The importance of digitizing historical documents

When I was working on my book Men Beyond the Stones I went into the local library to look at what archival documents they had. I was hoping to find images of the individuals who I had not yet been able to track down. While I was unable to find the images I needed, I discovered something almost as important. The library had an entire wall of documents, books, and binders full of newspaper clippings and manila envelopes full of documents, all unable to be checked out.


At the beginning of 2020, I decided not only was I going to push Schellinger Research forward, but I also planned to volunteer more in the community. My volunteer opportunities outside of the time Schellinger Research donates includes being part of Home Fires Burning which is a local group dedicated to helping caregivers of military veterans, I also am currently the secretary of Friends of Girl Scouts(FOGS) The Dalles, a local organization that supports the local Girl Scout troops.


Deciding how I can put my knowledge to use, I approached the library director about scanning the documents in the glass case. I believe that archival documents should be widely available, and by scanning them, hopefully more people will be able to view and make use of these important documents. It will also make it easier for researchers such as myself, who may be interested in the documents.


Historical documents, be it photos, newspaper clippings, or written accounts of historical events help to enhance our understanding of events, culture, how people thought and behaved, and most importantly, how documentation of events occurred.  Today, people create vlogs, or take pictures and create a social media or blog post. Even 20 years ago the technology was not to that point, so history was documented differently.


This difference is what I thrive on. It’s piecing together elements of the past to make a cohesive picture for modern historians and everyone to see. To like history does not mean you have to be a historian. To understand what people from the past went through does not mean you have to have a degree or be related to them. Just as sitting down and reading Anne Frank’s diary takes you into her life, so does looking at photos and reading accounts of what life was like for those before us.


Living in the Columbia Gorge has surrounded me with Lewis and Clark history, and the history of the Oregon trail. Personally, my interests tend to go towards post 1900 culture, interesting pieces from the past have still pique my interest. While for me it may only be a passing glance, others live for that history that was previously sitting on a shelf in a library.


Specifically, for me, digitizing history is important to ensure that it exists after the paper breaks down. After the people who lived during that time pass away. And ultimately after their stories have ceased to be passed down from generation to generation.  Just as we work to preserve ancient history, we must also work to preserve recent history, as it can serve as a reminder of where we came from.


Reach out to us for all of your digitizing needs.


Until next time, happy researching!


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