Alberni museum pic collection goes digital

Alberni Valley Museum staff have scanned and downloaded 9,000 images out of the collection of 20,000 images into its new online database.

Alberni Valley Museum curator Kirsten Smith displays an original copy of a picture that has been digitized and added to the museum's new computer database. The 9

The Alberni Valley Museum’s new photographic database is user friendly and helps better preserve the thousands of photos stored at the museum, Alberni Valley Museum Director Jean McIntosh said.

McIntosh and museum curator Kirsten Smith unveiled the finished product at the museum on Tuesday.

Museum staff have scanned and downloaded 9,000 images out of the collection of 20,000 images into the database. “We’re not yet where we want to be but we’re further along,” McIntosh said.

Users can access images online through the city’s website. Keyword or random searches can be employed. Once a picture is found, patrons can click on images to enlarge them and display information about them. Photos can be printed as well.

Digitizing the collection brings the museum up to the standard for public access but it also encourages preserving original pictures by having them handled less, McIntosh said.

The initiative was made possible with $10,000 and $9,500 grants from the Irving K. Barber Foundation, as well as with a private contribution from Dr. Linda Warren.

“This wouldn’t have happened with our own resources,” McIntosh said.

The program actually went online in January and immediately starting getting hits. “There have been 6,000 searches since January,” Smith said.

The most popular searches involve the key words 1912, dog, Smith Memorial, Bishop, Argyle and Japanese, Smith said.

The picture collection sits on shelves behind the computer on which  McIntosh and Smith demonstrated the program.

With the new database in place people may be more apt to bring in collections of pictures that can be readily accessed. It may also prompt people to put names to pictures where there is none, or correct inaccurate information.

The next steps in the project involve getting a new computer in the gallery for patrons to access the pictures, hiring staff to finish scanning the picture collection into the system then managing it.

Logistics also have to be worked out around digitizing pictures that are too large to scan.

A recent visit with Hupacasath Chief Councillor Steven Tatoosh didn’t yield any results when he searched for Hupacasath pictures and more work needs to be done in this area. “We get a lot of requests for research around First Nations history,” McIntosh said.

With the Barber Foundation likely dry, private donations will have to be solicited to finish the job. “But it’s not as easy getting the dollars for behind the scenes work,” McIntosh said.

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