Illinois' State Wide Archival Technology Team (SWAT)
The Macomb Public Library District worked with ISL to make primary source material held in the public libraries in Macomb, Mount Olive and Springfield accessible on IDA. A total of $10,000 in LSTA funds was awarded for this program. These grant funds allowed the Macomb Public Library District to help provide a national model demonstrating for other state library agencies, state museums and state historical societies to:
A unique aspect of this project is a public library and a state library teamed up to into the field to digitize materials. Illinois utilizes LSTA funds to support a statewide digital imaging initiatives so material can be accessed through the Internet by libraries scanning material, or outsourcing digitization of the material to a private vendor.
While a significant amount of material is being added to IDA, there are historical and cultural jewels being held in libraries that do not have the wherewithal to digitize the material, even with grant funding. Even though Illinois is making digital images with valuable content available for viewing on the Internet, there has been a lack in public programs as a promotion component of digital imaging initiatives.
ISL’s digital imaging staffed assumed the responsibility of digitizing primary source material in Macomb, Mount Olive and Lincoln Library in Springfield, and creating metadata so the material can be accessed on the Internet. By taking this approach, public libraries are relieved of the time and expense of implementing their own digital imaging activity.
This is especially important, as many smaller libraries do not have the fiscal resources or personnel to commit to making primary source material more accessible because a digital imaging project is time and labor intensive due to the training and costs involved. And, more often than not, they are the libraries with some of the riches primary source materials.
The LSTA project was designed in a manner that the local public library will be able to continue its day-to-day operations because staff has been and will freed from the time and expense involved in planning, training and implementing a digital imaging program.
While the material was being scanned at the local library, the ISL digital imaging staff undertook any immediately necessary preservation and conservation work on the primary source material. After the material was scanned and metadata was created in order to provide access to the material on the World Wide Web, the digital images will be posted on IDA. Public programs were be held in the participating communities for the general public, students, teachers and community leaders to explain the historical and cultural importance of the material in context of the Story of Illinois. After the grant period, ISL will assume the costs and expense of maintaining the images in IDA
A key element of the program was securing the services of William Furry, executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society, to serve as a consultant and a presenter for the programs. The Macomb Public Library District and ISL worked with Mr. Furry and the participating public libraries to develop public programs using the images that are posted in IDA and other speakers with expertise relating to the material. For example, Donald Luman of the Illinois State Geological Survey spoke about historical aerial photographs taken in 1936-41 that was digitized as a result of an Institute for Museum and Library Services grant.
A library digitizing primary source material and providing public programs on their cultural value increases appreciation of cultural heritage not only of the participating communities, but of their neighboring communities as well. The cultural programs involved presentations not only on the individual images, but cover the significance of the primary source material to the community and the broader community of the state and nation.
The ISL staff spent at approximately three hours to digitize each topical area at the participating libraries. Each session involved digitizing about two-dozen images. Those items were featured at the scheduled public programs, and included in a PowerPoint loop in Tech Town at the Illinois State Fair in August 2004.
The program in Springfield (Sept. 6, 2004 at ISL) focused on the images in the scrapbooks on Vachel Lindsay that his family compiled, but it also included remarks on the importance of Lindsay during his era, and the relevance of his poetry today. Photographs of the Southwest Springfield Airport from the Sangamon County Collection were also digitized. The collection includes photos of Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart and the Spirit of St. Louis.
The program in Mount Olive (Sept. 21, 2004) highlights a letter from labor activist “Mother Jones” (Mary Jones) requesting to be buried in the community alongside coal miners.
In Macomb, a collection of mid to late Century artwork that Theodora Pottle (1889-1975), donated to the community will be showcased. The art collection, featuring works by Will Barnet, Paul Cadmus, Robert Motherwell, Fairfield Porter and Earnest Trova has been identified as significant by the St. Louis Art Museum, which is active in the preservation of the paintings.
IDA allows students, teachers, researchers and anyone searching the Internet to access any of the material that they interest in as IDA is free means for accessing this material that may have otherwise never been made public again. The Web site is designed to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow all citizens equal access.
Historians, researchers and students are strongly encouraged to access to the Web site. This material will also be utilized by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Teaching with Digital Content program as an activity designed for teachers to incorporate Web-based material in curriculum that is in compliance with the Illinois Learning Standards.
The audiences for the digitized primary materials are scholars, researchers, students, teachers and the vast array of people who use the power of the Internet to explore our cultural heritage. The material will be especially useful for students who participate in history fairs. The images can also be used for any library, historical society and school programming. Community leaders were an important target audience because the culture and history of a community contributes to the quality of life and has economic development potential for those communities.
People have different reactions to seeing images on the Web as the images elicit both positive and negative reactions. This was demonstrated during the PowerPoint loop in Tech Town at the Illinois State Fair. Two middle-aged women, saw the picture of Elizabeth Graham seated in front of a portrait of Vachel Lindsay.
The late Ms. Graham was an English teacher at Springfield High School and an intimate acquaintance of Lindsay. Both women recognized their former teacher and one of the women commented that she “loved” Ms. Graham as a teacher; while the other quickly added, that she “hated” her. While their point-counterpoint exchange was amusing; it also demonstrates how close our time is to Lindsay’s time.
The Macomb Public Library District was able to play a role in encouraging partnerships between public libraries and cultural institutions, like historical societies, genealogical societies and museums in the participating communities. In these tight economic times, it is better for cultural entities to form strategic alliances to employ good stewardship of limited resources. This LSTA project successfully demonstrated how a library could provide leadership to illustrate a community’s rich historic and cultural heritage.
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