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Enriching Your Archive with Yearbooks for Research and Genealogy

The Benefits of Digitizing Yearbooks

Yearbooks are a window into the past of your community. More than any other material, they offer a snapshot of what life was like at a particular time or moment, on a local level. They open the door to a familiar past for individuals diving into genealogical research, or just reminiscing about their high school or college years.
Due to the popularity and value the community places on them, scanning yearbooks and making them available online has become one of the most sought after offerings by alums, libraries, schools, institutions, and organizations of all sizes.
Yearbooks are more than just a record of ambitions, activities, and questionable fashion. They have become a valuable resource for genealogists, local historical preservation societies, media outlets, and community cultural organizations. In addition, a community’s yearbooks offer a uniquely personal perspective on the past that other historical records often overlook or fail to capture.
Yearbooks can help researchers understand local and national events from the perspective of the youth at the time. They can also be used to understand the public sentiment on social issues at various times throughout the community’s history.

The Yearbook’s Unique Role in Genealogy

Yearbooks, typically associated with educational institutions, may seem like an unusual addition to your genealogical arsenal, but they offer a wealth of information that can add depth to your family history research:

  1. Photographic Snapshots: Yearbooks capture images of people in their youth, providing valuable snapshots of your ancestors’ appearance and style during a specific year.
  2. Personal Histories: Alongside photographs, you’ll often find brief personal histories or notes written by the individuals themselves. These can reveal ambitions, interests, and insights that may not be documented elsewhere.
  3. Social Networks: Yearbooks help map your ancestors’ social networks. By identifying classmates and friends, you gain a better understanding of their social circles and relationships.
  4. Cultural Context: Yearbooks are historical documents that reflect the cultural, educational, and social climate of a particular era. They can provide context for your ancestors’ lives.

Stealing the spotlight

Digitization is fantastic as a backup, but that’s not it’s only benefit. Digitization offers perks that hard copies cannot. Every item Advantage digitizes is run though our OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program. This converts the text into a searchable database. Not only will you be able to find the person you are looking for, you’ll be able to find them in multiple places, in multiple yearbooks, all with a single search.
To ensure the quality of the digital image accurately reproduces the original, the yearbook is lit uniformly using “cold” LED lighting. Utilizing these LED lights does not expose the book’s pages to excessive heat or exposure to the harmful wavelengths produced by some traditional lighting methods. This approach also removes the risk of handwritten notes in ink or pencil fading or becoming difficult to read in digital images. In addition, the lights are positioned and turned to provide proper depth of color, remove hot spots and shadows, and in a manner that produces glare-free results, even on glossy materials.
Advantage does not use autonomous scanning technologies, meaning; only experienced scanning technicians will carefully handle your yearbooks throughout the process, removing any of the “unknowns” associated with fully automated scanning tech, or that rely on mechanisms to turn the pages of the book. The gentle touch of our human operators ensures your yearbooks do not get damaged in the process.

Online access solutions for previously digitized yearbooks

A growing number of libraries have digitized their yearbooks or are in the process of doing so. Unfortunately, many of these digitized collections are contained on DVDs or saved as multi-page PDFs in a folder structure on a local computer with little or no search capabilities. In most cases, these collections are only accessible to the community if they are on the institution’s premises.
Advantage has many partnerships with institutions possessing digital files created by other vendors, yearbooks scanned in-house, or participating in service projects like Oklahoma Correctional Institution’s (OCI) Yearbook Project.
Previously digitized content is easily converted, indexed, and made fully searchable via a Community History Archive, creating a practical and easy-to-use solution for patrons to access this content in a way in which information they seek is much more discoverable.

The Value of a Holistic Digital Archive

A holistic digital archive is a repository of diverse resources that collectively tell the story of your family history. While newspapers and vital records are often the go-to sources for genealogical research, yearbooks can be a crucial component in creating a comprehensive archive.

  1. Diverse Perspectives: Yearbooks add a personal and relatable touch to your archive. They provide insight into your ancestors as individuals rather than just names on a family tree.
  2. Contextual Insights: Yearbooks offer context for the events, stories, and experiences that may be documented in newspapers. They can help you connect the dots between major life events and everyday life.
  3. Enhanced Storytelling: When you combine yearbooks with newspapers, photographs, diaries, letters, and other sources, you can craft a more compelling narrative about your family’s history.
  4. Emotional Connection: The personal touch of yearbooks and the relatable nature of school experiences can foster a stronger emotional connection to your ancestors.

Yearbooks and Copyright

Advantage strongly believes in respecting rights holders’ intellectual property and strictly adheres to US copyright law. As with all of the digitization partnerships Advantage enters into, the digital yearbook images will be made available in a way that aligns with the intent and purpose of the original bound book.
If an institution is interested in embarking on a yearbook digitization project, Advantage suggests verifying that they have the right to do so. While there are some “rule of thumb” guidelines, we encourage our patterns to seek a second opinion if there is doubt.

Partner with Advantage

We forge strong meaningful partnerships to preserve and provide access to local history, like the history in a community’s yearbooks. However, we know that for a partnership to be successful, both parties must shoulder their fair share. This is why we host and maintain your yearbook collection and provide free access at any time, from anywhere, on any device.

Together we will create a valuable asset you are proud to share with your patrons and community.

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