Digitization is faceless work – you rarely see the hands that carefully place fragile scrapbooks under the camera and click capture, or hear the voices debating the best description of that great photograph a partner sent us. And we don’t stick a price tag on each item, parsing out how much our funders contributed to get that item online.
So today’s post is about two things I think don’t get noticed often enough. The first thing is money. All of the accomplishments of the Center have been supported in very large part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through Library Services and Technology Act funding disbursed by the State Library of North Carolina. In other words, we run on IMLS. Digital libraries often include funders in footers or on “About” pages, but I decided to take this opportunity to bring it up front. Together, IMLS, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the State Library of North Carolina are the why, how, and whether DigitalNC exists. The power of this funding partnership is in its efficiency, its statewide view, and the way our work boosts what’s being done by counties and towns in their local institutions. It’s how our partners supercharge their collections, moving them beyond shelves to your screen. And we really hope it sticks around.
A rare shot that includes the gloved hand of a student worker as they gently lift up a document to capture the letter underneath.
The second thing is people. Behind each of the hundreds of thousands of images on DigitalNC.org are multiple individuals from multiple communities, who want YOU to see, share, build upon, question, and participate in North Carolina’s culture, wherever you are. These are the caring librarians, archivists, curators, or history-minded individuals with a passion not only for preserving their community’s history but also for giving that history legs. These are the full-time NCDHC staff who answer questions, juggle schedules, write code, and try to best serve users. These are the 20 student workers who have scanned, and scanned, and scanned over the last six years, whose professional development we have fostered and who were exposed to information-rich, quirky, poignant, and various special collections from all over the state.
Our goal is to make the materials front and center so you don’t see us or think about us. But next time you find that great article on your hometown’s history, we hope you’ll think about who helped get it there and the funding it took to make it happen.