Preserving precious memories

Smithsonian project digitizes photos, videos, home movies to preserve history of African-American families, individuals

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in November welcomed a team from the Smithsonian’s Community Curation Project to digitize family videos and photos. The project was designed to help preserve the history of African-American families and individuals.

Customers from around the city brought VHS tapes, vintage reel-to-reel footage and photos in antique frames of their loved ones to be digitized and preserved. Movies included everything from kids opening presents at a birthday party, to parades, graduations, a trip to Africa and the birth of twins.

“We take old videos or movies and turn them into museum quality work,” explained one of the Smithsonian representatives.

The service met a definite need in the community, as evidenced by all of the appointment slots filling up in the first few days. In all, more than 80 customers brought family historical items to the library for digitizing. 

“Digitizing is an expensive and time-consuming process,” explained Annie Nelson, a reference librarian and archivist at the research library. “Some customers who might otherwise not have been able to digitize their histories were able to come in and keep history alive—all for free. That’s the best part.”

The service was free and was made possible by the Robert Frederick Smith Fund at the National Museum of African American History and Culture which connects African-American communities by preserving history through the digitization and sharing of stories, photos and videos to the museum’s online communication collection. The museum brought their technology-packed bus to the library to help the community document their histories and upload them for access.

People who brought in their precious treasures were able to upload the newly digitized materials to an online app which allowed them to share their family history with the world or choose to keep it private.

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library takes pride in preserving the history of African-Americans in Colorado and the West, and this project was a wonderful way to help achieve that goal.

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library regularly receives historical items from residents throughout Colorado and the West. The Blair-Caldwell Archives consist of more than 150 collections of personal and professional papers, artifacts, photos and scrapbooks of African-Americans who helped shape the west. Items in the archives are accessible for research purposes. 

The library is an ideal place to preserve history; staff members there can assist. To learn more about donating your materials to the library, contact Terry Nelson.



Written by ChrisH on December 4, 2018