Library digitizes yearbooks
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 08,2013
Every single Rutland High School Yearbook is on its way to the Internet.
The Rutland Free Library and Rutland Historical Society are recruiting volunteers to help digitize the library’s yearbook collection which, for RHS, goes back to the first yearbook, published in 1930.
“There was something preceding that, but it was a little booklet, not a yearbook,” library director Paula Baker said.
Once the two groups are done with RHS, they plan to continue with yearbooks from Mount St. Joseph Academy. The yearbooks will be available on the websites of the library, the historical society and the relevant schools, and character-recognition software will render the scanned-in yearbooks searchable.
“You can search by name,” Baker said. “That’s the only thing that really makes it viable. Otherwise, you’re still just browsing through yearbooks. ... This material is so logical to digitize.”
Baker said the project emerged from the library’s strategic plan.
“One of our goals is preserving our heritage, which means the building and local historical materials that matter to everyone,” she said.
Toward that end, Baker said, the library wanted to strengthen its ties with the Rutland Historical Society. She said the yearbook project came to be during discussions with that group.
Baker said the yearbook project is meant to be “the tip of the iceberg.”
“We’re looking to some of the outlying schools,” she said. “Then, beyond that ... I don’t want to say where we’re headed next, but I’m certainly interested in the two groups talking about a grant so we get some sophisticated equipment so we can take on more.”
The historical society already has experience converting municipal records.
“We digitized the early town reports from 1857 up to 1893 when the town became separate,” member James Davidson said. “The reports weren’t very big, but they had great information in them, especially about the poor farm. ... We’ve done similar kind of reports for the village of Rutland, which became the city. Those reports go from 1868 up to 1893 and we have all of them.”
Davidson said putting old records online makes them more useful in a number of ways. He said the society put a mystery photo on its website a few years ago depicting a World War Two airman. The photo bore the inscription “I will always love you, Jack.”
“What’s his last name?” Davidson asked. “How many Jacks are there in Rutland.”
About two years after the picture went up, Davidson said, a California family with Rutland ties went online after Thanksgiving dinner to look at old photos of Rutland on the historical society’s website.
“The daughter said, ‘Dad, that’s you,’” Davidson said.
Airman Jack Abraham, it turned out, graduated from RHS in the ’30s, Davidson said, as did his wife.
“The yearbooks can fill in the youth of these people,” he said.
Volunteers must be able to attend a 30-minute training session and work two to three hours at a time. No special computer knowledge is required, but a basic familiarity is advised. Baker said three yearbooks can be scanned in with two to three hours of work.
“There’s formatting, too,” she said. “We have volunteers scanning and then Historical Society staff are doing the formatting. We’ve seen the first work come out of that and it’s just beautiful.”