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Western Maryland history site goes online

October 16, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Doing research about Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties has just become easier as a new Internet site containing historical documents and images has been launched, local historian Dennis Frye said Wednesday.

The site - www.whilbr.org - is an acronym for the Western Maryland Historic Library. It will be updated over time as more documents and images are digitally scanned in, Washington County Free Library officials said.

The site is part of the Maryland Digital Cultural Heritage Protect, which is funded with federal grant money. The project's goal is to aid the digital exhibition of Maryland-related historical documents, images, audio and video for public libraries.

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Frye said the hardest part for people like him doing historical research is finding information and getting access. Projects such as this can reduce how long it takes to find some information from months and years to minutes, he said.

"I am so pleased Western Maryland is on the forefront of the digital edge," said Frye, an author and consultant.

To get the information scanned in, the Western Maryland Public Libraries - which includes the Allegany, Garrett and Washington county libraries - hired a digitization librarian, Jill Craig, at about $45,000 a year.

The Internet site officially was unveiled at a Wednesday reception and demonstration at the library's downtown branch. The site is available for anyone to use, not just library members.

During the reception, American Library Association president Carla Hayden, speaking through video conferencing, praised the project. Hayden said she will use it as an example of how communities can share historical information digitally.

The Internet site includes a list of the burial places of the remains of Confederate soldiers who fell in the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, Monocacy and other points in Washington and Frederick counties.

By scanning in the information from a rare book published in 1869, the library is making the information more widely available. Many of these soldiers later were re-interred elsewhere.

The site also includes a digital copy of a 1893 directory of Hagerstown that listed adults alphabetically, but did not group family members together as would be done today.

The Internet site make it possible for the library to share this historical information with people through the Internet, Library Executive Director Mary Baykan said.

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