libraries, it has become the home of many local historic treasures. The Missouri Room contains bound newspapers, newspaper microfilm, census records, yearbooks, city directories, scrapbooks, family histories, AND vertical file cabinets of indexed photographs. The library wanted to create a “digital exhibit” – something with a theme, something of importance, something with appeal to a wide audience, and something that a small staff could manage. While browsing the books containing photocopies of many of the photographs, we found it! On October 25, 1935, the Mark Twain Zephyr was christened in Hannibal. It was the first of these streamliners to serve St. Louis. The celebration was broadcast live to over 70 CBS radio stations throughout the U.S. Many dignitaries were in attendance. Mark Twain’s granddaughter, Nina Gabrilowitsch, judged a “Tom, Becky and Huck” competition. The contestants were from 11 communities along the train route from Burlington, Iowa to St. Louis, Missouri. There was a band, singers, speakers, a KMOX announcer, riverboat whistles, a grand entrance by the train, the contest, and a luncheon. We had several wonderful photos of the event and other historical railroad photos. This one-day event seemed perfect for our first digital project.
The library received a digitization grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the Missouri State Library. This would cover the cost of digitizing the photos and memorabilia. We were very lucky to have handwritten subject index cards of the photo files created by local historian, Roberta Hagood. They were invaluable in locating the photos we would need. We asked local organizations and the community to help by lending their photos and memorabilia. Release forms were created and kept on file. The director and I had been to a digitization conference in Independence, MO to get pointers and learn about copyright issues. The Independence conference was in 2004. (If you look at the 2005 conference you will notice that Ann Sundermeyer and I were honored to be presenters.)
We established a deadline for accepting contributions to the project. We gathered everything, made our final selections, then, in a locked meeting room we laid everything out in a storyboard sequence. We made a list with brief descriptions. Then each item was put into a numbered, acid-free envelope. The numbering system would begin with the letter “z” to identify the project. Everything was gathered and organized. Now it was time for the next step.
We did not do our own scanning. Letting someone else take possession of other people’s (and our) irreplaceable heirlooms was a scary proposition. Professional digital photographer, Bob Lyner of St. Louis traveled to Hannibal to personally transport the items to his company. He provided us with 3 sets of CD’s – 72 dpi jpg thumbnails, 100 dpi jpg enlargements, and 400 dpi tiff masters. The masters are kept in storage offsite. We felt that the October 1935 newspaper coverage leading up to and following the event would add tremendously to the historical significance of this exhibit. The library director hand delivered the bound newspaper and the other text articles to MOBIUS (a state cooperative of academic libraries) who helped us by OCR’ing these items. Everything was returned to owners in perfect condition.
Our cataloger completed an online course in Dublin Core in order to follow these metadata standards in a table format below each enlargement. She spent a great deal of time researching in order to create the descriptions. We are privileged to be a part of Virtually Missouri, an MLNC (Missouri Library Network Corporation) digital collections project. We submitted our collection and entered our metadata here also.
As the IT person for the library, I have attended Gates training in Seattle and locally. I built the website using FrontPage. Our exhibit contains 87 thumbnails and enlargements plus links to the additional texts. It is small, but has a lot to offer. It was a time-consuming labor of love by several people (who also have other duties), but it was well worth it. It has been greatly received. It was such fun having some of our “unidentified” people identified by their families. One was the daughter of one of the dignitaries that we were unsure of his name. Another was a grateful son in California who had heard the family story of his mother participating in the “Becky” contest, but had never before seen the photo. A railroad enthusiast also expressed his appreciation to the Webmaster for remembering the Zephyr.
It was an exciting project and great learning experience. Please take a look at the finished project -- http://hannibal.lib.mo.us/mtzeph/home.htm. Since then we have tackled 2 more projects – African American Community of Northeast Missouri 1880-1960 and the 1875 Marion County Atlas. Our master tiffs are now 600 dpi. We are currently working on the Immigrant Community of Ilasco: a Cement Company Town and the Hannibal City Directories 1859-1929. Visit the library website and watch us grow—http://www.hannibal.lib.mo.us/.
Take a look through your treasures. Start small! A “digital exhibit” is a wonderful way to share these with the world. If we can do it with our staff of eight, YOU CAN DO IT. TOO!
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