Douglas County Libraries
Involve your community in local history
"With CONTENTdm, it's easy to manage the metadata and the transition process. When we started with CONTENTdm in 2012, I think we had 3,000 photos. We have more than 6,000 now. Those 3,000 photos represented ten previous years of work. The fact that we doubled it in three years is, I think, really good."
Archivist, Douglas County History Research Center, Douglas County Libraries
The Douglas County History Research Center (DCHRC), part of Douglas County Libraries, has a responsibility to collect and preserve the local history in and around Douglas County, Colorado, and to provide historical research resources to the public. But until 2012, the staff struggled to maintain a home-grown database that required archival staff to double as technical web designers. "For several years, we kind of let it sit," said Shaun Boyd, a DCHRC Archivist. "We didn't add any new content, but we were continuing to scan." Once they began managing their website through CONTENTdm®, "we just started plugging away at it," Shaun said. "Our whole website is now run through CONTENTdm."
The DCHRC website includes historic resources in a variety of formats. To build and continue to add to the collection, DCHRC has made a lot of local connections. "We've just had this very entrepreneurial attitude," Shaun explained. "We go out and talk to everyone."
"I've been encouraging the genealogy societies and the local historical societies" to participate, Shaun said. Also, DCHRC helped found Historic Douglas County, which brings together several local historical societies. Volunteers from these organizations (as well as a Boy Scout working on his Eagle Scout project) have taken the photos of the local grave stones that appear in the DCHRC Cemetery Photos collection on CONTENTdm.
"For us, intellectually, the biggest challenge was shifting from these many 'boxes of stuff' and trying to pull them all together into one website that doesn't look like a hodge-podgy mess. The new design has helped us to not look like we're running in the many directions that we are."
Shaun added, "We're part of the Veterans History Project with the Library of Congress," so the DCHRC website contains many oral histories that can be streamed over the internet. One family reached out to the library after hearing their grandfather's World War II oral history on the DCHRC website. "They Googled the grandfather's name, and up popped the oral history from our website. Then they all gathered around the computer and listened to it," she said. "The fact that CONTENTdm can be found through a Google search—it's not a part of the hidden web—was definitely a benefit to them."
DCHRC reaches out frequently to the public as well. One library patron collects old photos and tries to connect them with their original owners, but he first lets the archivists "duplicate and return" them for use on the website. DCHRC uses Facebook to find additional information for some photos as well. "We do things like History Mystery Monday and Fun Facts Friday, and we link them to the CONTENTdm records," Shaun said. "Suddenly, I've got all this extra metadata to add to the website."
All this outreach has paid off for DCHRC. "Now, we have a 500-square-foot vault that's crammed full, an offsite storage unit that's full of newspapers, three full-time staff, 20 volunteers and a 500-square-foot reading room. And that's all about to be expanded in the next three to five years. It's growing and happening here." And the website continues to grow with the collection. "I've been blissfully happy at how easy it is to add to CONTENTdm," Shaun said.
- A service of Douglas County Libraries, which has seven locations south of Denver
- Website includes photos of stones in local cemeteries, recordings of oral histories from local residents, county government documents, historic aerial land photos, locally produced documentaries and even forensic case file records from a high-profile murder investigation
- Archivists prioritize work based on local interest and events, such as historic anniversaries, community events like the County Fair, and current donations
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