MU Libraries partner with national program to expand digital archive

Monday, August 19, 2013 | 4:47 p.m. CDT; updated 8:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 19, 2013

COLUMBIA — For the past 10 years, the MU Libraries employees have been scanning  documents, books and scholarly papers and storing them on  a searchable digital archive.

A new partnership between the MU Libraries and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance promises to help keep the archive, estimated at 41,000 items, growing.

The collection includes plat books from every Missouri county from the 1920s and 1930s, copies of MU's yearbook, "The Savitar," from 1891 and "Mizzou From the Air:1919," a collection of aerial photographs of MU and Columbia.

The digital alliance offers grant opportunities to pay for new scanners that can produce higher quality digital images from microfilm and other equipment and the hiring of more employees.

The digital archiving is intended for storage in perpetuity, Ann Riley, associate director of the access collections and technical services division said.

Putting the information in a digital format lets researchers access the archives from web-based platforms rather than going to the library and using the originals.

"We want to preserve, but we also want to provide access," Dorothy Carner, head of libraries at the MU Journalism Library, said.

The digital alliance, an organization connected to the Library of Congress, also develops better methods of preservation and works with experts to identify which information needs preservation.

"Digital preservation is an active processes," Edward McCain, digital curator of journalism at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, said. "It's a shift in thinking compared to print and other physical archives." 

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