Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Digitizing Historic African American Education Collections: An Introduction

In a collaborative project, AARL and the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) were awarded funds in 2010 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize and make web-accessible late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century manuscript collections that document the historical development of education for African Americans, primarily in the South. Ranging in date from the early 1860s to the early 1950s, these materials, owned and housed at AARL, are of great national significance as they were created during the near-century long struggle to improve educational opportunities for African Americans in the United States.

The project, named “Digitizing Historic African American Education Collections,” runs from April 01, 2010, to March 31, 2012. Recently, Wesley Chenault, project director for the grant, submitted the first interim narrative report, which highlighted activities, accomplishments, objectives and more for April 01, 2010, to September 30, 2010. Future posts will feature different components of the grant, discuss the project’s methodology, and share updates. For now, here is a glimpse at some of the activities and accomplishments to date.

AARL purchased equipment and hired two part-time library assistants, Colleen Carrington and Grace Lynis Dubinson. Their essential contribution – scanning tens of thousands of historical records – comprises the bulk of the work. DLG’s Sheila McAlister, Andy Carter and Mary Willoughby provided training on scanning techniques and file labeling conventions for AARL project staff. Among grant-related publicity and outreach efforts, AARL's Kerrie Cotten Williams and DLG's Toby Graham discussed the project as part of a panel, “Southern Civil Rights Collections: Bridging the Digital Divide” at the National Conference of African American Librarians in August 2010.

When completed, 74,000 pages of digital content will be made available through AARL and DLG. A couple of these files – a photograph and ledger page from the Atlanta University Collection – are included above. Stay tuned, for there is more to report about this exciting and important digitization project.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate.

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