“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
Preserving our cultural heritage often falls to local communities and groups, with small staffs and even smaller budgets. Cities, counties and community organizations collect records, vital statistics and transactional data that, over the years, tell the story of an era. Previously this data was the purview of a few local historians and government types but, more and more, citizens are recognizing the importance of preserving historical documents for the long term and making them accessible to anyone, anywhere.
How is this happening? In many cases, this involves recording this information in a digital format and making it available on the internet. Much of the data is stored in various locations on paper, on microfilm, and in other archival forms. Funding for these digital conversion projects is scarce and the competition is tough, but it is out there.
Every year, historical societies, local government agencies and other preservation-minded organizations award grants to a variety of groups and organizations. In Iowa, just last month over $600,000 in preservation grants were awarded by the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) in the form of 36 Historical Resource Development Program (HRDP) grants. In Minnesota, the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) funds local preservation programs with grants distributed to Heritage Preservation Commissions and through the Certified Local Government Program, among others. There are state-and-federal partnerships and federal initiatives backing many of these programs and there are stand-alone federal grants as well.
What kinds of projects do these agencies fund? The requests the run the gamut from local newspapers needing to digitize their historical microfilm collections to local historical societies wanting to create oral histories from the elderly in their communities. One grant recipient is a local cemetery group that needs to preserve original cemetery records and burial books. These mundane artifacts of our daily lives are irreplaceable records of bygone eras.
Among the projects and organizations funded this year were:
- enlarging archives space for local museum
- digitizing newspaper microfilm reels for local libraries
- adding climate control to archives of local historical society to protect their collection
- hiring consultants to assist with digital project management for small colleges and schools
- digitizing century old county agency records by a professional archivist
Whether your group’s goal is to expand the audience for a unique historical resource or safe guard local archives from natural disasters, there is likely a source of funding available. In many cases, the funds awarded aren’t necessarily for the project itself. It is used to hire qualified professionals to conduct a general preservation needs assessment survey, create long-range collections preservation plans, or to develop policies and procedures for effective records management. In other cases, groups may outsource the actual conversion of records from paper to microfilm, microfilm to digital, and digital to web-based repositories.
At Advantage Companies, we specialize in converting archival records, including microfilm and microfiche records, to a digital format. Our quality and service makes us stand out from the competition. But don’t take our word for it. We would be happy to scan one roll of 35mm microfilm for FREE and turn it into a searchable website for your review. Your film will be returned to you in perfect condition, all at absolutely no cost or obligation to you. Register today for this FREE service and one of our representatives will contact you shortly.