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Creating Communities: Digitizing Denver's Historic Neighborhoods

Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department
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Innovation Leader: Jim Kroll, Manager, Western History/Genealogy Department, Jkroll@denverlibrary.org

Problem Statement

People who live in the Mile High City want to make neighborhoods vital, living places. They search for an understanding of the past and the historical development of their city. The Internet has become an important resource for discovering historical information, and yet there are barriers to full discovery. The lack of resources of this nature in electronic form and the lack of a centralized repository supporting discovery and access of these materials challenges the researcher in the construction of a narrative of their neighborhood, both historically and as it is today.

Innovation

Through the IMLS funded Creating Communities project information about Denver neighborhoods were digitized and brought together in a centralized digital repository. This project brings together items in virtual space, which are physically located in institutions spread across the Front Range of Colorado. Creating the unique partnership of the public library with the City of Denver, University of Denver Penrose Library, University of Colorado Denver Auraria Library, Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and History Colorado, this project demonstrates how these groups came together to create a rich historical online resource. The Drupal based website features interactive Goggle maps and the “mydenver” section where users can share their own history. An iPhone mobile app was created in partnership with Socialight to highlight GPS enabled walking tours of the seven historic neighborhoods.

Progress

The Creating Communities website launched in August of 2010 and has grown steadily in use with about 100 hits a day. To date the project has digitized over 95,000 items and has processed, inventoried and cataloged over 32 collections. In October 2010, the library received funding from the IMLS to continue the project with the Creating Your Community: Empowering Individuals and Safeguarding Communal Heritage Through Digital Community Archiving project. This project will explore user-generated content through creating online communities, providing preservation programming and digitization of materials for inclusion in the website.