Looking for that Amherst Student article that quoted you? Eager to browse photos from your commencement? Curious about the original architectural plan for your favorite campus building?
A team in Frost Library has spent the past three years expanding its digital archive of items such as these—a project they hope to complete by August 2020, in preparation for the College’s 2021 bicentennial: “That’s very typical librarian behavior,” says Este Pope, head of digital programs. “We got ourselves organized in advance, but our hope is that it would be material that would help with all the celebrating.”
That’s a safe bet. The library has doubled the size of its digital collection, and Pope says it now includes about 150,000 images.
The newly accessible (or soon-to-be-accessible) materials include yearbooks, photographs, commencement programs and an enormous collection of student publications. The digitized content also includes books published by or relating to the College, including Mavis Christine Campbell’s 1999 volume Black Women of Amherst College and Theodore Baird’s English at Amherst: A History, published posthumously in 2005. In addition, there is a collection of plans and documents related to buildings and grounds. There will be a selection of class albums, which stood in for yearbooks prior to 1860.
Newly digitized: centuries of course catalogs
A scene from Commencement 1970
This issue of a student magazine focused on Robert Frost
This drawing by Orra White Hitchcock has now been digitized
Librarian Este Pope in a dress she had made featuring the digitized Hitchcock drawing
President John William Ward protesting the Vietnam War
A famous front page
The 1966–67 Student Course Critique
Many of the course critiques feature cover art
In setting priorities, the librarians delayed the digitizing of athletics records—a huge collection deserving of its own project, Pope explains, and yet a theme already well-represented in the scanned collections of student publications and yearbooks. They also held off on some dry administrative records from long ago, as well as more recent documents in copyright.
The library team is not simply scanning the materials but also indexing and otherwise making them searchable. Students and staff have been at work coming up with metadata for the materials—basically embedded search terms that allow readers to pinpoint topics.
“Our hope is that if you’re coming and saying, ‘I graduated in 1987,’ we will be able to point you to The Amherst Student [or] pictures of perhaps you and your fellow students,” Pope says. “We could point you to your college catalog, or your commencement program. The hope is that you can go into these things and, if you’re an alum, find your own story in there, but also have a lot of different voices surface.”