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  5. Widener University Wolfgram Memorial Library uses Fujitsu scanner to index historical content into an electronic archive

Widener University Wolfgram Memorial Library


Widener University Wolfgram Memorial Library uses Fujitsu scanner to index historical content into an electronic archive

The State of the Archives

Wolfgram Memorial Library supports the academic programs at Widener University—a private university located in Chester, Pennsylvania—by providing undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students access to audiovisual and multimedia materials including, 241,000 volumes, 2,256 current periodical subscriptions, 167,963 microforms and over 80 online services. Widener traces its origins to Wilmington, Delaware, where it began in 1821 as a small Quaker school for boys. During the next 180 years, the school was transformed numerous times, changing into Pennsylvania Military Academy, Pennsylvania Military College, PMC Colleges, Widener College, and finally Widener University.

In addition to the educational resources, Wolfgram Memorial Library also contains Widener University's archives, which include the university's publications and official records, as well as the course catalogs dating back to 1856, student newspapers and literary magazines from 1877, yearbooks from 1900, memorabilia such as cadet uniforms and athletic trophies and various other clippings, photographs, and biographical information about the school athletics, alumni, faculty and the Widener and Hyatt families. Open to Widener students and the public, this collection captures and preserves the rich history of the university as well as significant pieces of the history of Delaware County. However, the library's efforts to make them accessible to the masses were stinted by their limited ability to document and index this considerable amount of information; a work intensive process for the only 10 faculty librarians and 30 staff who help to keep the library open, and allow access to all its valuable resources, on an average of 95.5 hours per week.

In Search of a Solution

Jan Alexander, Reference Librarian and University Archivist, indexed the archives into both digital and hard copy formats and implemented the Fujitsu fi-5650C scanner to create PDF files of the archival documents related to Widener University's history. She started with the two most important books used heavily by archival staff as well as other researchers—one by the College Recorder in 1921 and the other by the president of the institution, written in 1955. She also scanned 100 issues of the Pennsylvania Military College News, the college newspaper from 1916 to 1950. Using the new scanner, Alexander digitized both of these histories into PDF format for placement on the university's website. This allowed on and off campus researchers, students and the general public, full access to the historical artifacts, without having to come into the archive to look at the original documents.

"Today's world is heavily driven by the advancements in digital technology, allowing quick and easy access to everything," said Alexander. "The Fujitsu scanner has enabled us to make great strides with our materials. Now we have the ability to scan high quality digital copies of history and place them on the web for all to enjoy, without relying on individuals to laboriously go through the texts looking for information."

The Fujitsu fi-5650C sheet-fed scanner combines performance and dependability to keep up with high-production environments. With scanning rates of up to 57 pages per minute/114 images per minute and equipped with an ultrasonic double-feed detection, Alexander was able to document Widener University's rich history at tremendous speeds. Furthermore, the long history preserved in the archives was obviously visible by the quality of some of the documents. With additional options and an optical resolution of 600dpi, even dated documents could be scanned and recognizable. For greater convenience, the easy-to-use interface didn't require any professional training, so Alexander and her team could execute their project immediately. The scanner also comes equipped with optical character recognition (OCR) software to enable the recognition of printed or written text to allow for full text searching from within the Adobe PDF Acrobat Reader software. This feature gave Alexander the ultimate advantage, allowing her to index the archives of Widener's rich history on the Web for quick and efficient access.

The Archives: A Tribute to Society

The archive contents not only contain Widener's historical records, they also hold important parts of the history of Delaware County. Significant figures, such as Louis Kapelski, who served as principal investor and chief engineer of the American Paint Company (Amchem) in the late 1920's and made great contributions to Delaware County are documented in Wolfgram's archives. Kapelski served under four governors on the Navigation Committee for the Delaware River and its Navigable Tributaries and is responsible for establishing Delaware County's ferry system. He was appointed Pennsylvania Military College's First Captain by special order of the Commandant of College, on November 17, 1970, an honor previously bestowed only upon General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Cesar Graselli. Nearly a year later on October 14, 1971, PMC celebrated Louis Kapelski Day. The main result of Kapelski's dedication and contributions to the university was his donation of the Louis Kapelski Learning Center, dedicated to him on December 6, 1971.

Kapelski's tributes to Delaware County and Widener University were not overlooked when visitors came to the library. In fact, two visitors in particular were interested in accessing Kapelski's historical memorabilia, which without an index, weren't immediately searchable and a challenge to locate. Alexander searched the archives and found, among other things, a biography of Kapelski which had grown out of someone's conversations with him. Rather than photocopying this document and sending it to the two visitors, she used the Fujitsu fi-5650 scanner and simply scanned Kapelski's documents into a searchable PDF file and emailed them the electronic documents. She also placed them on the University's website for public access.

"Our own work has become more efficient," Alexander said. "When we receive a reference question, we are able to answer it from the electronic file of the documents rather than having to go to the originals. The scanner has expanded our outreach to many additional researchers who otherwise would not have access to this information."

The Future of the Archive and Fujitsu Scanners

The archive staff has completed the placement of over 100 issues of the PMC Newspaper onto the archives website in PDF format and they have many additional plans for digitizing more materials using the Fujitsu scanner. So far there have been more than 720 pieces of Widener history scanned and made available in the library and on the University's website.

Total documents scanned include:

  • A History of Pennsylvania Military College –1821 to 1954. (over 420 pages)
  • Pennsylvania Military College: The story of 100 Years. (over 200 pages)
  • The "PMC News", the school newspaper from 1919 to 1950 (over 100 issues)
  • A history of Louis Kapelski.
  • "Wearing the Gray", a document describing life at Pennsylvania Military College from 1897 to 1901.

Industries:

  • Education

Offering Groups:

  • Scanners

Solution Areas:

  • Imaging Solutions

Regions:

  • United States

Challenges:

  • Enable public access to cluttered masses of rich historical documents and information
  • Index historical content in a secure, electronic archive

Benefits:

  • Protected and preserved quality of aging paper-based documents in electronic form
  • Allowed full public access to content on university website, reducing need for inefficient manual personnel indexing