Museum News

Archives Photo Project is Progressive Step Forward for Collection Accessibility

September 15th, 2014

Research is the starting point of many projects within a museum. It is safe to say the Archives in the McLean County Museum of History is an important resource for staff and public research. The Archives' photo collections serves a crucial role in this research. While written records can give information about past, photographs are unique in that they can visually put one within a historical space. The Archives' photo collection is in the process of becoming more accessible than ever. The Archives Photo Scanning Project, conducted over the last year, will allow people within the Museum to have digital access to most of the photos in the Archives. This means the wealth of images the Archives has to offer can be accessed through a computer. Each photo in the Archives has been scanned individually, a task taken on by Archivist George Perkins and volunteers. As an intern in the Archives, I have also worked on the project and have already seen how transformative this new tool will be for the Museum. There are benefits for both researchers and for the Archives itself. The digital format benefits researchers because there is a new freedom to search what was not available before. Researchers can breeze through hundreds of photos quickly, as compared to the time-consuming task of individually retrieving collections and physically sifting through images. The benefits to the Archives are centered largely on preservation. Since the photos can be accessed digitally, the physical collection is less likely to be damaged. The streamlined searching capabilities also benefits the Archivist, who can now quickly pull up and distribute images to Museum staff electronically. The digital photo collection will be accessible to the staff and public at large at Museum this September. The collections holds valuable information, but needs to grow with data about present lives in McLean County. We live in a world of overwhelming information, thanks to the internet. Photos that sit in social media or on photo-sharing sites are accessible, but not directly organized in a way that is useful to others. The Archives Photo Scanning Project provides an organizational framework for photos pertaining to McLean County.

Bill Kemp


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