As librarians, we digitize, collect, archive and promote content collections for many different reasons. Our digital collection management efforts often revolve around the idea of preserving materials for historic and scholarly purposes. That’s obviously important, and librarians have always played a major role in such programs. But sometimes we discover far more personal connections to these materials.
While I was working on the Montana Memory Project from 2009–2012, it made perfect sense that some of the students we sent to the National Archives would be Native Americans, as the materials they were digitizing were from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Local history being preserved by local students for the use of historians is often a part of these programs. What we were not expecting, however, was that some of our students would find materials that involved their own direct ancestors.