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Cleveland High School Yearbooks Digitization
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Cleveland Public Library began collecting yearbooks in 2003. By 2010, the Social Sciences Department had acquired yearbooks from the majority of Cleveland high schools. With a fast growing collection, the Library was searching for a way to make the collection relevant to the widest number of people as possible while preserving some of the oldest yearbooks in the collection. Digitizing entire yearbooks was not common but would provide great access to local historical documents.
The Preservation Manager and Social Science Department Manager prioritized the yearbook digitization efforts and provided focus for a pilot project. After consulting with Ohio Genealogical Society, they began the first known project to digitize and preserve entire yearbooks. One by one, entire yearbooks from early twentieth century Cleveland high schools are being added to the digital collection, opening a wonderful window into the history of Cleveland’s neighborhoods. For example, the collection includes East High’s yearbook from the first year the school existed. Other notable discoveries are photographs of girls’ basketball teams from 1904-1905 and of author Langston Hughes from his days at Central High. They have been an invaluable resource for genealogists and local historians.
The yearbooks are currently being incorporated into the Library’s Digital Gallery. To date, there have been 6,869 paged added to the collection (64 volumes), with representation from several Cleveland high schools. Ultimately, all thirteen Cleveland high schools in existence over the years will be represented in the collection. The work on digitizing the yearbooks will be a multi-year project, but the Library has already seen the work pay off. In March 2011, pages from the yearbooks were viewed over 2,200 times.