The Brooklyn Collection is a goldmine of resources for teaching and learning the history of our borough. As you probably know, we have extensive collections of documents, ephemera and photographs that are housed here at the Central Library and made available for research. What you may not know is that there are ongoing efforts to digitize our materials in order to make them more widely accessible through our website and across the internet. So how does it all happen?
Previous digitization projects--using LSTA funds to digitize 18,000 photographs, or the IMLS project to scan the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1841-1902) from microfilm--were mostly outsourced. Now, thanks to Project CHART, another IMLS-funded initiative aiming to train the next generation of digital librarians, we are conducting systematic in-house scanning.
The entrance to the morgue
Some of our materials--Brooklyn Daily Eagle clippings, non-Brooklyn-related Eagle photographs, yearbooks and other archival collections--are stored in a part of the basement of Brooklyn Public Library known as "the Morgue" because it contains the clipping files and photographs of the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, which went out of business in 1955. (The new "Eagle" inherited the name but is a different entity.) Thanks to Project CHART funds we have installed a "Digital Lab" in the Morgue, and that is where the magic happens.
Pratt CHART intern Barbara Jean Majewski gives some Eagle photographs the white glove treatment.
Practically, "the magic" means your author and two interns from Pratt Institute spend about 20 hours per week scanning photographs on a high quality scanner, adjusting the file size and resolution and attaching the newly digitized photo to a record in our catalog. If you're interested in some of the technical details, check out this fancy diagram showing our project workflow:
Efforts to digitize (scan) historic materials are getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. Creating digital copies of important documents and photos and finding creative ways to store and archive them could be one way that we preserve some of the amazing materials that time and the elements might otherwise erode. In fact, the Library of Congress has an entire website devoted to ideas and suggestions for folks to become armchair archivists by scanning and preserving their own photos and ephemera! Do you have old letters from your grandparents when they were courting? Photos of your dad from the war? We encourage you to preserve your cultural heritage not only for your own family but because it's a part of a larger story. Check out our Flickr page (comment and add tags!), and keep an eye on Brooklynology for more about digital archiving!