3/9/2017 9:00:00 AM SCANNING CENTER Siena protects history
BY KATHLEEN LAMANNA STAFF WRITER
"Nobody knows what's out there," said Sean Conley, coordinator of the new Digital Scholarship Center at Siena College in Loudonville.
He was referring to a wealth of old photos, books, maps and papers in the possession of area historical organizations and other groups. Siena created the center to preserve such pieces of history.
The center, located in the college's J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Library, allows Siena staff and students to scan documents and photos into the computer, creating a digital database that can be accessed from within the college and beyond.
Currently, the Digital Scholarship Center is scanning in the Siena College newspaper, adding years of past issues to its archives.
The new center includes a classroom, a lab and a wall of screens that can showcase scanned items. When The Evangelist visited, the four screens were displaying a collection of fine art, a slideshow of old photos taken on the Siena campus, an overview of renovations to the library and a series of documents from an organization that stocks trout in the Adirondack Mountains.
Scanners in the lab allow students or staff to archive documents easily. A special scanner with a movable panel protects old books with delicate bindings. Even three-dimensional objects can be scanned in so that the original items don't have to be handled and researchers worldwide can access information on them.
"We want students to get familiar with the issue of digitizing documents," Mr. Conley said, noting that transcripts often need to be created for handwritten documents.
Siena is coordinating its archives with those of other organizations, such as the New York State Library Council. Siena will also continue reaching out to community organizations, helping them manage their collections of documents.
Students from the school's public history class are now digitizing and transcribing documents from the Saratoga National Battlefield, allowing the works to be preserved and accessed more easily.
More than just history students could benefit from the center, Mr. Conley added: "We want this to be interdisciplinary." He hopes that, through the new effort, Siena students will be able to get hands-on experience with preservation, and with service.
Pilot projects already underway through the center include a 3-D design for a safer motorcycle helmet, contributed by the college's Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; "Summer Scholars" research projects by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA); and course and archival materials submitted by Siena faculty.
This summer, the new center will get offices and environmentally-controlled storage space.