Bangor Public Library starts two digitization projects

Posted Jan. 03, 2011, at 7:27 p.m.

Words have always been at the heart of any library’s mission.

But now two special projects at the Bangor Public Library instead will be bringing pictures to life for its patrons.

One project will digitize the library’s artworks for display on its website.

The second, a joint effort with the University of Maine’s Fogler Library, will digitize some 800 World War II posters and make copies available for sale.

Since its inception in 1913, the Bangor Public Library has received donations of many works of art which have decorated its walls over the past century. That number is now up around 380 pieces, including works by famed Maine artists Waldo Peirce, Jeremiah Hardy, Valentin Henneman and artist-mapmaker Moses Greenleaf.

Through the years, the pieces have been rotated in and out, gallery-style. But there is room for only about 50 pieces to be displayed at any one time.

Now an effort is under way to digitally copy all the works, to be posted on the library’s website at www.bpl.lib.me.us.

Barbara McDade, library director, estimates that some 60 paintings have been copied so far and should be on the website within the next month or so, after a new server is put in place to house them.

McDade said the digital copies will allow people to better appreciate the artwork.

“You can really see the detail when you’re looking at the digital collection,” she said. “You can see it better and enjoy it more.”

The copying is being done by volunteer professional photographer Joel Holcomb of JCHolcomb Photography in Brewer.

“I became involved with this project a few months ago, when the library started looking for volunteers to photograph their artwork because many of the pieces had recently been restored,” Holcomb explained.

“Since I started my photography business shortly after retiring in 2009, I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand my photographic resume and get my name out there, as well as support a worthy cause,” he said. “I have always been an avid reader and a great believer in education, two activities that are closely connected with libraries.”

Holcomb also created the virtual tour of the library that can be found on the BPL home page. Another project that he’s involved with will be new art guides for the library, using the digital copies he’s now taking.

Bangor Public Library’s other new project is digitizing of the library’s collection of World War II posters, thought to be the largest in the country at around 800 pieces, McDade said. There are an unspecified additional number of World War I posters in the collection, as well.

At one point, about 40 of the posters were mounted on poster board for an exhibition.

During a visit by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins last year, the senator, McDade and Joyce Rumery, dean of libraries at the University of Maine, went down to the basement archives to view the posters. It was a cumbersome process, since the posters had to be brought out one at a time.

After learning of the event from Rumery, Eugene P. Daigle, manager of network services at the university’s Fogler Library, was intrigued by the collection and came up with the idea of digitizing the collection as a joint project between the two libraries.

In fact, Daigle and his wife, Barbara, agreed to fund the digitizing effort. He said that it was a way that “these works could be made available for generations that had never seen the originals.”

The Daigles had developed a healthy appreciation of the military throughout their lives.

“My wife, Barbara, and I became interested in this project because both of our fathers served in combat zones,” Daigle said. “Barbara’s dad was a Navy quartermaster during World War II, who charted the sea floor and beaches off Italy prior to the landing of Allied troops. My father served in the Korean War in the Air Force, installing and maintaining navigation systems for fighters and bombers to operate in all-weather environments. I served in the Air Force during the end of the Vietnam War stateside. My wife and I were both in the Coast Guard Reserve during the ’80s and early ’90s. So we have an interest and a respect for the military and the men and women who serve.”

The images are being produced by James Daigle Photography of Bangor and Fogler Library will serve as the Web host of the digital collection.

McDade said that 40 had been copied so far. Once 100-150 have been digitized, the two libraries will begin selling copies of the posters in four sizes to the public.

All 800-plus posters in the collection are expected to be available by Nov. 11, 2011, about a month before the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack which drew the United States into World War II.

Funds raised by the sale of the poster copies will be invested into the restoration of the original posters, McDade said. Those interested in donating to the poster-restoration project may call McDade at 947-8336.

In addition to preservation, digitization of the posters served another purpose, Daigle said.

“That purpose is to allow people born after the World War II to look at these artworks and try to get a sense of the conflict and how each and every citizen was asked to contribute to the war effort — to help their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cousins defeat the Axis powers,” he said. “Some 450,000 U.S. men and women died in action from 1941 to 1945 when our population was about 160 million. Every neighborhood was involved in the war effort and these posters are part of the voice of the people who were part of the final victory in August of 1945.”

For more information on either project, call Barbara McDade at 947-8336.

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