Cataloguing their historical collections to an online database has taken a lot of work, but the Issaquah History Museums have crossed a milestone by uploading more than 10,000 items to their digital archive.
Started as the Issaquah Historical Society in 1972, The Issaquah History Museums (IHM) is a nonprofit that operates the Gilman Town Hall Museum, the Issaquah Depot Museum, and the Issaquah Valley Trolley. Erica Maniez, museum director, explained that in addition to the operation museums, they also offer history related programming throughout the year.
The IHM has added more than 10,000 total images to the their online gallery, a significant milestone for the preservation and accessibility of their collection, Maniez said.
The IHM cares for a collection of more than 36,000 artifacts and photographs, and in order to increase accessibility the museum began working to scan and upload as much of their collection as possible. They began the digital archive in 2012 with just 500 items, and slowly grew the archive over the years.
With the help of grants from 4Culture, King County’s cultural funding agency, the IHM was able to start uploading their collections. They prioritized the large collections first, and began working through the organization’s backlog of photos, letters and documents. They have also implemented a policy of scanning in new additions to the collection as part of the intake process, so new submissions do not add to the already large backlog.
Some of the priority uploads included letters from a local woman to her fiance who was fighting in World War I, and a collection of letters between brothers who served in the army during World War II.
The museum has received help form volunteers and interns in their efforts to make sure everything is online.
In addition to preservation, the digital archive also makes photo purchases easier. It allows people to look up what pictures they can order from the museum without having to come to the museum in person. It also helps researchers who can’t come to Issaquah but are interested in looking for photos of coal mining, logging or family members.
The museum updates its digital archive about once a month, Maniez said, and as more help comes for scanning and uploading, the museum plans to make more progress than ever before in the next year.
“At this point we are making slow, forward progress and hoping by next year we will be up to 12,000 or 15,000,” Maniez said.