Preservation

How to Preserve Your Family Memories, Letters and Trinkets… and How Not To

Quoting from an article written by Kelsey Mckinney in the New York Times:

Recently, someone wrote to Mary Oey, a conservator at the Library of Congress, asking for help archiving her father’s personal papers. He was a Holocaust survivor, and he had used his diaries and papers as primary sources to teach schoolchildren about his experience. He had laminated them to keep them safe, and — Ms. Oey gave a mournful sigh as she told this story — lamination is a terrible way to preserve documents. There was no way to save this patron’s history.

“The only way to extricate paper from lamination is to use lots of solvents to dissolve the plastic,” Ms. Oey said. “Some stiffer laminations, we don’t know how to get off, and it doesn’t protect the document. The lamination itself can ruin a document beyond repair.”

Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection Says it will Help Digitize Newspapers Throughout the State

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is offering assistance to “cultural heritage organizations” to digitize newspapers being held in their collections. I assume “cultural heritage organizations” includes genealogy societies. Quoting from the organization’s web site:

“CHNC New Content Support Program

“The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) is excited to announce a new program to support the addition of new historic news in the CHNC. The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection New Content Support Program for newspaper digitization is designed to help cultural heritage organizations increase online access to historic community news through the CHNC. We want to help local communities add their historic stories to the larger Colorado footprint.

“About CHNC

“A service of the Colorado State Library, the CHNC currently includes more than 1 million digitized pages, representing more than 230 individual newspaper titles published in Colorado primarily from 1859 through 1922. Due to copyright restrictions, the CHNC does not always include newspapers published after 1922, but the CHNC can digitize beyond 1922 if publisher permission can be secured.

Ambitious Project to Digitize Hundreds of Thousands of New Zealand Probate Records Complete after Nine Years

Volunteers from around the world have been methodically working their way through more than 4 million pieces of paper stored at the Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office. For the past nine years, it’s been a base for FamilySearch volunteers, working to archive New Zealand probate records, up till 1993, and make them available online for free.

Mike and Lois Woods, of Arizona, came to New Zealand at their own cost to undertake the archiving work after becoming hooked on learning – and teaching others – about their own family histories. As part of the project, FamilySearch will keep a digital copy on Archives NZ’s behalf, as a safeguard in case anything happens to the original records.

The Newberry Library is Looking for Crowdsourcing Volunteers to Transcribe Continental Army Paperwork

The Newberry Library in Chicago announced it has just digitized a collection of Continental Army receipts for clothing, food, and other supplies. And it’s asking for volunteers to help transcribe those documents. Would you like to help preserve a bit of history?

Quoting from the Newberry Library’s web site:

“Most of us are familiar with the grand narrative of the Revolutionary War—the hard-fought battles, the fragile alliances, the derring-do of the newly formed Continental Army. More rarely do we scratch the surface of the well-known textbook history to examine the minor players, local transactions, and day-to-day dealings that undergirded the war effort.

Historical Issues of Perth Amboy (New Jersey) News Now Available Online

The New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project has announced that the Perth Amboy Evening News, from 1903 to 1922, will be the first New Jersey newspaper to be digitized and made publically available through the Library of Congress Chronicling America website. Part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project is a collaboration between Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, and the New Jersey State Library. The project is supported by a $186,204 grant that was awarded in August 2016 from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers from all 50 states.

Prior to this digitization project, historical newspapers held by the New Jersey State Archives were only searchable through an onsite microfilm reader in Trenton, NJ.

Vintage Photographs and Letters, and Other Documents from Rockford, Illinois are now Available Online

Rockford’s Midway Village Museum often is asked for photos to help history buffs for family trees, business research, and school projects. Previously, you would have needed an appointment. Now, 1,700 of the most popular historic images and documents are being digitized and uploaded by the museum’s staff for your viewing.

The online collection includes photos captured on rare glass-plate negatives, early 20th century postcards of Rockford, as well as digital images of numerous documents and letters. The items include: Civil War letters sent by local soldiers, transcripts from interviews done in 2007 with immigrants to Rockford and their children, and images related to the Rockford Peaches.

What to Do With Floppy Disks?

Do you or someone you know have lots of files saved on floppy disks? A lady contacted me recently and asked how she could read her old floppy disks that she had saved from many years ago. It seems her present computer does not have a floppy disk drive in it. I suggested she do something NOW to save the disks. Before long, floppy disks will be about as useful as buggy whips.

Actually, there are THREE separate problems:

Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Library Announces Image Magazine Digitization Project

The following announcement was written by the Athens-Clarke County Library:

Athens-Clarke County Library announces Image Magazine digitization project funded by Digital Library of Georgia grant

ATHENS, Ga. – Image Magazine, one of the area’s first African American lifestyle magazines, has been has been digitized thanks to a $5,000 grant awarded to The Athens-Clarke County by the Digital Library of Georgia.

Image Magazine was published by Dr. Robert Harrison from 1977 through 1980, and it covered the social life of the local African American community. Harrison donated every issue of the magazine to the Athens-Clarke County Library’s Heritage Room earlier this year as part of the library’s Common Heritage project.

The library hosted digital scanning days and educational programs designed to help African American residents preserve their family histories as part of the Common Heritage program, which was funded by a National Endowment for Humanities grant. Harrison presented a lecture during the series about the historic Hiram House and was inspired to donate the magazines to support the project’s objectives.

How to Transfer Cassette Tapes to a Computer for Long-Term Preservation

A newsletter reader wrote to me recently, asking:

“I am in the process of backing up my family/genealogy records. There is a lot of information available about commercial services transfer of information. However, I am not seeing much about transfer of audiotapes to more stable backup. Have you written any articles or know of sources to help me evaluate commercial services for audiotapes?”

My answer is:

Your Magnetic Tapes are Losing Their Magnetism

Do you have videotapes of the family taken years ago? How about audio tapes that you want to preserve for many more years? If you do not taken action now, those recordings may be lost forever.

The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the National Library of Australia (NLA) have banded together to raise a warning about the need to protect material stored on magnetic tape. The Agencies said jointly there was a risk of losing almost a million hours of irreplaceable audio and video history held on magnetic tape if these were not digitised by 2025.

“A combination of technological obsolescence and deterioration of the fragile tapes has created a pressing challenge to digitise this culturally and historically significant material before it is lost forever,” the Agencies said.

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Museum Looking for Votes to Win Funding to Preserve Newspapers

The Yarmouth County Museum and Archives wants to fund the digitizing of newspapers in the Archives’ possessions. Some of the newspapers, dating back to 1836 (the first newspaper printed in Yarmouth), have become so fragile that they have been retired from research use. The hope is to preserve the newspapers by scanning them and placing the digital images online, then placing the paper copies into hermetically sealed storage to reduce further damage caused by frequent handling. Even better, once the images are online, anyone will be able to research the newspapers without a need to travel to Nova Scotia.

Hurricanes and Your Genealogy Data

The recent Hurricane Harvey, the present Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose presently in tropical waters that might head northward all bring to mind questions, such as “How do I protect my personal belongings and information?”

I cannot speak to protecting belongings. However, I have written many times about preserving personal genealogy information that perhaps you spent years accumulating. The same procedures will also protect your family documents, insurance policies, photographs, and much more of the paper we all accumulate.

Many of the people who live through hurricanes will lose all paper documentation of their existence. Some cannot even not prove they ever lived. This is where going paperless can help.

A Michigan Newspaper Digitization Project is in Peril as Time Runs Out to Find a New Storage Facility

The Downriver Genealogical Society in south-eastern Wayne County, Michigan, has been working on a great project to preserve old newspapers that were about to be tossed out by The News-Herald, due to lack of storage space. Had the society not taken them, the newspapers since 1943 probably would have been thrown away.

The Downriver Genealogical Society also does not have storage space to keep the old newspapers for a long time but decided to take on a worthwhile volunteer project: digitize the old newspapers, make them available online, and then toss the originals away. The society took possession of the newspapers on Jan. 17, 2013. They’re currently being stored without charge at a building in Huron Township and digitization is underway.

There are problems with the plan, however. First, the owner of the storage facility has plans to lease the building in the very near future. The digitization project isn’t anywhere near completion. The newspapers and cabinets have to go. That is, they need to be moved or else thrown away.

Next, a leaking water issue recently damaged several of the papers entrusted to the Society.

The FGS Preserve the Pensions Project Announces Resumption of Document Conservation at National Archives, Digitization soon to Follow

The following announcement was written by the Federation of Genealogical Societies:

Austin, Texas – The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is pleased to announce National Archives staff have recently resumed document conservation of the War of 1812 Pension files covering surnames M(Moore)-Q. Document conservation is the essential first step in digitizing these files. Our digitization partner, Ancestry.com, has scheduled image capture of these newly conserved documents to begin the second week of September 2017. As capture resumes, new images will be added to Fold3.com on a rolling basis. The Federation and the dedicated volunteers of the Preserve the Pensions project have worked tirelessly for well over a year to negotiate a resolution to the work stoppage. This portion of the project plan is expected to be completed by third quarter 2018.

What I Use Now for Backups

I write frequently about the need to make frequent backups of any computer information. After all, you don’t want to lose what you worked so hard to create, do you? I guess I haven’t written about it in a while as a newsletter reader sent a note today asking, “How about an update on what you use for backup now??”

This is my reply:

Well, I never backup to ONE thing! Having only one backup is almost as dangerous as having none. I don’t believe in placing all my eggs in one basket. I always make at least three backups of my desktop system and store them in at least three different locations. I probably backup more than that on my laptop computers.

I back up everything on my desktop computer’s hard drive to an external hard drive that sits beside the computer. I use TimeMachine software for that, a great backup program that is included with every Macintosh. That’s the fastest backup I have and it works automatically all day and night, making backups of all new files automatically within minutes after I create them. I never have to remember to make backups as TimeMachine does all that automatically. Several other companies produce similar software for Windows.

The Demise of CDs and DVDs

Alas, poor CDs and DVDs, we hardly knew ye.

Have you purchased any software lately? How about digital images of an old genealogy book? Did you obtain them on a CD or DVD disk? If so, keep that disk. It is already an antique and probably will be a collector’s item before long.

Twenty years ago, we all purchased software on floppy disks. Perhaps ten years ago, software was usually delivered on CD-ROM disks. When was the last time you purchased software that was delivered on a CD or even a high-capacity DVD-ROM disk? Yes, there are a few companies that still deliver software that way, but the number of such companies is dwindling.

Most software these days is delivered electronically, usually by means of a file download. Even Microsoft is now delivering Windows 10 by software download.

Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland, Michigan Sustains $1.5 Million Flood Damage

Here is still another example why we cannot depend upon paper documents alone to be accessible in the future. Homes, streets, businesses, parks and city buildings in Midland, Michigan got soaked in a flood several weeks ago. In the city alone, more than 1,000 homes had some type of damage. Of interest to genealogists, the hardest hit city building was the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library. The early estimate puts clean up and repair work for the library at $1.5 million.

The library had never flooded before.

McLennan County, Texas, Marriage Records Since 1850 are being Digitized

McLennan County Clerk Andy Harwell and his staff have undertaken a project to digitally scan and preserve county marriage records from 1850 to 1996. After six weeks of work, the documents have been digitized, but that’s just a start, Harwell said. The county hired Edoc Technologies for about $36,000 to perform the digitization work, and Harwell’s staff is starting to index the more than 170,000 marriage records by groom’s name, bride’s name and date.

“You’ll be able to sit at home and research in McLennan County back to 1850,” Harwell said. “So if we would have had a fire or tornado or something or a flood, we would have lost everything.”

You can read more in an article by Cassie L. Smith in the Waco Tribune web site at: http://bit.ly/2v3qaXt.

Preserving Documents Digitally

What do the following headlines from past issues of this newsletter have in common?

Hancock County, Georgia, Courthouse Burned (August 12, 2014)

Van Buren County, Tennessee Offices Destroyed by Fire, Birth, Marriage, Death, and Many Other Records Lost (January 9, 2015)

Fire in Major Russian Library Destroys One Million Historic Documents (February 1, 2015)

Home of the Marissa (Illinois) Historical and Genealogical Society Destroyed by Fire (January 31, 2015)

Roof Collapses at Iowa Genealogical Society Library (December 31, 2009)

Fire Destroys Much of Indiana Historical Collection (December 30, 2009)

Cologne [Germany] Archives Building Collapses; 3 Missing, Many Escape (March 03, 2009)

Archives Damaged in Italian Earthquake (April 07, 2009)

Museum wants Revolutionary War Boat Saved from Lake Bottom

More than two decades after it was discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain (between Vermont and New York), a Revolutionary War gunboat may see the light of day under a museum plan to raise, preserve and put the vessel on display.

The Spitfire, a 54-foot boat that’s part of a fleet built by Benedict Arnold before he turned traitor, sank a day after the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, helping delay a British advance down the lake. The Spitfire’s sinking made it possible for the 1777 American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, a key moment in the American Revolution because it led to French recognition of the fledgling United States of America.