Kennebec Historical Society receives grant to preserve history

The Kennebec Historical Society emphasizes the collection of Kennebec County family and organizational documents and photographs. Twenty years ago, the society’s catalog was entirely on paper. At this point, however, it has been moved to a computer database available for interested researchers at their headquarters at 107 Winthrop Street in Augusta.

To stay current and useful to our clients, the Kennebec Historical Society believes that the next step is to move its database to the internet and offer not just indexes but also scanned images of complete documents, transcriptions of handwritten and printed documents, and images of photographs and other objects.

Although it will take some time and financial resources to get to that point, the KHS collections committee believes that now is the time to take steps in preparation. This means that as well as indexing documents using key words denoting subjects, locations, organizations, events, type of items, and names, so called this meta data, we need to start “digitizing” our items; that is, scanning photographs, using optical character recognition to convert printed items to text documents, and transcribing hand written documents. If we start doing this now, we won’t have to go back and do it later when we are ready to move to the internet. But this adds considerable time to the act of cataloging items. We have found that we are building up a backlog of uncatalogued materials as we purchase items and receive them as donations.

In February 2017, they applied to the Maine State Archives for a grant from the Historical Collections Grant Program, funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, to hire interns to help in the cataloging for the internet effort and therefore reduce or eliminate backlog. In March, they received notification that the request for $3,628.26 had been approved, in full. The request will cover hiring interns for the spring and fall and purchasing of supplies and computer hardware to support the “digitization” effort. Combining this with donations they receive to support summer interns should move them well on their way to elimination the immediate backlog.

Current researchers at the society will immediately see the results of this effort as records of newly cataloged items will contain full text transcriptions that can be read and/or printed at the society. Photographs will also be available for printing as will scans of documents.

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