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UA Special Collections Department preserves historic border materials

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Zi Yang Lai | The Daily Wildcat

Mechanical engineering junior Dario Andrade Mendoza chooses a book in the UA Main Library on Sept. 1, 2015. The Special Collections Department is making final preparations for Community Digitization Day on March 4, a free public event designed to preserve historic materials related to Tucson and the borderlands region from 1900-1970

The Special Collections Department is making final preparations for Community Digitization Day on March 4 , a free public event designed to preserve historic materials related to Tucson and the borderlands region from 1900-1970.

According to Borderlands Curator Verónica Reyes-Escudero, community members who bring historic documents or photos will receive a digital version and learn how to preserve them at home.

The event is supported by the Southwestern Foundation and arose out of a previous collection hosted by the SCD called Visions of the "Borderlands: Myths and Realities."

“The reason we’re asking for material from the early 20th century at this event is because the material is frankly a little bit newer,” she said. “As we get into the 2000s, grandparents are leaving around these materials, and sons and daughters don’t know what to do about them.”

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Jane Prescott-Smith, special assistant to the dean at UA Libraries, expects to see documents and photos typically found in family scrapbooks. “I would not be surprised to see marriage certificates, baptismal programs and letters,” she said.

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Community Digitization Day is a multi-purpose event, added Reyes-Escudero. Not only will it educate contributors about how to maintain these important pieces of history, it will also allow the department to archive the material for future research.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., UA Libraries staff will scan historic materials and return the originals and the scans on USB drives at no charge, according to the event press release.

The event will also include three workshops throughout the day with experts who will provide attendees with information about their documents.

The SCD will ask attendees for permission to put the scans of their documents into an online archive.

“We are not necessarily promising there will be an online archive at this time,” Reyes-Escudero added. “We are working on getting the permission at this point.”

The SCD has publicized the event through radio, television and Spanish language postcards. They are especially reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community because archived historic material from Mexican and Native American communities is scarce.

“One of our colleagues who has done an event like this in the past said there was a large turnout,” Prescott-Smith said. “We’re hoping Community Digitization Day will be very successful, even though we did not get the grant we were initially after.”

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The department’s goal is to have participants walk away with a better understanding about the importance of preserving historic material.

One of SCD’s pillars is to create innovative partnerships with the community. The event planners see Community Digitization Day as being in support of that goal.

“The ultimate goal is to engage with the community, have them feel involved and have a place to come to with these photos and documents,” Reyes-Escudero said. “In the long term they may even consider donating the materials to SDC.”


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