History, Digitized

“Baby on a rug,” August 8, 1914. Stafford County Historical Society.

Families in their Sunday best. Cherubic babies posed on rugs or sitting in bowls. Couples on their wedding day. In the early 1900s, Photographer W. R. Gray captured the milestones and memories of Stafford County residents at his St. John studio.

In 1986, Gray’s daughter, Jessie, donated nearly 29,000 glass plate negatives from the W. R. Gray Studio to the Stafford County Historical & Genealogical Society. With the assistance of three Kansas Humanities Council Heritage grants, the Stafford County Historical Society’s volunteers have conserved and catalogued one-third of the collection.

When it came to digitizing collection, the Stafford County Historical Society turned to the Forsyth Library at Fort Hays State University. Since 2008, Forsyth Library has digitized nearly 4,600 images from the Gray Studio collection and made them available online.  The library also provides best practices and on-going consultation to the staff and volunteers at the Stafford County Historical Society.

Here’s how it works: Stafford County Historical Society volunteers scan the images from the glass plate negatives and transfer them electronically to Forsyth Library. The library archivist uploads the images and metadata to the library’s digital archive, making the collection available online to researchers in Kansas and around the world. See the collection at Forsyth Library Digital Collections.

Hester Crawford, August 6, 1914. Stafford County Historical Society.

Does your historical society, museum, or library have a photo collection that you would like to digitize? KHC Heritage grants of up to $3,500 are available for photo digitization projects. Contact Murl Riedel, director of grants and programs, to find out more about applying for a Heritage grant to digitize your collection.