For historians, providing the public access to artifacts from the past while preserving those remnants of yesterday can present a conundrum. The more people who handle photos and documents, the more likely they will be slowly destroyed. A partial solution is on the horizon for Clifton Park's historical collection, however, with the digitization and public archival of many historical photos.
Town Historian John Scherer has been working with the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, where the historical collection is housed, to scan 200 photos from the town's past and enter them into a statewide database at www.newyorkheritage.org, where anyone can access them.
It helps us to preserve the images and documents because they don't have to be handled, said Scherer. "That's one of the most popular things I get asked for, is historical photos."
Each photo is tagged with a description, and Scherer made sure that every photo has "Clifton Park" as a keyword, so searching those two words in quotes will bring up the whole collection. From there, users can peruse shots of schools, canals, churches and other notable features of the town, such as pictures of Grooms Tavern.
The project was started through the New York 3Rs Association, and spearheaded locally by the Capital District Library Council. The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library is one of 12 area libraries to participate. There are now about 160 archives on the Web site from across the state, making rare historical records available to the masses at any time.
The library agreed that digitization will make the photos and documents more useful.
"We can't have the room open all the time because we don't just let people go in and paw around," said Gail Winters, head of reference and adult services at the library, adding, "But we certainly have more access than when they were in John's study. As we can, we will digitize them and put them on New York Heritage."