Special Collections and Archives continues to digitize periodicals

Christopher Woods

The Special Collections and Archives department on the 12th floor of the library is continuing digitization of its periodicals and works to make its collection more accessible to its users.

“The Special Collections and Archives is the department where we have rare books, archival collections, manuscripts and historical kinds of records about the university, but we also collect in a lot of other subject areas,” said Cara Gilgenbach, head of the department. “We also have literary collections and true crime collections up here as well.”

The 12th floor focuses on digitizing periodicals and projects to make them available for people to access online, including periodicals on May 4th and yearbooks from years past.

“Digitization projects are big for us because people may not be able to come here in person,” Gilgenbach said. “The Chestnut Burr yearbooks started in 1914 and were published all the way through 1985. They actually provide snapshots of the campus from those times; covering everything from athletics, famous speakers or bands that came in, Greek Life and class photos.”

The Chestnut Burr link allows users to search yearbooks by year and browse page by page.

Gilgenbach said that the department is known all over the world and has even helped people with research in Japan.

“We actually had someone from Japan come to Kent and utilize the collection in person,” Gilgenbach said. “He was doing research on a very specific person, and we had that guys papers here and so we were the place to be for him.”

Gilgenbach said the digitizing process can take a long duration of time; collections can take up to five hours to put online.

“The process starts with scanning the image,” said university archivist Lael Hughes-Watkins. “Then it is saved to central drive where the whole department can access the item scanned. After that, it’s uploaded to the department storage pods where we store a lot of our digital and electronic documents.”

The Special Collections and Archives department is also working on their interaction with their users via social media.

The department has a Pinterest site, and Hughes-Watkins said their department’s Twitter site will be launched on March 3.

“If the social media sites receive great feedback, then we will branch out to other sites such as Instagram and YouTube,” Hughes-Watkins said.

In the future, the Special Collections and Archives department is looking to digitize Daily Kent Stater newspapers from past decades.

“There are not a lot of other places that are going to have the Daily Kent Stater on file,” Gilgenbach said. “The challenge with the newspaper project is the fragility of the paper. We started digitizing the 1960s because there was a lot of growth going on at the time with the campus; the 1940s are also in the works and, of course, the 1970s are popular with the demand for knowledge surrounding the May 4th shooting.”

Along with digitizing the Daily Kent Stater, the department is also working digitizing a Lafayette Tolliver collection.

“Lafayette Tolliver attended Kent State from 1967 to 1971, when he graduated,” Hughes-Watkins said. “He took a lot of images of black student life at Kent. That was a gap in our collection, so we’re really excited to fill that finally.”

Hughes-Watkins said she will also be working on projects in the future to build collections pertaining to student life on campus.

“From the perspective of the University Archivists, I hope that when students leave the 12th floor, that they leave with a better understanding of Kent State’s rich history and realize that they too are making history as active members of the Kent community through innovative ideas, participating in campus activities, setting high academic examples for others to follow, or voicing their opinions,” Hughes-Watkins said. “Their stories can one day be part of the Kent State story.”

Contact Christopher Woods at [email protected].