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Reveille digitization project preserves past

September 22, 2012

By MATT CRANE
life@starkvilledailynews.com

Through the efforts of Mississippi State University Libraries and the Lyrasis Mass Digitization Collaborative, every volume of the university’s student-published yearbook is now available online.
Randall McMillen, Digital Projects Coordinator, said partnering with Lyrasis allowed funding for the project to come through a subsidy grant from the Sloan Foundation.

“Each of the volumes from 1898-2008 is searchable thanks to the use of optical character recognition (OCR) software,” he said. “The files are housed on the Lyrasis server using their templates, but we built our own page that link to it and the files are freely available for partial or complete download.”

McMillen said Lyrasis required bound books with a smaller formatting size that were in relatively good condition.

“We only paid 10 cents per page plus shipping which was a great deal for us,” he said. “That pricing was also based on books that were 100 pages or more … we ended up spending under $5,000 for the entire project.”
McMillen said the project, which began in April and completed in Aug., was initiated in an effort to provide greater visibility for the Reveille and the university’s archives as well as preserving the information and photographs held in some of the more frail copies of the student yearbook.

“The yearbook is one of the best ways to learn about the history of the university and many of the original photos used years ago are probably long lost now,” he said. “There’s a lot of university history that’s contained nowhere else, especially the visual history.”

The Reveille, which made a return to print last year, documents the lives and events of students throughout the university’s history. The yearbook was first published in 1898 and did not reappear until 1906 where it saw a faithful, yearly printing until 2008. There are only two instances in which the Reveille saw major changes: In 1913, it was renamed the “Private 1913” and in 1944 it was not produced due to paper restrictions being enforced during World War II efforts.

McMillen said library employees were concerned about the shipping process, but the service Lyrasis delivered quelled fears once the process began.

“Some of our people were reluctant about sending these volumes off because there are some years that we only have one copy of,” he said. “We started with the most recent versions, so by the time we got to our oldest stuff, we had had three shipments that worked out perfectly so we were more confident in the process.”

McMillen, said the digitization of the Reveille allowed him to connect with the university he has known his entire life.

“I grew up on this campus because my dad was a professor,” he said. “It’s a major part of my life and history and I’ve seen so many things change.”

McMillen said while looking to earliest yearbook and seeing the differences then are astonishing, he urges current students to consider the changes that have happened in recent years as well.

“History is sort of lost to a lot of people and I feel like this opens up a lot of students’ eyes,” he said. “They get to see how different things were not just 100 years, but even 10 years ago.”

McMillen said he hopes to see many technological advancements with the university’s archives in the future, but for know he is happy with progress made and the potential for continued learning.

“This is all a real personal passion for me,” he said. “It’s about connecting to the past and it’s so interesting to see how different things were.”

To view the online version of the MSU Reveille, visit http://library.msstate.edu/Reveille.

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