Long Lost Orphans Come Home
[Unknown child photographed by Harry Rhoads]
Anyone who has spent time with computers knows that occasionally, things don't work out exactly as one might have intended. A single wrong keystroke somewhere in a sea of code can wreak havoc, and then in turn, take a lot of time to sort out.
Our online database contains some 130,000 images, and about four years ago, 15 years after we first activated the collection, we transitioned the entire body of material into a new management software, called "ContentDM." Among many improvements, the new platform allows a user to zoom-in to images and see greater detail; it has a way to create a favorites list; it allows users to create their own tags and ratings; and it provides much greater behind-the-scenes sorting and editing capabilities.
[Car Fascination ~ another Harry Rhoads photo]
For a number of various reasons, the migration of the database resulted in sizeable number of items that had lost their connection between the image file and the "metadata" that provides the title, call number, creator, content, and other useful information. In addition, even before the move, we also had a number of "broken" images - titles showing an error placemarker where a thumbnail should be. These problem records came to be known as "Orphan Files," and consisted of about 4,500 individual items.
[Morale building billboard at Camp Hale, 10th Mountain Division training camp]
The migration to ContentDM was like a "parting of the clouds" - suddenly we were able to bring all of the broken items together in one folder. We could sort them, isolate the problems, and fix many of them in large groups, with "global" editing capabilities.
[More of Harry Rhoad's friends]
This process took about three years, involving the efforts of several team members, each with an array of other work responsibilites, meaning that the "Orphan Project" progressed in halting and sporadic steps. The process of sorting the list of problem items, identifying and noting the various types of errors that existed, and establishing a work flow, took almost a year in itself. Many items were repaired by mining our outdated but useful collection of compact discs, which had been created way back in the early 1990s when the project began. The easiest to repair only needed code editing - fixing a typo. Many other items needed to be re-scanned, a much larger hurdle.
This is one of our many 'tear sheet' scans - illustrations from classic 19th century newspapers. These spectacular engravings were the hottest thing in "media," in days before film, television and radio. People living in primitive pioneer conditions in remote locations could ponder exotic places and lose themselves in these detailed, complex, storytelling works of art. You can find more than 200 of them in our database by searching: Tear Sheets.
Here's a photo of Hattie McDaniel ~ a graduate of Denver's East High School who became an icon in her role as "Mammy," in "Gone With The Wind."
These are more of the great images that have only recently been added to our online database, images that were well known favorites to Western History Department researchers but hidden to the world at large. If you've searched the database and think you've seen all of our pictures - search again - there may be some you haven't seen!
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