New Bluffton website broadens access to archives

Nov 24, 2014 by

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BLUFFTON, Ohio — Many archival photos and documents at Bluffton University are seeing the light of day online via a searchable new website.

Bluffton senior Dana Otto, right, helps archives and special collections librarian Carrie Phillips prepare to take a digital photo of an issue of the former student newspaper The Witmarsum in Musselman Library. Kenny Beeker, back, will then scan the photo for the Bluffton University Memory website.  — Bluffton University

Bluffton senior Dana Otto, right, helps archives and special collections librarian Carrie Phillips prepare to take a digital photo of an issue of the former student newspaper The Witmarsum in Musselman Library. Kenny Beeker, back, will then scan the photo for the Bluffton University Memory website. — Bluffton University

Several hundred photos have already been digitized and uploaded to Bluffton University Memory, located online at bluffton.contentdm.oclc.org.

Also online are issues of The Witmarsum — the former student newspaper — and examples of World War II-era correspondence. The letters were written by Bluffton students serving in various capacities during the war, and by Bluffton administrators.

“It’s a different way to look at the archives collection,” said Carrie Phillips, archives and special collections librarian. “It’s providing better access to some of the university’s most interesting historic documents.”

The site’s origins date to exploration of digitization options a few years ago by members of the Ohio Private Academic Libraries consortium. With the consortium providing equipment and software, Phillips began digitizing old Bluffton yearbooks and Witmarsum issues.

The Wit, as it was commonly known, was printed for nearly 100 years before it became part of the blufftonconnection.com website in 2010. Issues from 1929 to 1955 are now available on Bluffton University Memory in searchable PDF format, and Phillips hopes to upload the rest.

Roughly 550 photo images are also on the site, which has been in the works for about a year. Using the ’60s and ’70s as the cutoffs for photos for now, she has chosen images that have historical appeal and generate the most requests from researchers.

The idea for adding the World War II correspondence emerged from a faculty coffee conversation about Bluffton students in wartime.

“Perry Bush cited a number of these letters in his centennial history of the institution, and they are always a popular resource for history research seminar students,” Phillips said.

Not only are students using the material, but three of them are helping make it available. History majors Dana Otto, Amanda Bartel and Kenny Beeker work for Phillips in Bluffton’s Musselman Library.

She said the library could have paid a private company to do the digitization, but instead, students with interest in the subject matter are gaining experience “while learning fun facts about Bluffton’s history at the same time.”


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