The approximately 1,600
photos in the JMU Historic Photo Collection in Special Collections began as a
total mess: two cardboard boxes of
photos jumbled together. Few
photos had any identification. It
took me a year to sort them into subject categories and set up a file cabinet
for them. But as soon as the photos
became accessible, they became popular. Staff
use them to add historical resonance to university publications and for
celebratory displays. Students used
them (protected in mats and plastic covers) for class presentations, until one
student neglected to return a photo on time.
I had the student called out of class and reminded. The photo came back then, but the policy was changed:
no longer could the photos be taken out of the building.
Photos are perhaps the most
amenable medium for digitization, and digital access promised not only to make
the photos much more widely viewable but also to reduce the handling of the
original photos, thereby contributing to their conservation.
So about four years ago a team of people from Special Collections and
Media Resources began a project to make the JMU photos electronically available.
It has been a technical nightmare. Hardware
broke down, software changed, and the complexities of moving the images from one
computer to another to accomplish the necessary editing have been daunting.
But determination, especially
on the part of Patricia Reynolds, who took over this project about two years
ago, has won out. Digitization
should be completed by the end of this semester.
The final step will be to burn high-resolution images onto CDs and make
about 15 copies of the CDs, four of which will be held in SC (two archival, two
for check-out) and the others sent to appropriate campus offices.
To view the photos, click on Photo File Key on the JMU Historical Collections page of the SC website: /special/aboutjmu.html
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