The Rutland Historical Society has embraced the digital age since 2005, and it wants to show off some new digital resources it has available this weekend at its 50th anniversary celebration.
Jim Davidson, curator and past president of the Rutland Historical Society said Tuesday that an open house will be held Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. both days, at the society’s building at 96 Center St. There, the society wants to show people all the ways they can interact with local history digitally.
“We have moved so much to being an online historical society,” said Davidson. “We started that site (rutlandhistory.com) in 2005.”
The heart of the weekend presentations will be a technical demonstration about how to tap the historical society’s digital resources, though there will be historical society members around to talk about items, photos, and documents the group has gathered over the past 50 years.
One thing the society will tout is a partnership between the website newspapers.com and the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration that lets Vermont residents access digitally scanned copies of old newspapers, including the Rutland Herald. Folks can get started now by visiting the society’s web page and clicking the “newspapers” link beneath the “collections” tab.
“We weren’t directly involved in it, but we had been digitizing newspapers for Library of Congress Chronicling America, and we’d done a lot,” Davidson said, adding that few people know about this resource, and it’s one of the society’s goals to make sure more do.
He said the Rutland Historical Society is one of a relatively few such organizations that has embraced technology.
“It’s challenging,” he said. “We spent a year just designing, and we did get some help from a gentleman who volunteered to get started on the project. And as time goes on it becomes more and more complicated.”
Even now the society is looking for a volunteer with some tech savvy to help out.
“We do have a solid base — we have a wonderful webmaster,” Davidson said. “It’s not the only technical area we’ve been into. We’ve been involved with public access television, PEG-TV. We’ve been involved with them for over 20 years.”
He said the historical society does a monthly show produced and aired by PEG-TV. “At first, we thought we could do it weekly, then we realized, no way. So we moved to a monthly. We’ve done over 160 half-hour programs.”
He said PEG-TV can’t archive all of those episodes, but the society can and does.
This weekend, objects stored in the society’s basement will be on display, with volunteers to talk about them.
“We’re not really a museum,” Davidson said. “The building we are in is relatively small, the upstairs is filled.”
He said there are few options available to the group in terms of expanding its physical space, which is another reason why digitization is key. Documents and photos can be made available online, then stored wherever.
While it likes digital content, the society publishes a quarterly newsletter as well, the latest issue featuring a list of the society’s notable moments through the years. It mentions the website going live in 2005, Davidson being interviewed by the History Channel in 2003 and PEG-TV presenting it with the Romeo Award for the “Historically Speaking” video series in 2007.