Kudos

Irene Finley carrying William Jr. across a creek
Irene Finley carrying William Jr. across a creek, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940; Org. Lot 369; b1; Finley A72.

Almost two years ago (June 19, 2015, if I consult my diary), I was in the reading room at the Phillips Library. I recall it being relatively quiet for a summer day, with not many researchers to attend to. My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I was in the unpleasant habit of keeping it on me, because young kids in daycare get sick a lot, and I was frequently called to pick up a toddler in the throes of the latest ailment: stomach bug, spots, pinkeye, plague.

This call was different. M was on the other end, and he had News. Six months after being laid off, his recent phone interviews with the Oregon Historical Society had been successful, and he was invited to move across the country to join their team. He (we) accepted.

William L. Finley Jr. Portrait
William L. Finley Jr. Portrait, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940; Org. Lot 369; b1; Finley A67.

It was not easy.

There was the time issue. We had six weeks to pack up our lives and find a way to move our things to the opposite coast at the height of summer. I was still working full-time, and our toddler spent four days of the week home alone with M. Free time was minimal.

There was the geography issue. M had never been west of Iowa, and all of his family lived within a few hours’ drive of our Massachusetts home. I was blasé about my personal relocation but very aware that it might not be so easy for him.

Dogsled, Claude Ewing Rusk expedition
Dogsled, Claude Ewing Rusk expedition, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, 1901-1999; bulk: 1901-1927.; Org. Lot 140; b1.f14A.

There was the lifestyle issue. In a short time, our daily routines would completely swap. In the midst of our frantic move preparations, I was mulling what it would mean to suddenly leave a job (and, to date, a career) that I loved and was progressing in and become a full-time parent. I was uneasy but trying to be optimistic. M was eager to dive into work that was fulfilling, meaningful, and aligned with his skills and interests.

It was a lot to pack into six weeks. But we managed it, and we even landed a good apartment after just four incredibly hot days of hunting. Then, in August, M got down to business. Now, the major product of his efforts is ready.

OHS digital collections screenshot

Please check out the Oregon Historical Society Digital Collections.

The Oregon Historical Society holds a wealth of visual materials across a variety of media. Digital versions of these materials have been created and obtained in waves and spurts over the years. Now, the first batch of them is online and ready to view, in an electronic home built by M.

From Rooster Rock to Oneonta Falls. Relief Train at Bridal Veil (D 113)
From Rooster Rock to Oneonta Falls. Relief Train at Bridal Veil (D 113), Carleton E. Watkins photographs, 1861-1885; Org. Lot 93; b6.

I am no Luddite, but I have spent many dinner conversations over the past eighteen months nodding politely and endeavoring to keep an intelligent look on my face. M enthusiastically and fluently discourses about ingest processes and information packages and checksums. I don’t get most of the technical intricacies (I am usually relieved when the topic turns policy-related), but I’m tickled that he does. His passion is historical visual objects, but his métier is technology. I am in awe of how seemingly easily he conceptualized and created this digital repository.

Joaquin Miller with Senator Fulton's family, Crater Lake, Oregon, 1903
Joaquin Miller with Senator Fulton’s family, Crater Lake, Oregon, 1903, Kiser Photo Co. photographs, 1901-1999; bulk: 1901-1927.; Org. Lot 140; OrHi 101868.

Few projects are entirely solo efforts, and this is no exception. OHS IT staff is heavily involved. Marketing staff weighs in frequently. Other library staff spend endless hours on the actual creation of the digital objects. [Sidebar: please do not write off the digitization effort as trivial. People outside the cultural heritage world (and many inside it, unfortunately) generally underestimate what a colossal undertaking it is. Any variation on the theme “just digitize it” is enough to send me off on a rant. Creating, describing, disseminating, and preserving high-quality digital objects is NOT EASY OR QUICK.] And finally, back to the point, colleagues at Oregon State University contributed particularly to the William L. Finley Collection (my personal favorite).

H. T. Bohlman Scaring Gulls
H. T. Bohlman Scaring Gulls, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940; Org. Lot 369; b18; FinleyA2070.

In many organizations, individuals are not always publicly singled out for their contributions. M’s name is unlikely to be in any of the promotional materials, but make no mistake: this is his creation. And this is my blog, and I am biased as all get out, so I get to use this post to promote him.

M, I will be direct for a moment.

Your triumphs have been balanced by trials. There were the usual ups-and-downs related to administration or money or time. Tech hiccups diverted you with annoying regularity. You even had to get glasses! And the kid and I and our mundane troubles have frequently intruded on your process. Oh, I grouse plenty, love, but I am so damn proud of you. I cannot wait to see what you achieve next. I’m sure the file transfer speeds will improve.

Bohlman and Peck Digging the Automobile from the Sand
Bohlman and Peck Digging the Automobile from the Sand, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940; Org. Lot 369; b20; FinleyA2296.

So, readers, if you see the Oregon Historical Society’s digital archivist around, please give him a high five or handshake. And perhaps a mocha. He is quite tired.

UPDATE (June 6, 2017):

M has been making the radio rounds discussing the project. Listen at the link (I will add more as they become available):

Jefferson Public Radio

All images in this post (except the screenshot of the webpage) are courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society Research Library but are under no U.S. copyright. Other images in the OHS Digital Collections may have restrictions. Please inquire of OHS if you have questions.