Digitized history

Selections from McIntyre Library’s archives now available online



Story by Glen Olson, Staff Writer

Traveling back into history at UW-Eau Claire is now possible anywhere through McIntyre Library’s new digital collections portal.

The project, which started earlier this year, includes digitized copies of every edition of Eau Claire’s yearbook, the Periscope, which ran from 1917 to 1995, with hundreds of photos.

Greg Kocken, the head of Special Collections and the Archives, said although this is just the beginning of what they want to put up, online documents have already been useful.

“It’s already proven a great tool for us to use,” Kocken said, “and now that it’s out there, it’s wonderful for alumni to connect to campus that way.”

The site, which is available through the Special Collections page on the McIntyre Library website, includes a feature that allows users to search for specific names through thousands of
yearbook pages.

Kocken said the site was an open source program, so the library was able to minimize costs of developing the program and concentrate on library users.

In all, he said they began loading documents at the end of summer, but digitization has been going on for years.

The digitization is an in-house process so far, which Kocken said provides them with backup copies of the digital documents to prepare for future website changes.

Jenna Vande Zande, a junior public history major, said she used the Periscopes for several projects, including the recent oral history project, before they were digitized. Having them online makes it a lot easier.

“I can’t wait to see what else they put online,” Vande Zande said. “It will just streamline the whole research process.”

John Pollitz, director of libraries at Eau Claire, said he heard stories from people who have used the site to find information and pictures of family. Having that history available is important for the community.

“It makes a connection with the community at large,” Pollitz said. “You can go back and see this and experience it.”

Kocken said spreading archive awareness as a research tools drove their decision to go online.

In the future, he said they want to expand the online resources to include the full body of The Spectator, which would be searchable like the yearbooks, in addition to other collections from the community and elsewhere.

Kocken said he hopes the digital portal continues to be a popular way to learn about the history of the school and area. He said even in the week after it went online, he received a lot of positive stories from people all across the U.S. who were finding photographs of their parents and grandparents.

“That’s a wonderful connection to be able to make,” Kocken said, “and it only further strengthens the bond of our alumni all over the country.”