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Events under way to digitize yearbooks

Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Reproduced from News-Gazette website:

by Jodi Heckel

If you’re looking for photos for a high school reunion, or researching the school days of family members, a new online resource could help.

The eBlack Champaign-Urbana project is digitizing yearbooks from Champaign and Urbana high schools and putting them on its website, at

“We wanted to do something that would touch as many people as possible in Champaign-Urbana,” said Noah Lenstra, director of the eBlackCU project. “We’re just trying to find ways to use new technology to have an impact on the community.”

The goal of eBlackCU is to provide information on local African-American history and culture, invite residents to share their memories or materials about the local black community through digital technology, and make local African-American history more visible and accessible.

Lenstra said the effort to digitize local yearbooks is an extension of a project eBlackCU undertook last summer, in which it digitized the commemorative yearbooks from an annual Cotillion Ball for young African-American women. The eBlackCU website now has digitized versions of the commemorative yearbooks dating to 1972, the year the Cotillion Ball was first held.

This summer, interns are working on digitizing yearbooks from Champaign and Urbana high schools from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. They are working with the Champaign and Urbana public libraries, the libraries at Urbana and Central high schools, and the Champaign County Historical Archives to get copies of the yearbooks.

The interns are scanning high-resolution images of the yearbooks. Then Lenstra is converting them to lower-resolution images that will load faster online. The high-resolution masters will be made available to the Champaign County Historical Archives so they can add the digital images to their database if they want, Lenstra said.

So far, the eBlack website has digitized copies of the Champaign High School yearbook from 1960 to 1965. Five yearbooks from Urbana High School are scanned but not yet online. Lenstra is hoping to digitize at least two decades of yearbooks from each high school this summer.

Some of the yearbooks they’ve been working with have had photos cut out of them. With the digital versions of the yearbooks, anyone could get an image he or she wanted without damaging the book, Lenstra said. The text of the digital yearbooks will be searchable as well, so someone could search for the name of a person for whom they wanted a photo or information.

Lenstra said the process the interns are using to digitize the yearbooks is simple and replicable. He wants anyone to be able to continue the work. Along with digitizing the yearbooks, the eBlackCU project is developing training materials on the process.

In addition, the interns working on the yearbook project will also be helping with computer classes this summer. When information about the yearbook was presented at Salem Baptist Church, several people asked for help with digitizing photos, Lenstra said.

“I think it’s really good for people to have access to these things,” said Adrian Rochelle, a Central High School junior and one of the interns who is working on the yearbook project. “It shows how this technology has advanced.”

One of the goals for the summer, Lenstra said, is for the interns “to not only learn about new technology, but to be able to teach new technology as well. We’d like to see everyone be able to use technology to its fullest.”

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