| Table of Contents | Introduction | The New York Public Library's Digital Historical Projects | Planning Digital Projects for Historical Collections | Conclusion |
Virtually all libraries in New York State, large and small, maintain collections of one-of-a-kind printed and manuscript materials relating to the history of the state and their communities that present significant challenges for preservation and access. Some materials are in great demand, but, because of their value and condition, are endangered by unrestricted use. Many more remain inaccessible to all but the most intrepid researchers because of outdated and/or inadequate descriptions and finding aids. The information contained in archival and local history collections defies most standard library classification systems for several reasons. These materials are difficult to categorize; their principal value is their uniqueness; and the most effective way to describe documents is to show them (and since historic documents have artifactual as well as informational value, direct visual contact is usually important to the researcher). For the library, then, a priceless community legacy can become an administrative albatross. The result has been that irreplaceable material deteriorates, sizable sections of library collections are underutilized, and potent historical information sits inaccessible to scholars, educators, community leaders, and the general public.
Technology to the Rescue of Old Collections