Really old letters and diaries can be especially hard to let go of. Even if you know that they can provide useful information to researchers and scholars… you also know that they’re a direct window into the mind and soul of your great-great grand-person. So you want to hold on.
To Scott Eldredge, and to other members of the Pioneers in Your Attic Project, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. You can have your ancestor’s travel journal and share it too. It’s just a question of scanning.
Member institutions from across the country–Weber State, Brigham Young and the Mountain West Digital Library among them–are setting up scanning hubs and asking people to bring in their family treasures to be digitized. They can take them home again (along with some literature about proper conservation techniques,) and the libraries can build a searchable database of documents.
But as Scott tells me in the interview, it’s not just about using technology to make a bigger, better version of the same old archive. This project also hopes to change peoples’ relationships to their own history.
By getting people involved in the collection process and by providing intimate history about peoples’ ancestors, the Pioneers in Your Attic project moves the archive away from the ivory tower and into the hands of everyone and anyone.