Back in 2010, Brant County‘s use of VITA in their local-history digitization projects was featured in an amazing anthology: Digitization In The Real World. This book (free in PDF and other formats from the Internet Archive) is “written by practitioners for practitioners on lessons learned from small to medium-sized digitization projects.” Brant County is the only Canadian organization that contributed to the book, and does a great job of representing the process for small organizations. Archivist Misty de Meo wrote about the challenges of small budgets, the clever tactics used to circumvent it, and the importance of collaboration and partnerships with local organizations. And, of course, we love hearing people talk about their positive experiences with our VITA tools:
Our visitors have generally been impressed with the advanced features VITA makes available. One of the most popular features is its Google Maps integration. Each item can be tagged with a set of coordinates that will cause a Google Maps widget to display below the item. We have used this extensively with items such as historical maps, which allows us to display a modern image of the town centered on the same location as the map. Another popular feature is the integrated “Zoomify” software, which allows the user to zoom in to an oversized item at greater levels of detail, or to pan and rotate.
Recently, Brant County has been back in the spotlight again! Super-librarian Jessamyn West featured their use of VITA and some of their community projects in a talk given at the Panhandle Library Access Network conference in Niceville, Florida on January 27th.
This is a project of Brant County in Ontario, about half the population of Franklin County here in MA. One summer they got a kid to photograph, map and type in the cemetery records from the towns. Then they put it online…. Now people who are looking for relatives in cemeteries can search by date, look on a map and find a grave even if they are nowhere near Ontario. Using the Googles!
One of the neat things about this project is the “hey help us out” aspect. In a few ways. They solicit contributions with “scan and share” events. Brant County has even put up a how to essay called Digitization without Fears. Don’t know who is in a photo? Don’t let that stop you, you can “tag” the photo as a “mystery” and then people can click through and leave a comment if they have more information.
I know it seems like a pretty big deal and maybe a lot of work, but the secret (besides some grants) is partnership. Working with the other little organizations in the region to get resources, or volunteers, or space or whatever.
One of Jessamyn West’s favourite parts of Brant County’s work is their illustrated essay Digitization Without Fears, built using the VITA exhibits module. We, too, love it when organizations document their projects: lessons learned, tools used – and an open invitation to contact staff if practitioners are looking for more guidance!
This kind of knowledge-sharing and openness to mentoring and advice is what OurDigitalWorld means when we talk about stewardship and sustainability: collaboration between heritage organizations to make everyone’s work easier and better.