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Digital collection in Grandview preserves history

A box of photos slowly molding in an attic. A crumbling old diary written by an early settler. A tattered, long out-of-print library book about local history.

These are a few of the objects that the Washington Rural Heritage program wants to save and make available to future generations.

The program, which is funded through the federal Library Services and Technology Act, has been helping small libraries throughout the state to digitize historical documents and photos and make them available online.

The Grandview library started the program in 2008, a little more than a year after it started. Librarian Ruth Dirk was trained to do the work of digitizing photos and documents and, more importantly, entering detailed information about each item that will show on the website.

Dirk said the chaos of building a new library and finding a new director took time from the project, but at one point she needed surgery on her arm for carpal tunnel syndrome and other issues. The result was that she got a lot of data entered as therapy for her recovering arm.

"The doctor told me to work with the hand regularly, but not for long," said Dirk. "I would sit and type up information for awhile, then go do something else, all on my own time."

The Grandview library did not receive funding from the project, but did get both training and an expert, who came out to photograph items that cannot be scanned.

Project manager Evan Robb said this is a normal part of the support they provide to libraries in the program.

"Anything 3-D, or documents too big for a scanner, we have the equipment to take high quality photos for the libraries," said Robb.

For Grandview, former project manager Laura Robinson visited the library and took pictures of a number of artifacts, including the mammoth bone discovered in the hills near Grandview and a collection of barbed wire. Both items can be seen on Grandview's website, available by going to www.grandview.wa.us/library.htm and following the Grandview Heritage link.

Because the funding is through a library program, local libraries must apply to be part of the program. Robb said local branches of a larger system are welcome to apply, as would be the case in Sunnyside or Granger, for example.

In many cases, other organizations from historical societies and museums to churches and rodeo foundations then join the effort to preserve history. But the initial application must be made by the library.

Robb said new grants are announced each spring, usually in March. The program has $50,000 to give out each year. The grants are awarded in June.

"The money is usually used to pay for equipment," he said, listing the various items needed, such as a scanner and extra computer storage space. "It can also be used to pay for someone to do the work."

The project provides the software for entering information on the items. It also hosts the website the materials are accessible through. The website for the project can be reached at washingtonruralheritage.com and contains information from more than 20 different areas of the state.

Access is free to all through the website, and Robb hopes to expand the program's usefulness with materials such as lesson plans for teachers in the future.

But for the moment the focus is on preserving old materials and making them available to a wider audience.

The Rural Heritage website for Grandview allows a person to browse historical items by collection, item type, date of the original item or even by the location of the item on a map. Clicking a picture on the map will bring up a summary with a link to the full page for the item.

1 Laura Gjovaag 12/23/2011 3:09 PM

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