This month on the PLIF blog Information Literacy and Learning Librarian Jacqueline Geekie from Live Life Aberdeenshire talks about Precious Things Precious Stories. The inspiring library project was funded by the Public Library Improvement Fund in 2018.
Do you own an item that you would never part with because it is precious to you or your family? Is there a story that goes along with that item that you would want to have recorded for posterity?
Live Life Aberdeenshire was awarded PLIF funding in 2018 to capture the social history of the local area through the objects, letters, photos and documents that people treasure. We wanted to create an online collection of objects and stories that are precious to the individual contributor but not necessarily of high financial value.
We used the funding to purchase 3D scanning equipment, flatbed scanner and camera with which to capture each object. We bought a Nikon D750 camera with Nikon 24-70mm Lens; an Epson V800 Scanner and a HP 3D Scanner with turntable.
The funding also allowed us to purchase a domain name and create a website to make it easier for the public to find the collection. This allows the project to stand alone as well as link to our own website. Users can search for a specific image or browse the collection. We sent every contributor a link to their own item too so they can share it with family and friends for years to come.
We then needed people to come in with their precious things so we planned a series of collection days in four of our libraries. People could also book slots to make their trip easier to organise and ensure we didn’t have too many queues.
In practice however we found it was very difficult for our library staff to explain what was going to happen on the day and what type of object we were looking for. Many people didn’t think they had anything ‘good’ enough and this unfortunately resulted in a couple of events being cancelled due to a lack of bookings.
A rethink was needed so we turned to local reminiscence groups and went along to explain the project, asking them to bring in their ‘precious thing’ at the next meeting.
At the first of these meetings we arrived with no idea if anyone would bring anything but to our great relief they did and with wonderful stories. It was fascinating to hear from a lady whose teacher had brought her jewellery box to school and told all the girls in the class to pick something from it. She selected a striking necklace and when she herself became a teacher, wore it on every parent’s night. She remembered her teacher every time she wore it.
Sometimes a contributor would say they had a few things their children weren’t interested in and thought they might just be thrown out after they died. In these situations we felt a responsibility to record these items as part of their legacy.
Another successful collection event was part of a local gala called Peterhead Scottish Week. We teamed up with local antique dealers who were holding a valuation day in the library and they asked participants if they wanted their items digitised. At this event a gentleman arrived with snow shoes which belonged to his grandfather. A great find!
We have had to adapt and problem solve along the way but this has only contributed to the overall success of the project. For instance, We found the scanner struggled to get a good image of anything shiny, round or made of glass. So, we had to be inventive and create a GIF of the item using the camera, taking multiple shots and stitching them together to create the GIF.
Another factor was the storing of the images, which can take up hundreds of GB of data. We use a Sharepoint site to store the multiple images of each item and the Cultural Organisation free membership of Sketchfab to store 3D scans, like this kangaroo and baby joey which was made for a rural talent competition.
Now that we have a collection of things, we can show our library staff and potential contributors what we are creating. It will make promoting events much easier. We have over 30 items digitised and have two more collection events planned in the coming months and this number will only grow bigger.