The Anamosa library has partnered with the University of Northern Iowa to help promote a new digital archiving tool aimed at helping preserve photos of Iowan’s past.
The service is called Fortepan Iowa and is the first sister program to the Fortepan program in Hungary. The Iowa program was started back in 2015 and Project Director Dr. Bettina Fabos, a professor in interactive digital studies at the University of Northern Iowa, said they made a presentation last fall at the Iowa Library Association conference last fall to try to spread the word about the program.
The other four libraries the program is working with are Cedar Falls, Ottumwa, Sumner and Webster City. Fabos said they were lucky that all four partner libraries are of varying sizes.
“They’re all over the state and they represent different types of populations,” Fabos said of the partners. “We’re hoping to spread the Fortepan concept and archive across the whole state.”
Fabos’ interest in the project came about in 2015 when she went to Hungary for research and came across the original Hungarian project, which began in 2010.
“They’re significant to Hungary now. It’s become a household name. It’s become a cultural institution,” she said, including a recent exhibit in the national gallery.
The Hungary collection tells a completely different story when it comes to the history of the country and Fabos was inspired to try the same thing for Iowa.
According to the Fortepan Iowa website, the collection features curated photos taken by ordinary Iowans across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The photos represent the personal, whimsical, poetic, significant, and accidentally artistic moments of everyday Iowa life. Examples include activities like picnics, farming techniques and social gatherings.s
“I think we need to make it really clear to our Iowan communities that their pictures are really important to scan, and save and digitize because they’re part of our collective memory and our shared history,” Fabos said. “It’s worth understanding that Iowa is more complicated than just the history that comes from official figures and the people that are the most powerful in the state that we have name recognition for.”
Iowans are a multi-faceted group of people and by highlighting every day Iowans, it sends message to school kids and Iowans that their history is just as important as everyone else’s, according to Fabos.
The goal is to make the archive as public as possible, making it as easy as possible for people to both add photos to the collection and download photos from the archive. The project has been funded in part by a UNI Capacity Building grant, a Humanities Iowa Grant, and the UNI College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.
In addition to the photo archives, Fortepan Iowa also got a grant from the Iowa Arts Council for putting up historical pictures on downtown buildings of partner communities via wheat pasting, a temporary process where the pictures can be removed with water.
Fabos hopes by highlighting the vibrancy of Anamosa’s downtown in the past, it can encourage a return to that vibrancy.
The plan is to eventually allow users to search for images on a map and also through 360º street view. Historical images will be onto the 360º photos taken of present-day Anamosa so that they will match the exact placement of the original photograph.
The partnership with the library is part of the push to get more people to know about the service. They also hope to begin a traveling lecture series in the fall.
The Anamosa library collection of photos are part of a large batch upload that should be available for viewing in the next couple of weeks as part of massive upload of thousands of photos to go along with the site’s more user-friendly upgrade, which will add new tools like commenting and tagging. Currently, one local photo is a part of the curated collection. The photo was donated by Alan Doering and is of his great-grandfather and his wife from 1938.
As part of the grant, the program will build fully-equipped, clearly referenced Fortepan Iowa Scanning Hubs in each library, and will be looking for an active and dedicated group of volunteers who teach community members how to scan and document family photos to include in Fortepan Iowa.
As a partner, the library will also be curating a local photo exhibition.