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Preserving History

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Jesse Erickson (left), postdoctoral researcher in special collections and digital humanities, works with New Castle community members Lee Jarmon (right) and Jacqueline Knight during his session on best archival practices to preserve documents.

Two UD librarians host workshop, partner with New Castle County

Lee Jarmon, a New Castle community member, brought a photo of his late wife to a workshop hosted by University of Delaware librarians to learn more about proper preservation techniques at his local library. Jarmon, who also serves as Overview Gardens-Garfield Park Civic Association president, said the workshop was incredibly helpful.

“It was a great workshop and it gave us a chance to see how you preserve personal and community memories,” he said. “Not only that, but also how to protect those documents and photos. I thought that was excellent.”

Jarmon said what he found most useful was the tips to create unique names for each file, to ensure they are easy to find later.

UD librarians Jesse Erickson and Curtis Small spearheaded this community outreach project to work with members of the New Castle community. It all started with a tour of the Route 9 Library and Innovation Center.

“They approached us with the idea of establishing some type of collaboration, even though we didn’t know what it would look like,” Erickson said. “So, we bounced around and brainstormed ideas.”

Input from community members like Jarmon and others from UD, including Michael Vaughan, associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering, and Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity, was central to figuring out what made sense, Erickson continued. What they came up with was covering methods to preserve local history.  

Erickson and Small ran two workshops at the Route 9 Library and Innovation Center on Saturday, Feb. 2. This partnership has provided incredibly valuable access to UD’s expertise and resources, said Route 9 Library Manager Alix Jefferson.

“Having the University hold an instructional workshop at Route 9 Library allows us to serve as a bridge between UD and our community,” he said. “We look forward to more opportunities to partner with the University to provide workshops and services to the Route 9 community.”

Small’s session focused on oral histories. He taught members how to use the StoryCorps phone app to record and save interviews and upload them to an online archive.

The StoryCorps’ archive allows users to create groups and communities around their stories. Small created the Route 9 Community on the site, for any members to join and participate. Interviews uploaded to the website are also housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Small said communities often take for granted the value of their stories.

“The recollections and memories of community members are necessary for historical research by scholars and also for learning, by anybody, who is interested in learning their own personal history or history in general,” Small said. “The memories of people in the community are a primary source, the eyewitness material that everybody who's doing history has to use. It’s necessary for history to be known.”

Erickson’s session covered best archival practices to preserve documents and photos using a portable scanner and flash drives. He also covered important factors to consider when it comes to storage like using acid free boxes, because acid will eventually eat away at the paper, and thinking seriously about server space if going the digital route.

In the end, they hope these lessons helped to empower the community to preserve and share their story with future generations.

“They’re invested in their history,” Erickson said. “They see it as important. They see their community as being central to the area, to the development of the youth and they see their voices as being instrumental in the everyday culture. So they’re very invested in the library and they really want to capture that in some form.”

The Route 9 Library and Innovation Center opened in 2017 at the intersection of Lambson Lane and Route 9. The roughly $30 million dollar project was constructed by Perkins and Will, the same firm that worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. It was funded by the state, the county and through private donations.

The center was built to serve as a community hub to provide tools and resources to support New Castle County. Trevor A. Dawes, vice provost for libraries and museums and May Morris University Librarian, said he is happy that UD is working to help support this communities’ mission.

“I am thrilled that the UD Library, Museums and Press has developed this partnership with the Route 9 Library and Innovation Center,” Dawes said. “Our goals are not only to provide resources and services to the campus community, but also to help the broader community understand how they can preserve their own heritage and tell their own stories. This project was an excellent way to provide that opportunity.”

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