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Ohio Wesleyan Awarded Federal Funds for Library Digitization Project

October 7, 2008

DELAWARE, OHIO – Ohio Wesleyan University has been awarded more than $47,000 to collaborate with the Delaware County Historical Society to digitize and place online an estimated 1,200 rare documents recounting the history of the university, the Delaware community, and their ties to the Methodist faith.

The one-year Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant was awarded to Ohio Wesleyan by the State Library of Ohio using funds provided by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant marks Ohio Wesleyan’s first LSTA grant, said Theresa Byrd, Ed.D., the university’s chief information officer and director of libraries.

“This grant allows us to accelerate our efforts to digitize and share with the world some of our rare and fragile historical documents,” Byrd said. “The project also allows us to form an educational partnership with the Delaware County Historical Society to tell a more complete story.”

One of the fragile documents being digitized is a handwritten list of Delaware residents who pledged financial support in the 1840s to help purchase Ohio Wesleyan’s first building. The effort was spearheaded by the Rev. Adam Poe, then-pastor of the William Street Methodist Episcopal Church.

The joint project also will involve sorting and scanning historically significant manuscripts, maps, monographs, pamphlets, and photographs, Byrd said. The pieces will be digitized using an archival imaging scanner purchased with LSTA grant funds. The $30,000 scanner uses an arm-mounted overhead camera to create electronic images without damaging, or even touching, delicate documents. The also scanner will be available to other area libraries, Byrd said.

The project—titled “Our Shared History: Delaware, Methodism, and Ohio Wesleyan University”—is expected to be completed by July 1, Byrd said. While it is being completed, the university will be busy planning additional digitization projects.

Work already has begun, for example, to create a digital library of information about 1904 Ohio Wesleyan graduate Branch Rickey. As president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rickey opened the door for Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier. For his leadership, Rickey was honored as ESPN’s most influential sports figure of the 20th century.

Rock Jones, Ph.D., president of Ohio Wesleyan, said the initiative to digitize and share information ties into the university’s educational mission.

“Ohio Wesleyan’s historical archives contain a wealth of information,” Jones said. “Not only do we have information about our founding and about alumni like Branch Rickey, but we also have a Walt Whitman collection and we house the Archives of Ohio United Methodism for the East and West Ohio Conferences of The United Methodist Church. Digitization allows us to share this information with scholars, students, and others worldwide who may not be able to travel to Delaware, but who will benefit from access to these documents.”

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 47 states and 50 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.