Soon, history buffs won’t have to peel themselves off their couches or find scarce parking in downtown Portland to see the Maine Historical Society’s treasure trove of old photographs. They’ll instead be able to browse the collection from the comfort of their favorite internet device.
Last month, MHS was awarded a $149,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to digitize, catalog and provide free online access through Maine Memory Network to 1,000 images in its early Maine photograph collection.
That cache of pictures includes Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes dating from around 1845 up through the Civil War. The grant will also enable it to digitize 25,000 glass plate newspaper negatives donated by the Portland Press Herald. Those fragile negatives span about 1917 to 1940.
MHS’s Director of Library Services, Jamie Rice, said the digitization process will not only give much greater access to the public, it will also protect the collection. Researchers will be browsing more with their eyes and less with their hands.
“We want to be able to promote use of our collections, to get there materials out in the world, to make them more available to the general public — perfect combination of preservation and access,” Rice said.
And the more eyes they have on the photos, there’s more chances to identify some of those strangers from the past.
“It would be great if people, at three o’clock in the morning, on the internet, could tell us who was in some of those photographs,” she said.
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