Project II Title Historic Media Preservation
Amount Requested: $10,000
Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s Historic Media Preservation project is a concerted community attempt to digitize, organize, and share online, the historic photographs, documents, and videos of our area. We have, to date, digitized some old 8mm films from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and also scanned thousands of pictures, but we have tens of thousands of pictures more to scan, and many rapidly degrading community videos to convert to digital format. Our present need is for funding to hire part-time archivists to digitize these images, and to instruct others how to digitize, organize, and share online photos through our Giants of the Earth Heritage Center Collaborative family tree. This project benefits not only the large number of people who interact with our family tree online, but also will provide some of our residents with computer skills that they can then use to accomplish many other tasks.
Every year, we lose not only many of our senior citizens, but also photos, videos, and documents uniquely associated with our area history when they are thrown out and hauled to the dump. Among these might be, for example, the only picture still in existence of someone’s great-great -grandparents. Those same great-great-grandparents may be the great-great-grandparents of hundreds, possibly thousands of local residents, even though their picture ended up in only one of their descendants’ attics. Realizing that only through collaboration could many of these historical items be identified and appreciated, people of the area formed Giants of the Earth Heritage Center to bring together the various dispersed photos and make meaning from them. By using modern digitization technology and linking images to our online family tree, we are preserving and organizing the countless photos, journals, audio/video recordings, and important documents of the area. We also believe that much of this work could be done by the families themselves, if training could be provided to them. Our project has already been an inspiration for many other towns, whose officials have called us and asked how they could start a Giants of the Earth Heritage Center chapter in their own town. Perhaps the most poignant comment came from a couple from Rushford who visited our Heritage Center in the spring of 2011, “If only Rushford had had Spring Grove’s vision to preserve their history digitally and back it up remotely, we wouldn’t have lost our history in the flood of 2007. Now we have all lost our pictures, videos, and documents–and we will never get them back.”
Ultimately, what makes this daunting endeavor feasible is advancing online collaborative computer technology which allows many hands to make light work of a great historical and genealogical task. Our growing Giants of the Earth Heritage Center collaborative family tree already encompasses most members of the Spring Grove community, and a large percentage of residents from other towns in Houston, Fillmore, Winneshiek, and Allamakee counties, and this tree was made publicly available through the internet in May of 2009. Prior to such online collaboration, an individual could have spent decades producing a family tree only to recreate the work of Georgia Rosendahl or other genealogists in the area. With this collaborative online family tree, we provide people with the ideal location to place, organize, and share their digitized photos, videos, etc. As different generations and distant relatives interact to add photos and stories to their ancestors’ profiles, we believe that our tree will foster family bonds that will bring a deeper sense of meaning to young and old alike.
Administration of the Historic Media Preservation Project
The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, Inc. Board of Directors will oversee the administration of the project. To date, Dr. Johnathan Storlie, Anastasia Deters, Katherine Wiste, Lindsey Bratland, Logan Deschler, Georgia Rosendahl, Kjersti Fried, Bill Fried, and Dr. Thom Carlson have worked on this project and training others how to digitize and upload media to our servers. To prevent the degradation associated with aging of film and photos, the preservation of historic media must be in digital format. Further, our data will be stored on both our local servers and also in a remote location to ensure that a failed hard drive will not result in the loss of community media.
This project requires our digital archivists to work with a variety of media technologies: digital cameras and copystands; flatbed and handheld scanners, VHS and DVD equipments. Our archivists will need to be able to identify and digitize media at the optimal formats for both storage and online presentation. We thus have need of high levels of technological savvy and skill, coupled with a continuity of serious and systematic effort that we have found difficult to sustain through piecemeal volunteer hours. Our immediate need is for funds to pay those who can orchestrate this project on a much larger scale than has been done to date, so that we can preserve historic community media before it deteriorates further or is discarded by those who do not appreciate its value.