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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Local History & Genealogy in 2017

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 22, 2017

There are several projects underway in the library system’s Local History and Genealogy Department in 2017.


Erika Grubbs, head of the department, has been working on indexing church histories, with several items currently being digitized and bound, with a copy placed on the library’s online Digital Shoebox.


Many times we received church histories, yearbook celebrations, or just basic church histories; but rarely are they indexed.  Names and information are lost in the volumes unless indexed and digitized allowing keyword searching.


These items become a pivotal part of the collection once the work has been completed.


Our library system has also received a sizable donation of genealogical items relating to both the city and county areas from a local family that had relocated away from the area.


They were concerned that the materials would be preserved and remain usable to area residents, so the collection of books and a vast array of documents were donated last October.


The books have been cataloged and added to the Local History and Genealogy collection, and Erika has started digitizing the photographs into the Digital Shoebox.


This is one of the few photographic collections that contain identifying names on each photo, making it a rich history of many families.


In addition, Erika is adding photos to the Shoebox of local buildings and events from the library files so that everyone can review and use the library photo files.


This will be an ongoing project and will allow people with photographs to share them with everyone yet retain the photograph if they desire.


I am working on the Nathan Stern Archives, which were donated to the library system early last year by Mr. Stern’s family, who desired that the local history items be retained here for use.


The Stern Archives are a massive collection that first needs archival stabilizing for the purpose of preservation.


Unfortunately, he used 1960s-1970s scrapbooks for the items, those books sold with adhesive to hold the clippings and letters in-place and cover them with a clear plastic.


They looked good at the time, but the 40-50 years that have passed have seen the adhesive deteriorate and yellow, and combined with the Scotch tape, have made some materials unusable.


I am pleased to report that the files have been extracted from the scrapbooks and cleaned, and will be reassembled and digitized and will become an important collection for the library.


Archivists working with us have recommended reassembling the Stern Archives into family history, local history, and transportation – which has an important aspect of Nathan Stern’s life.


I must share my excitement in working with the Stern Archives, as it reminds me of a similar project I did from 1972-1977 as a young employee of the Washington County Public Library in Marietta.


That library was handed a scrapbook collection of Mr. S. Durward Hoag, who had been the owner of the Lafayette Hotel for 50 years, and author of a weekly newspaper column called “Round and Round Below the Railroad Tracks.”


Filled with local history, the library assigned me to untangle the mess and index it the old-fashioned way, which took 5 years.


Today that collection has been microfilmed, and remains an important resource of local history.


As I work on the Stern Archives, the similarity to the Hoag Scrapbooks is uncanny, except I am more experienced in indexing and technology has moved forward to allow the Stern Archives to be more usable.


Our Local History and Genealogical Department has grown from about 75 items in 1980 to today’s collection of 7,000 items and 80,000 pages of online history.