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A Look Inside Georgia's Virtual Vault

By CoSA News posted 10-02-2018 12:00 AM



The Georgia Archives, established by the General Assembly in 1918 under the auspices of the State Historical Commission, now functions as a unit within the University System of Georgia and moved to its current Morrow, Georgia home in 2003. The Archives collects and preserves the state’s official and historical documentary record and provides online access to some of its most intrinsically valuable items through Georgia’s Virtual Vault, a CONTENTdm-supported portal located on the Archives website. The Vault holds more than 1.6 million images of manuscripts, photographs, maps, and government records dating from 1733 to the present. The Georgia Archives marks its centennial this year with a variety of public events and educational projects, including presentation of the digitized World War I Casualties Scrapbooks Collection on Georgia’s Virtual Vault.

Preview of Georgia's Virtual Vault page

World War I Scrapbooks Online and The Georgia Archives Centennial

The Archives commemorates the 100th anniversary of its founding as the Georgia Department of Archives and History by hosting and promoting special programs throughout 2018. Georgia’s Virtual Vault added the World War I Casualties Scrapbook Collection to coincide with an April symposium, “Celebrating Archival Record-Keeping: The Georgia Archives at 100,” that included a session devoted to the war’s legacy in Georgia and the role of the Archives in preserving it. Representatives of the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission participated in the conference by staffing an information table on the Archives premises that day.

1919 Obituary for Nurse Camille O'Brien

Collection Contents and Context

The World War I Casualties Collection is composed of 17 volumes of typewritten service descriptions for wartime military personnel connected to the state of Georgia, ordered alphabetically by name. The documentation of every casualty from Georgia in the Great War was one of the first major projects undertaken by the Archives in 1919. Rosa Talbot Knight, wife of the first Archives Director, Dr. Lucian Lamar Knight, combed newspaper clippings, biographical sketches, letters and memoranda furnished by relatives, and the records of the State Council of Defense to supplement the roster compiled by the federal government of all soldiers, sailors and marines who served. The scrapbooks contain at least one page of information for each casualty, including name, rank, condition (wounded, died of disease, killed in action, missing in action, etc.), date of status report, hometown in Georgia, and next of kin (if known). The final volume of the Collection provides unofficial casualty lists ordered alphabetically by county.

An old record book, opened to a page with news clippings from 1918

Digitization Process and Partnerships

The delicate condition of the World War I Casualties Scrapbooks Collection, mainly comprised of World War I-era typing paper and newsprint, necessitated careful page-by-page color imaging on flatbed scanners and the temporary removal of contents from metal post bindings contained within each scrapbook. Many entries include notes handwritten in ink, and photographs and newspaper articles attached with glue. The digital version of the Collection consists of over 7000 images, and the electronic folder structure and file-naming conventions devised for administration and online publication reflect the original order of the physical items. Student employees from nearby Clayton State University, a member institution of the University System of Georgia also located in Morrow, fulfilled these reformatting tasks under the supervision of Georgia Archives Preservation staff. The project received additional assistance from an intern sponsored by the Friends of Georgia Archives and History [FOGAH], a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the institutional mission of the Archives.

A screenshot from Georgia's Virtual Vault

2018 Outreach and Electronic Resources

Alongside a busy calendar of “birthday”-themed occasions and tributes, the Georgia Archives continues its regular robust public engagement and strong social media presence in 2018. Monthly Lunch & Learn lectures, two Genealogy seminars, and the annual Georgia Archives Institute and Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council awards ceremony are among the recurring activities completed or scheduled for this year. The Archives frequently offers workshops on historical topics, records management, and disaster preparedness, and participates in educational and archival advocacy initiatives such as National History Day, MayDay, Georgia Archives Month, and CoSA Electronic Records Day.

The Georgia Archives looks forward to a second century of service in partnership with diverse and expanding communities. Please visit the Archives Facebook page to keep up-to-date on the wide array of outreach opportunities, including an exhibit planned for November in remembrance of the Armistice centennial, available to patrons in 2018 and beyond. And please explore Georgia’s Virtual Vault to discover the World War I Casualties Scrapbook Collection and the full scope of the Archives digital holdings.