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Pasadena’s past to ‘come alive’ with historic online photo album

September 28, 2011 |  8:44 am

Little Old Lady from Pasadena History is going digital in Pasadena.

A group of local cultural institutions has been scanning, cataloging and uploading images of the city's past to the Internet, creating an extensive online database known as the Pasadena Digital History, the La Canada Valley Sun reported.

The Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena Museum of History, Pasadena City College and Huntington Library so far have placed 4,000 photographs and documents in the collection, all available to the public at Pasadenadigitalhistory.com.

In addition to a searchable database, the site features special collections on topics such as the Tournament of Roses and Busch Gardens, the sprawling former winter estate of brewing magnate Adolphus Busch.

The group also is using the online photo-sharing service Flickr to maintain a gallery of "mystery photos," inviting the public to help date and identify them.

"This is about making Pasadena history come alive," said Pasadena research librarian Martha Camacho, who launched the collaborative in October with a $5,000 grant from the California State Library.

Camacho, 28, started with approximately 600 images, many of which the library already had scanned. But the project really took off when Camacho teamed up with Pasadena City College Dean of Library Services Mary Ann Laun.

PCC's Shatford Library has been digitally preserving its archives since 2006 and possessed the software that now hosts the online collection.

Last year, Laun obtained a grant from the Pasadena City College Foundation for an experimental library technology program in which 12 students worked 60 hours each building the database.

"From that experience we've developed a curriculum we can use to formally train people for jobs in records management -- not just in libraries, but museums or companies that keep archives," Laun said.

The school might offer formal records management classes as early as next summer.

Trained workers and volunteers are needed to grow the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration and other projects like it, Laura Verlaque, director of collections at the Pasadena Museum of History, said.

Volunteers help maintain the museum's collection of more than 1 million historic photos and other printed materials, just 2,000 of which have been digitized. Even fewer have been uploaded due to a shortage of trained workers.

"It's like chipping away at a great big boulder," Verlaque said. "We have an absolutely enormous collection and a modest budget, but it's crucial to let it have a wider audience."

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-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Photo: The Little Old Lady from Pasadena is one of the "mystery photos" Pasadena researchers need help identifying and captioning. Credit: Pasadena Digital History Collaboration

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