Periodically we get requests from people around the university for “historic” images of UAA, ACC and other predecessor institutions.
One giant problem, though. We have lots of university photos from several departments (mostly University Advancement and Athletics) and in a few personal collections from former employees but most of them aren’t item-level identified. Or even have much description. Or even have any description, really. So we were spending a lot of time finding photos for university employees who weren’t able to come in and look for themselves or worse, we weren’t able to look for the photos because we didn’t have that kind of time either. So we went looking for help. And we found it with Renee Carter-Chapman (Senior Vice-Provost for Institutional Effectiveness) and John Dede, her Special Assistant, and three retirees from the Consortium Library faculty: Cathie Innes-Taylor, Nancy Lesh, and Alden Rollins.
Cathie, Nancy, and Alden volunteered to go through the university photograph collections and select photos that would make up a great set from which university employees could choose when they find themselves needing older images of the university. We won’t tell you how long these three have been affiliated with the university, but by our calculations, they’ve got a total of better than a century of UAA/ACC employment between them. Which means that they recognize people and places much better than the Archives crew does. And so they set to work. In the meantime, Renee and John made it possible for us to fund library student workers to do the digitization of the images. How wonderful is that? So we had a changing crew of student workers who were able to buckle down and scan the images selected by Cathie, Nancy, and Alden.
But there was still one piece missing: how to make these available via the web, somewhat searchable with tags, subject terms, or descriptions, and to also give us some sort of ability to add description if somebody were to browse the set of photos and recognize something we haven’t identified yet. This part of the story isn’t all that interesting–suffice it to say we were struggling with this pretty badly because we really wanted a robust searching mechanism–and through another series of events it became possible for us to use the same software that runs the Alaska’s Digital Archives for this purpose. So now that we have some images digitized, we are spending a little bit of time (not much!) describing what in them we recognize, and posting them online. We’re hoping people will be willing to take a look at them and contact us with more information: after all, every bit of information we add about every photograph makes it even easier to find for the next person searching.
So take a look. PicturingUAA. Now, don’t hold us to the current look. We find it boring too. We’re going to smarten up that front page, make searching a little easier, and make it clear that this is a UAA site. And there’s only 50 images up so far from a very limited time frame, so as we add more and more you’ll discover better subject and time coverage too. Oh, and if you’re needing to use any of these images for University of Alaska purposes, the good news is that since the digitization was funded by our colleagues at Institutional Effectiveness and the selection time provided by volunteers, the high resolution images are free. We hope you like this concept as much as we do. And don’t forget to say thanks to Renee, John, Cathie, Nancy, and Alden next time you see them around. We couldn’t have done it without them.