How One Library Helps Its Patrons Create Personal Archives of their Important Records, Pictures, and Videos

Samantha Thomason, web developer at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and chair of the Virginia Library Association’s Local History, Genealogy and Oral History Forum, has published a great article describing how one public library helps its patrons digitize and preserve important documents. Thomason writes:

The personal digital archiving program recently started by Jordan Welborn, technology librarian at Virginia’s Campbell County Public Library System, is a great example of how to put theory into practice and how to get started quickly and cheaply.

A One-Person Business to Protect Families’ Memories

Ron Taylor runs a tombstone cleaning business. He cleans and repairs both tombstones and metal grave markers.

An article in the Rocky Mount Telegram quotes Taylor as saying, “I was doing genealogy research, and I was going out to the cemeteries to check for dates on some of my relatives. I started to see how bad the stones looked, so I started cleaning them, and I did the same thing for some friends.”

Flood at Washington State Archives Caught “in the Nick of Time”

An employee discovered a flood that started in a breakroom at the Washington State Archives about 7 a.m. Friday, and state officials scrambled to save priceless historical documents.

Washington State Archivist Steve Excell said the state is very lucky that a pipe burst on a Friday as opposed to a Saturday, otherwise the water would have been running from a pipe like a garden hose all weekend. “We happened to catch it in the nick of time,” Excell said. “Imagine a water hose running.”

Suggestion: The Time to Digitize Historic Items is NOW

WARNING: This article contains personal opinions.

It seems that every two or three months, I publish sad news about important records and artifacts being lost forever. Sometimes fires damage or destroy library or archive buildings and all the contents: including records, books, family histories, cemetery records, plat maps, military uniforms, and more. In other articles, I have written about similar losses caused by floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, burst water pipes, leaky roofs, and even about buildings collapsing. Genealogists, historians, art lovers, and others often lose irreplaceable items.

With a little bit of planning, the worst of these tragedies could be averted or at least minimized.

Vatican Will Digitize Millions of its Documents

The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and has around 82,000 manuscripts, some of which date back about 1,800 years. The library is now working to to convert the first batch of 3,000 manuscripts, with more manuscripts to be digitized later.

Vatican LibraryAn article in describes how the process will work. Workers wear gloves and have to remove all jewelry so as to avoid scratching the paper. After each page is digitized, they will be configured for long-term storage as well as be uploaded onto the Vatican Library’s website, where viewers will be able to look at them for free from a variety of angles.

The Restoration and Preservation Mission Restores Abandoned or Neglected African-American Cemeteries

An Associated Press article written by Savannah King describes a very worthwhile project: clearing and restoring an overgrown cemetery on Strickland Drive in Gainesville, Georgia.
It is the fourth cemetery the mission has cleared in its 14 years. Community volunteers are helping to research the genealogy of those buried in the cemetery and will try to contact any surviving relatives.

You can read this interesting story at


How to Preserve Cemeteries: First You Digitize Them

Rutherford County, Tennessee, historians plan to use new technology to solve a big mystery: Whatever happened to the old cemeteries and family burial plots that once dotted the landscape across Rutherford County?

In the 1970s, Rutherford County historian Ernie Johns and others from the Historical Society of Rutherford County took pains to document nearly 800 cemeteries in the county, most of them plots on old family farms. Historians now want to use new technology to digitally map all the old cemeteries and family burial grounds in the county. The digital map of the burial sites will be shared with local planning commissions so historic cemeteries won’t be destroyed by future development.

Images of The Great Parchment Book are now Available Online

The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society is a major survey, compiled in 1639 by a Commission instituted under the Great Seal by Charles I, of all those estates in Derry managed by the City of London through the Irish Society and the City of London livery companies. It represents a hugely important source for the City of London’s role in the Protestant colonisation and administration of Ulster.
Damaged as the result of a fire at Guildhall in 1786, it has been unavailable to researchers for over 200 years. However, the manuscript has remained part of the City of London’s collections held at London Metropolitan Archives.’ 165 folios survived the fire, but the uneven shrinkage and distortion caused by the fire had rendered much of the text illegible. The parchment sheets have now been flattened as far as possible. Following this, digital imaging has been used to gain legibility and to enable digital access to the volume.


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