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Library and Information Science Students Archive Colorado’s History for Future Generations
When the Park County Department of Heritage, Tourism & Community Development needed help moving its historical archive into the digital age, they reached out to the Morgridge College of Education’s Library and Information Science (LIS) program. Dr. Krystyna Matusiak, associate professor, was delighted to answer the call and jumped at the opportunity for her students to have hands-on experience archiving Colorado’s history in a way that would have an impact on generations to come.
Park County, located 120 miles west of Denver at the geographic center of Colorado, has a rich history of mining and railroading. As of the 2000 census, the county population density is seven people per square mile. Its historical archives date back to the late 19th century.
“Until now, the archives had been maintained by generous volunteers,” Matusiak said. “They meant well, but they were not professional archivers, and many of the items were in boxes and needed to be preserved. I quickly realized we needed funding for what they needed, so I wrote a grant and applied to the University of Denver’s Public Good grant program.”
Matusiak’s grant was approved, and the Department of Research Methods and Information Science was able to cover the transportation costs for Matusiak and select graduate students to travel to Park County to complete the project. In the end, Matusiak and three LIS students, Sam Carlson, Sarah Werling and Lisa Donovan collaborated on the project.
Digitization of photo and oral histories is important in ensuring archives have a long life. As Matusiak and her students continued their archiving process, each realized the value of their work for Park County, its residents and themselves.
“The oral histories are very, very interesting,” said Matusiak. “They really tell the life stories of the people who lived in the community.”
Donovan, who has been working to digitize the oral histories, says that it is most impactful to know that after she has finished her work, a grandchild might be able to hear the voice of their grandmother or grandfather for the first time.
The first year of the project resulted in creating the Park County Local History Digital Archive, which currently includes more than 500 digitized photographs and 16 oral histories. Once the archive is complete, all of it will be accessible online, where community members, educators, historians and anyone who would like can learn about Park County’s storied history.
“It’s promoting the preservation, not only of the objects in the collection, but of the whole area, and the more attention we can bring to it, the more historic preservation projects can come out of it,” said Carlson.
For Matusiak, the project has informed the direction of her next research project.
“We have applied for funding for the next year, so we can complete the archives,” she said. “I personally have started research in Park County. I am just starting my interviews, but I am excited to see where this can take me, and its impact on the community.”