Volunteers team up to preserve history

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / SCANATHON VOLUNTEERS successfully preserved both volumes of George W. Scranton’s letters in celebration of The University’s 150th birthday.

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / SCANATHON VOLUNTEERS successfully preserved both volumes of George W. Scranton’s letters in celebration of The University’s 150th birthday.

Published: October 30, 2015

Photography Editor

The University’s Weinberg Memorial Library joined forces with the Scranton Public Library and made history, literally.

The two libraries, Royals Historical Society, University’s Department of History and Lackawanna Historical Society played major roles in organizing the area’s first Scanathon event in celebration of the city’s 150th birthday.

“We made history, we preserved history, we marked history,” said Royals Historical President, Julia Frakes. “It was pretty cool because all these people we hear about and all these streets were in the papers.”

Around 30 volunteers between the Royals Historical Society and Adam Pratt, Ph.D., Craft and Historian class dedicated their time to preserving historical documents Oct. 24 and Oct. 25. These documents included the letter books of George W. Scranton and volumes dating back to the 1850s. Students used additional time to scan about 600 letters from the Lackawanna Historical Society in the Scranton Family Papers.

“It was a real team effort and shows what’s possible when you collaborate successfully,” Pratt said.

After scanning these documents, they will be available on the Internet for free public access for everyone to enjoy. They were previously only available to visitors and researchers at the Lackawanna Historical Society. The event also allowed the students to give back to the community by preserving their heritage.

“We’re bringing Scranton and its past to the rest of the world, which is really fun to think about,” Pratt said.

Pratt also noted that scanning the documents will preserve them in case they were to ever get damaged.

The two libraries were able to borrow the scribe station from the State Library in Harrisburg to assist in the scanning. This was the first time any community group has been able to borrow the equipment, so there was a lot of anticipation from surrounding communities about the success of the Scanathon. In addition to the scribe station, students used the library’s flatbed scanners.

Pratt said using the scribe station gave students wonderful hands-on experience and was a great thing to do.

“Many of them were amazed at all of the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to put things online and to make those items easy to find,” Pratt said.

In addition to scanning, students also had to record metadata, or descriptive information that included the date, addressee, location and author for each letter they scanned. Along with the metadata, the Lackawanna Historical Society prepared transcriptions in a spreadsheet of Scranton’s books.

“The opportunity to engage in the practice of history and skill sets expected of professional historians, especially for those of us considering post-graduate work in the field, not only offers us a practical job market advantage, but was a downright thrill,” Frakes said.

The participants of the Scanathon were able to scan 1,608 documents over the course of the weekend. They were able to reach their goal of scanning the entirety of the first two volumes of the Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers Collection. Based on the success of the Scanathon, Pratt hopes to have a similar event in the spring of 2016.

“Overall, I think it was a great event that will hopefully lead to other events in the future,” Pratt said.

Contact the writer: emma.black@scranton.edu

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