One of the issues archivists struggle with is how to preserve archived materials from the elements and yet still make them available to the public. Factors like temperature, humidity and light all come into consideration and are controllable. The one factor that cannot be controlled is time. Over time, materials degrade, they decompose. They become fragile to the touch, and if not cared for properly, could be lost forever. Magnetic tape (think audio cassettes and VHS tapes), compact discs and DVDs are especially vulnerable. Over time, playing them becomes risky…tapes could snap, disc surfaces can peel or get scratched.
In an effort to combat the ravages of time, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) – with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – has created a Recordings at Risk program. The program awards grants enabling institutions to digitize their recorded materials and then make them available online. Not only does this protect the original materials from handling, it allows people all over the world to access what they could previously only see or hear in person.
In 2017, the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at Denver Public Library was awarded a Recordings at Risk grant and set forth to digitize 250 oral histories, totaling approximately 300 hours of interviews with World War II veterans who served with the 10th Mountain Division. At the project’s end on November 1, 2018 – thanks to the hard work of a team of library employees and volunteers – all of the oral histories can now be found online. Audio histories have been published on our digital collections website accompanied by timestamped indexes, and video histories have been uploaded to the Western History and Genealogy department’s YouTube channel with auto-generated transcripts.
For more information about this project, or about the 10th Mountain Division, please contact Keli Schmid at 720-865-1812 or firstname.lastname@example.org.