The fall harvest carries an entirely different meaning for Georgia College’s Ina Dillard Russell Library.
Earlier this year, the library received a $12,000 grant aimed at expanding its archive of local history — African-American history in particular — and it will look to harvest some of that history this weekend with the public’s help.
Library representatives will be on hand at Saturday’s Harrisburg Community Festival from noon to 3 p.m. for the first of two planned history harvest days where residents may bring old photos or documents to get scanned into digital format. While the effort is meant to expand the library archive, it will also be a form of community service. Library personnel will scan the personal items, creating a digital copy that will be placed on a flash drive and immediately returned to the owner at no charge.
The Harrisburg Community Festival, a free event, is being held Saturday at the Collins P. Lee Community Center.
“We recognized the fact that the local community history that we have available in our archive is not as inclusive as we would like for it to be,” said Dr. Shaundra Walker, interim director of the Ina Dillard Russell Library. “Particularly with local history, a lot of the time that information may not be found in books as it actually resides in the community. There was a real need to partner and work with the community to gather information and make it available so that when people come to our archive asking us questions we have access to it.”
The grant funding the upcoming history harvest day comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage Program and covers three community activities in all. The first was held back in March when Georgia College brought a professional archivist who administered a historic preservation workshop for the community. The final two activities will be the history harvest days, the second of which has not yet been scheduled.
“Having the first history harvest day at the Harrisburg Community Festival just seemed like a natural fit for us because it attracts people who currently live there and people who don’t live there anymore but still have strong ties to the community,” Walker said.
Those who bring materials to get scanned have the option of sharing digital copies with the Russell Library, which will in turn share it with the Digital Library of Georgia, a statewide online project that collects cultural and historical items for recording purposes.
Walker reiterated the fact that those who bring physical items to get scanned for digital copies will leave with their items the same day as the scanning process takes only a few minutes.
“This gives them a copy of those materials in a digital format so they don’t have to handle those rare or delicate materials on a daily basis, and that way they can share them with families in-person or through social media… They maintain possession of their items, which is a really important part of the grant. We’re not trying to take ownership of anybody’s materials. We want them to maintain custody of their things. We just want to help preserve them and make them more accessible,” she said.