Washington’s Headquarters Going Digital


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Matthew Colon, the 2010 winner of the Barnabas McHenry Award for Historic Preservation, is in the middle of a project that will digitize and catalog the entire slide collection of the nation’s first publicly-owned historic site, ensuring that the Washington’s Headquarters library and archives will be useful to the staff and public.

The scope of diverse images that make up the collection measures the value of this project. The range of time represented in the collection spans from the late 19th century to the present, documenting the changes undergone by Washington’s Headquarters through images of the historic house and environs, special events, important visitors, and interpretive programs. A favorite are images that document how the house interior looks in candle light. There are also slides documenting important acts of preservation on the historic house and other museum objects this project will make more accessible.

The biggest advantage, most of all to archivists, a digitization project offers are digital surrogates of the original material. Ideally, an infinite amount of copies can be made from the archival image and distributed to the public or for meeting museum interpretive goals. This ensures that the original material will be stored away from the environmental factors disrupting their condition.

Matt Colon has spent the past few months completing the collection index for about 5,000 slides before he can move onto the last phases of the project which include digitization, editing, and delivery. Matt has cemented his appreciation for the role of the librarian and archivist in a museum setting. Colon said, “’the methods of organization are the inner gears to the clock face viewed by the public.’ One issue with that statement is that today that clock face is typically digital.”

Illustration: Tower of Victory in “Harper’s Weekly”, 1887. Courtesy of PIPC Archives.

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