Alabama Department of Archives and History saves time with CONTENTdm hosted by OCLC

The digital collections at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) have been managed with CONTENTdm since 2007. ADAH staff selected CONTENTdm because it is a flexible system that allows their users to complete a wide variety of searches as they explore ADAH’s digital collections.

Since ADAH’s staff is small, it was challenging for them to manage CONTENTdm updates. So, in February 2017, they migrated from locally hosting their CONTENTdm instance to having it hosted by OCLC. Now they receive automatic CONTENTdm updates, and they don’t need to do anything to receive these enhancements. Since their migration, ADAH has added several new collections and has added many items to existing collections.

 “Our migration went very smoothly and moved quickly,” said Meredith McDonough, Digital Assets Coordinator for ADAH. “Now, the burden of updating CONTENTdm software is off our shoulders. It’s been a relief to have automatic updates, and we can now focus more on our digital collections.”

ADAH has been working with local media to get photos from several collections identified by members of their community. One of these was the Jim Peppler Southern Courier Photograph Collection, which includes many of photographs taken in Montgomery, Alabama. When he donated his 11,000 negatives to ADAH, Mr. Peppler stipulated that they must all be made available online. He believed that his subjects were part owners of the images he took, so he wanted to ensure that the individuals in the photographs would have access to them.

Meredith noted, “It was an incredible experience to do this, and we connected with local communities through our work on this collection. CONTENTdm allows us to fulfill our mission in a way that 20 years ago people wouldn’t have thought about.”

As ADAH creates its digital collections, staff look at what their users are going to connect to and what will be useful for them. They organized their digital collections by format type as they learned this is how users explore their items.

Meredith shared that ADAH loves their digital collections because they contain so much rich material that ADAH wouldn’t be able to share otherwise. CONTENTdm allows their users to view these items from anywhere in the world. In 2009 ADAH received a grant to create lesson plans about Alabama history for students in grades 4–12. These documents, now available in the Alabama History Education Materials collection, are viewed in CONTENTdm’s PDF viewer, and they contain links back to ADAH’s CONTENTdm items.

In the future, ADAH will focus on adding items to its existing digital collections, and staff will launch the Alabama Media Group Collection later this year. In December 2016, ADAH received a donation of about 65 filing cabinets filled with negatives from the Alabama Media Group, which owns the three largest newspapers in Alabama. This amounts to more than 3 million photograph negatives that showcase the history of Alabama from the 1920s to the early 2000s.


Digitized item from the Alabama Department of Archives and History

This is an image from the Jim Peppler Southern Courier Photograph Collection.