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It's Easy to Become Part of West Hartford's Visual History

The West Hartford Library, together with the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society, is creating 'West Hartford Places and Faces' – an online visual history of the town.

If you have boxes or albums full of old photos taken in West Hartford, or even just a few special images, the West Hartford Library would like to make your memories a permanent part of the town's history.

On Saturday, the library is beginning a community history project in collaboration with the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society to scan and digitize those photos, and add them to the West Hartford Places and Faces collection on History Pin, an online mapping site.

"I went to a conference a few years ago, and someone spoke about web-based tools to engage the public in a collaborative project," said Martha Church, reference librarian at the West Hartford Public Library.

"There are so many older folks in town, many of them are downsizing. What do they do with all of their photos?" she thought.

The idea of creating a visual history appealed to Church, and fit with the library's long-range plan of greater collaboration with the community. For this project, she has partnered with Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society Executive Director Chris Dobbs and Archivist Sheila Daley.

West Hartford Places and Faces has been designed to capture the history of the town in a permanent collection which should easily attract contributions, and can be safely preserved and constantly updated.

Church said that current and former West Hartford residents are invited to contribute old photographs showing West Hartford homes, parks, streets, businesses, town buildings and local events or activities such as parades, sporting events, concerts, graduations or gatherings.

The images can be photos, 35mm slides, or even negatives. Volunteers at the library will scan them and “pin” the images, along with brief descriptions, to the West Hartford Places and Faces collection on the online mapping site History Pin, found at http://www.historypin.com/channels/view/id/12403011/.

Church said that History Pin is affiliated with Google, and is designed to show different places at different points in time, using the platform of a Google map. For example, one photo has already been submitted of a home on the corner of South Main St. and Boulevard. The home has been moved to another site now, but the pinned place shows the earlier scene as well as today's streetscape in the same spot.

The site is driven by the "places," and Church said that they need an approximate date a photo was taken as well as a reasonably good idea of the pictured location.

Although a small number of photos have already been pinned, the project kicks off in earnest on Saturday when volunteers will be accepting images at the West Hartford Library's Local History Room from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Old photos can be dropped off to be scanned, and contributors will be asked to write a brief description of the image. "That's the story that goes with it," Church said.

Images may also be brought to the library for scanning on Saturday Oct. 13 or Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

The metadata will be created by library staff, who will also upload the digital images to West Hartford's History Pin channel. That function is being centralized so that the collection can be well-organized and kept all together.

The purpose of the project is to bring together all those with ties to West Hartford in creating a visual history of our town, Church said. Photos will be returned after scanning, or if preferred they can be donated to the collection of original photos at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society.  Anyone wishing for a copy of the digital image may ask to receive it via email, she said.

Church has provided two images as samples of what they hope to receive from residents. "What I like about the Memorial Day parade picture is that it is just the kind of old snapshot that I think people probably have but don’t realize it’s value as far as town history goes. The fact that you can see the shops at 10 North Main as they were in 1961 as well as the fact that the Memorial Day parade has been a big town event for such a long time make this one of my favorite photos!" she said.

For more information or to ask questions please call the Noah Webster Library Information Desk at 860-561-6990, the Noah Webster House at 860-521-5362, or visit the library’s West Hartford Places and Faces page: http://westhartfordlibrary.org/research_tools/local_history/historypin.

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