Samford University library patrons can now, via computer, access a treasure trove of historic documents and publications that were once only available by visiting campus or requesting microfilm copies.
The digitization of more than 1,188 books and other items-representing about 32,440 pages---will be particularly helpful to researchers, historians and others interested in Samford and Alabama Baptist archives, say library administrators.
"This project has allowed us to open the 'virtual door' of the special collection department, giving access to some of our most treasured, historic and used collections to any user from anywhere on the globe," said Samford library director Kim Herndon.
Materials chosen for digitization came from the earliest, most often requested and most unique regional printed items held in the library: primarily 19th century materials, with some 20th century volumes included. The items were scanned from cover-to-cover and in full color. Users can page through a book, download the PDF or search the full text version.
Digitized items include Samford (then Howard College) catalogs dated 1845-1913; Alabama Baptist sources such as state convention annuals dated 1823-1913 and association annuals for 1818-1900; and Mitchell B. Garrett's history of Samford's early years: 60 Years of Howard College, 1842-1902.Digitization of Samford's Entre Nous yearbook for years 1912-2009 is underway with an expected summer, 2012, completion date.
Materials for inclusion in the project were selected by Herndon, special collection librarian and university archivist head Elizabeth Wells, and special collection technical archivist Jennifer Taylor.
Interested persons have already begun searching the digitized resources for such data as names of students who attended Howard College (found in early catalogs), members and pastors of Alabama Baptist churches, and information on historic denominational meetings and events.
As of early March, digitized documents had already been downloaded more than 15,000 times. The 1845-46 Howard College catalog, for instance, has been downloaded 192 times since it first went digital in September, 2010.
"These could be scholars researching education in early Alabama, or people doing family history," speculates Taylor, who oversaw the digitization project.
The project was made possible through the LYRASIS Mass Digitization Collaborative, a Sloan Foundation grant-subsidized program that has made digitization easy and affordable for libraries across the country. Samford was the first university in Alabama to participate in the Lyrasis project.