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Library of Michigan Awards $965,000 in Digitization Grants to Help Expand Residents' Access to Collections

Contact:  Sarah Lapshan (517) 241-1736
Agency: History, Arts and Libraries

July 1, 2005

The Library of Michigan today announced 10 recipients of the 2005 Digitization for Preservation and Access grants, totaling $965,000.  These grants represent a statewide effort to digitize valuable and significant local and state-related information held in Michigan libraries and make such resources easily available via the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) and the Internet to residents, no matter where they live.

"The number-one job of a library is providing unlimited, open access to information," said Acting State Librarian Nancy Robertson.   "Before digitization was a possibility, a library customer was limited to the collections of the libraries to which he or she had physical access.  Now, with digitization efforts, someone in Marquette will be able to see and research the holdings of a library hundreds of miles away in Monroe.  That's pretty remarkable."

There are two tiers for the 2005 grants.  Tier 1 includes grants of $150,000 or more, for projects that are major in scope and of statewide importance.  Tier 2 includes grants of $150,000 or less, reflecting projects that are of local interest and importance.   In total, the digitization task force considered 29 applications (5 for Tier 1; 24 for Tier 2).  The recipients of the 2005 Digitization for Preservation and Access grants are:

Alpena County Library $234,275
Detroit Public Library $250,000
Regents of University of Michigan, University Library $165,000
Wayne State University Library System $150,000
TIER 1 TOTAL $799,275
Clarke Historical Library $9,274
Loutit District Library $16,314
Monroe County Library System $6,088
Portage District Library $7,000
Superiorland Library Cooperative $31,430
Western Michigan University Libraries $95,619
TIER 2 TOTAL $165,725

The Michigan Legislature allocated $965,000 to the Library of Michigan for fiscal year 2005, with the funds earmarked for projects to "digitize materials currently in the possession of libraries in the state to preserve, store and make these digitized images accessible via the Michigan eLibrary."  In December 2004 the state librarian created the Michigan Library Digitization Task Force, comprised of representatives from within the library, technology and preservation communities, to determine the scope and criteria of the grant program.


"Learning about and understanding our past is essential to achieving a well-rounded education," said Dr. William Anderson, director of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries.  "Today's grants are not only about preserving some very unique pieces of our collective history, but also about making sure that the students of tomorrow won't be deprived of these resources."


The digitization projects funded by these grants cover a variety of materials:


Alpena County Library, which houses the unique Thunder Bay Sanctuary Research Collection that focuses on 19th-century Great Lakes Maritime History, will digitize images and data on more than 15,000 unique Great Lakes vessels.  When completed, this information will be available through the Michigan eLibrary to historians, archaeologists, genealogists, resource managers, students, journalists and anyone with an interest in the maritime history of the Great Lakes.


Detroit Public Library will scan and create metadata for more than 13,000 images from its Burton Historical Collection, creating a database of 19th-century and pre-1922 photographs of Detroit.  Many of these photos – whose formats include glass negatives, lantern slides, cased images, albumen prints and stereograph cards – have been used worldwide to illustrate Detroit's social and cultural history.


The Regents of University of Michigan, University Library (for Michigan Council of Library Directors – COLD) will use this grant to expand and enhance the Michigan County Histories collection, which currently dates from 1866 to 1923.  These histories are a critical resource for historical and genealogical research.  Expansion will include the scanning and transcription of the more expensive but equally important county atlases.


Wayne State University Library System will use its funding to accelerate the development of "Virtual Motor City: Images from the Detroit News," a collection of Detroit News photojournalism resources that comprise a fascinating record of social, cultural and industrial history of the United States.  Roughly 20,000 new images will be added, bringing the total to 35,000.


Clarke Historical Library is home to the state's largest collection of 19th-century panoramic (bird's eye view) maps, true cartographic treasures depicting the spatial relationships within towns and the architectural heritage of communities.  These resources aid historians, preservationists and citizens in understanding the character and look of specific communities at a specific point in time.


Loutit District Library will use its grant to convert to digital form the audiotapes of Grand Haven dentist and local historian Dr. David Seibold, who from 1988 to 1992 conducted interviews with more than 200 residents of west Michigan to preserve their firsthand recollections of life in the area.  Eventually, the residents' oral histories will become part of virtual electronic exhibits. 


Monroe County Library System will digitize books (some rare), photos, slides, postcards, letters and original artwork relating to the War of 1812, with special emphasis on the Battle of the River Raisin in Frenchtown in what is now Monroe, Mich.  This resource will be invaluable to historians, genealogists, Civil War re-enactors and students who seek a greater understanding of this critical juncture of our state's heritage.


Portage District Library will use its funding to digitize the donated collection of the late John Todd, a well known local photographer.  Comprised of more than 2,200 photographs and more than 13,700 negatives and a variety of photographic equipment, this special aerial photographic collection is the only one of its kind in the region.  There are more than 40 years' worth of imagery, depicting streetscapes, historic architecture, businesses and municipalities of southwest Michigan.


Superiorland Library Cooperative seeks to electronically document the rail lines, shipping routes and sled trails that defined Upper Peninsula life in the late 19th and 20th centuries, and the people who built their lives around the U.P.'s transportation industry, from the building of the first Soo Lock in 1855 to the dismantling of a $1 million rail line that never saw a single train run its tracks.


Western Michigan University Libraries will use its grant to digitize the Civil War diaries of eight men who served in several Midwestern Union regiments.  The entries within the diaries represent a variety of experiences and perspectives, ranging from that of a musician to a prisoner of war.  With few such resources available, these digitized diaries will prove a great educational resource for students, historians and scholarly researchers worldwide. 

The Library of Michigan is part of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL).  Dedicated to enriching the quality of life for Michigan residents and strengthening the economy by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan's heritage and fostering cultural creativity, the department also includes the Michigan Historical Center, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Film Office.  For more information, visit

Read more press releases from the Department of History, Arts and Libraries.

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