Library’s wartime poster collection now digitized, available to public

Posted Dec. 15, 2011, at 3:44 p.m.

BANGOR — One of Bangor Public Library’s buried treasures will be unveiled to the public today.

For decades, 800 World War I and II posters, thought to be one of the largest such collections in the country, have been housed in a large room in the library’s basement known as “The Cage.” The collection was compiled by L. Felix Ranlett, a WWI veteran and military history buff who was the librarian during WWI.

But since January, the posters, which consist of 537 different images, have been digitized by Bangor photographer James Daigle, as part of a joint effort by the Bangor library and the University of Maine’s Fogler Library.

The collection will be opened to the public today at the Bangor library. In addition, some of the digital collection will be shown at the Veterans Day celebration Nov. 11 at the Cole Land Transportation Museum.

It’s coming down to the wire, but Bill Cook, Bangor’s special collections and local history librarian, hopes everything will be completed.

“We’re putting them up on the (BPL) web page, and finishing the cataloguing,” he said last week.

High-resolution versions of the posters are on the Fogler Library web site, and small-size links on the Bangor library web site should be functional by today, Cook said.

The digitization project had its start last year, during a visit by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. 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 it as a joint project between the two libraries.

The project is being funded by Daigle, who is also the photographer’s brother, and Eugene’s wife, Barbara Daigle. Both Eugene and Barbara Daigle have served in the military, and both their fathers served in combat areas.

Soon the public will be able to purchase copies of the posters on the web site, and funds raised by the sale of the poster copies will be invested into the preservation of the original posters. Cook explained that the originals will be stored in acid-free folders in map cases.

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

“That purpose is to allow people born after the WWII 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.”

Those interested in donating to the poster-restoration project may call Cook or Bangor Library Director Barbara McDade at 947-8336.

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