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State and local libraries assist historians

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The Carbondale Historical Society was recently invited, along with Garfield County’s other cultural heritage institutions, to attend a seminar hosted by Garfield County Libraries District (GCPLD) Executive Director Jamie LaRue. The seminar took place on Sept. 26 at the Glenwood Springs Library, and focused on the digitization of historic photos, documents and newspapers. Digitization involves the conversion of text, pictures or sound into a digital format that can be accessed by computer.

The seminar was led by Amy Hitchner and Leigh Jeremias, both from the Colorado State Library Digital Collections Department. The morning session introduced the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection (CHNC) and the Digital Public Library of America. These free resources provide valuable information from Colorado’s past for amateur, as well as professional researchers.

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A service of the Colorado State Library, the CHNC features more than 2.5 million searchable pages from over 620 newspapers published in Colorado from 1859 through 2021. The collection includes 1,574 issues of the Avalanche-Echo, published in Glenwood Springs between 1891 and 1924. Those issues were digitized from microfilm held by History Colorado and originals held by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society.

The morning session concluded with a panel discussion by representatives of local historical institutions, including Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Rifle and Grand Valley, which revealed ongoing digitization projects being undertaken to preserve historical archives and make them publicly accessible.

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Carbondale Historical Society is currently in the process of digitizing hundreds of documents in their archives. The process involves scanning, creating PDFs, ascribing a file number and uploading documents to Google Drive. Eventually, a master list will be created which will be searchable by names, dates and topics. These documents will then be put on a hosting platform and made available to the public for genealogical and historical research.

After a lunch break, participants returned for the afternoon session to learn about tools and resources provided by state and local libraries to assist them in digitizing their collections. The libraries will loan Digital Creation Kits to institutions and individuals, and will even help with grant writing to find funding for the digitization process.

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In addition to providing a valuable resource for historical research, digitization protects the information held by historical institutions. Most of the museums in our area don’t have the proper facilities for storage of physical documents, photos and newspapers. To do this properly requires strict temperature and humidity control. Digitization of these precious historic collections assures that in the case of fire, flood or other disasters, the information will not be lost.

Upon hearing about the storage dilemma shared by these various institutions, GCPLD Director LaRue expressed a desire to help find a solution for preserving these valuable collections in their physical form. LaRue invited the historical societies to continue discussions with GCPLD to discover the best way to partner on collections storage.

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The Carbondale Historical Society has for some time been concerned about the storage of their historical archives. These archives contain original photos and documents belonging to Carbondale’s early pioneer families, including William Dinkel, Wallace DeBeque, Hattie and Oscar Holland and the Thompsons. 

These archives currently reside in the Pioneer Log Cabin Museum at 499 Weant Blvd. The cabin, built in 1887 by homesteaders, has no air-conditioning or fire protection, putting the archives in jeopardy of deterioration or outright destruction.

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In 2022 the Carbondale Historical Society received a grant from the town of Carbondale to assist in the digitization and preservation of their collections. But more funding is needed to assure the entirety of the archives will be protected and accessible to future generations. The organization is hopeful that through private donations and grants, and with the assistance of the state and county library systems, the history of Carbondale will never be lost.

To donate to the Carbondale Historical Society, visit www.carbondalehistory.org

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Free historic research resources:

Colorado Virtual Library: www.coloradovirtuallibrary.org/

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Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection: www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/

Digital Public Library of America: dp.la/

Tags: #Carbondale Historical Society #Garfield County Public Library District #History #Sue Gray
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