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Old photos to go digital at BC museum

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Tapping into images of local history will soon be a click away.

The Becker County Historical Society recently received two new grants that are expected to help make local history more accessible to its residents.

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The Minnesota Clean Land, Water and Legacy Amendment awarded the museum with two grants: one to help fund the digitization of its historical photos and one to fund an upcoming traveling exhibit.

The photographs

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the online community is about to inherit a wealth of words.

The $6,845 grant will pay for both the software and equipment required for the digital transfer, but also the staffing that'll take on the mammoth job.

The Becker County Historical currently has over 14,000 old, historic photos in its possession -- almost all of which are filed away in the museum.

"We get a lot of people who call and request photos for a variety of reasons," said Amy Deggerstrom, museum director, "We have requests from researchers thousands of miles away, authors, teachers, students working on a project, businesses, or sometimes they just want something from when they grew up ... somebody looking for a memory."

All of those requests meant either the museum staff would have to physically sift through photos to scan them or the person wanting the photo would have to come in and look.

"We've already done one round through the Minnesota Digital Library, but it was only 125 photos, so it was just a small scratch on the surface," said Deggerstrom, who says that first, small batch of photos can be found at www.reflections.mndigital.org.

The next, much larger group of 14,000 photos being digitized through the grant will be posted on the Becker County Historical Society website and will be available for purchase for $1 each.

Right now there are only 200 photos available on the site.

"And then it also provides us with a digital backup copy so that if, heaven forbid, anything happens to the museum, we have a digital copy of them offsite," said Deggerstrom.

The exhibit

The second grant for $7,000 will go towards creating a traveling exhibit that will circulate through a group of 15 Minnesota museums in 12 counties in northwestern Minnesota over a three-year span.

"The exhibit will focus on fur trade and ox cart trails in the region from that very early time before statehood," said Deggerstrom, who says the money will be used to hire an independent consulting group to research the material and content for the exhibit, to actually design and create the exhibit and to do all of the "behind the scenes stuff" it takes to make an exhibit like this a reality.

"It'll allow smaller museums in northwest Minnesota that don't normally have the capacity to produce exhibits like this to have them, which is pretty awesome," said Deggerstrom.

The goal is that all of the research and gathering will be done within a nine-month period, followed by production and a rotation start date of 2014.

"With this Legacy grant, Minnesota is one of the few states in the country that has shown this desire to preserve our historical culture, and we're so fortunate to have access to these funds because most people around the country don't have this option," said Deggerstrom. "So we're just so thankful to everyone who has agreed to this and to support our local history."

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