Over 125 years of Cornell athletics history sits on the shelves of Associate Director of Athletics for Communications Jeremy Hartigan’s office in Schoellkopf House.
These shelves house a catalogue of every varsity athlete who has lettered at Cornell, football scrapbooks dating back to 1887 that include game tickets and newspaper clippings and meeting minutes from the earliest University Athletic Council. In order to preserve these records that have been stored away for decades, the Athletics Communications team has begun a crowdfunding campaign to create a digital library.
Tens of thousands of photo negatives and film reels going back to the mid 1900s, VHS tapes, game programs and other documents fill cabinets and shelves around the rest of the office, and these would also be included in the digital library.
“The story remains, but the paper it’s written on crumbles,” Hartigan said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
According to Hartigan, the department hopes to compile an archive that is catalogued and easily searchable, as well as a social platform for former athletes and others to reminisce and discuss.
Hartigan said athletics plays a “huge role” in Cornell’s history.
“This crowdfunding opportunity is really a way to jump us forward in a way that would otherwise take us decades, and some of this data doesn’t have decades,” he said.
Hartigan anticipates that the entire project will take six to seven years. He said that as the Athletics Communications team starts to share photos and videos, others will probably “get excited” and want to donate money to the project.
The department has already begun the process, with 55,000 photos digitized. The funds from the campaign will be used to hire student workers and purchase equipment. Some of the more difficult processes, including preserving film, will be outsourced to archiving specialists.
The monthlong campaign, posted to Cornell’s crowdfunding page on Nov.1, has attracted 72 donors and raised over $17,000 of the $20,000 goal.
The majority of donors have been student athlete alumni as well as those connected with the athletics office.
“The people in those photos are now at a time in their lives when they’re reminiscing the old days, about what it was like when they were students,” Hartigan said. “Doing this for them and their families is really important. It’s going to benefit thousands and thousands of former student athletes.”