The McLean County Museum of History is looking to raise $16,000 to help fund the first part of a photo digitization project.
Museum Executive Director Adam Lovell stated digitization as one of his goals when he took the top role at the museum last April.
In 2010, the museum received around 1 million photographic negatives from The Pantagraph. To start, Lovell said the museum is taking on the digitization in chunks, starting with the first 30,000.
“These are the oldest negatives, dating back in the mid 1930s,” he said. “They're in very fragile condition. They're composed of either cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate, which is a very harmful, damaging type of plastic. So this isn't the kind of thing that you can just slap on your home flatbed scanner and push the scan button.”
The museum partnered with a specialized firm in New Jersey to digitize the negatives.
The cost of digitizing the first 30,000 photos is estimated at $94,000, with the additional $16,000 to account for 5,500 photos.
“Since these are Pantagraph photos it's really great because we can go back into the newspaper archives and look up the story, and we can get a lot of information about most of these images,” he said. “However, some of these are stories that just didn't make the cut. And those are some of the real true gems that we're finding.”
The digitization will be a multiyear project, Lovell said. Once digitized, the public will be able to access them on the Illinois State Library website.
Lovell said any person who comes into the museum to donate to the digitization project will be allowed free museum entry that day.
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