November 29, 2000

Mann Digitizes Home Economics Documents

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Mann Library will be gathering and digitizing thousands of documents on the history of home economics thanks to a $277,000 national leadership grant for preservation of libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“We are trying to find the books that have had the greatest impact on the field,” said Marianne Hansen, special projects librarian.

Before the IMLS grant, those working on the project gathered materials for a set of 13 bibliographies pertaining to the history of home economics, which are divided into fields of research. Included on these lists are over 10,000 documents published before 1950 on the topic. Cornell Co-operative extension provided the funds for the creation of the bibliographies.

The current task, funded by the IMLS grant, is to narrow the list down to the 1,500 documents ranked most important, which will be carried out by consumer and family studies librarians throughout the country.

Hansen noted that the project will shed light on the pioneers and early figures in the area of home economics.

“It turned to a ‘where should I put the flowers on the table’ kind of field, but through home economics, women entered professional fields. They worked on public health, water quality, public policy,” she said.

Once the collection is chosen, the books and other documents will be transferred to the World Wide Web for easy access.

“The grant will permit us to take actual examples of books on the lists and create a digital library,” Hansen said. “It will permit us to scan, do Optical Character Recognition and digitize 1,500 volumes.”

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) allows for scanned documents to be transferred to text for easy reading and printing. Two versions of each document will then be available, an actual scanned copy of the piece and a text version.

The goal of the initial compilation of data is to create a foundation for more extensive collection in the area of home economics in the future.

The grant was provided in part because of the potential for an overall improvement of library services. The organization has devoted recent funds specifically to digitizing materials, including projects on the culture of the Virgin Islands and the Louisiana Purchase era.

Archived article by Stacy Williams