Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Article: Uncovering the past, bit by byte

A very interesting digitization project is occurring in Bethlehem, PA where "rare historic documents -- are now being fed into a computer at Lehigh University to digitally reconstruct the early 20th century neighborhoods that eventually would become incorporated as the city of Bethlehem."

How are they doing the reconstruction?
The researchers are feeding the information from old census records, city directories and Steel payrolls into the Geographic Information System. The GIS allows that information to be layered on top of old maps.
According to the article, this is a $15,000 project being funded through a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Libraries Library and Technology Act grant. In another article, I see where this money is being spent to only work on the early 1900s and that they will apply for funding to do more.
The $15,000 project, paid for with a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Libraries Library and Technology Act grant, continues through May. But [Julia Maserjian, the Lehigh Univ.'s digital library coordinator] said she has already applied for more grants to do a similar project for 1920. That would allow researchers to look at the effects of a population surge in the city after thousands of people were brought in to work on World War I contracts.
I would assume that this is all part of the "Beyond Steel: A Digital Archive of Lehigh Valley Industry and Culture," which is currently listed as a work in progress.

Since this is being grant funded, I'm sure that there is in-kind contributions being made above the $15,000 amount. I hope they will publish something on what they did, how they did it, and what it cost. There is still not a lot of cost data floating "out there", yet it always helps to know how people spent their funds and what they were able to achieve with the money.

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