Each year, the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) awards grants to organizations throughout the state to assist with the preservation and public access of our state’s history. These grants are made possible by funding from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission at the National Archives. As we get ready for the USHRAB’s 2023 funding season, we’re going to spend the next couple weeks taking a look at some past and current projects and the work the Board does to make Utah history more accessible.
Kendall Webb documented Park City life for almost 30 years. After his service in WWII, he moved from Huntington, West Virginia to Park City in 1946. As a professional photographer, Kendall Webb earned a living by shooting weddings, family portraits, high school sports events, parades, city events and outings. His collection of negatives and prints documents a wide-range of people, places and events during the middle of the 20th century in Park City, Utah. The Park City Museum received his collection of film negatives from Jim Marie and Colin Kelly in 2000.
The Park City Museum has undertaken the task of digitizing these images in partnership with the Mountain West Digital Library (MWDL) to make them available to the public. This has been a multi-stage project for the museum, and you can find the digitized photographs from previous stages of the project hosted in the Digital Library of the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah. The 2022-2023 USHRAB Grant is funding the digitization, cataloging and cleanup of images from 1952–1954 and 1960–1966. By partnering with MWDL, the Park City Museum will have well-documented scans with the metadata that is essential for searching such a large collection.
Digitization alone is not enough to ensure preservation of archival records. File formats, software, and hardware change fast. For example, compact discs (CDs) used to be a popular type of storage for music files, yet many computers today do not even have an optical disc drive to read them. Digital technologies evolve quickly and it can be hard for institutions with large collections to keep up with these changes, which makes the preservation of the originals crucial. In addition to creating digital copies, the Park City Museum must preserve Webb’s original acetate negatives. Acetate film negatives are particularly prone to decay. Although Webb’s negatives were already stored in proper archival housing, they are still showing the early signs of deterioration. After digitizing Webb’s images, the Park City Museum will clean the acetate negatives and place them in long term cold storage to dramatically slow their deterioration. This will ensure that the researchers and the people of Park City will continue to have access to this photo collection that documents the history of their town.
Be sure to check out the ongoing progress of the Park City Museum’s Kendall Webb project and celebrate with the museum when they wrap up this stage of the project in June 2023. If you would like to visit the museum or its research room, please find more information at Park City Museum’s website.
If your institution has a large collection of records in need of processing, description, cataloging, and preservation, consider planning a multistage project and applying for a USHRAB grant to fund one of those project stages.
The USHRAB’s grant program is funded by a State Board Programming Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. The USHRAB assists public and private non-profits, as well as non-Federal government entities throughout the State of Utah in the preservation and use of historical records.