Athletic Department Digital Library Project
UPDATE (11/24): Thanks for all the generous support as we try and cruise past our goal, allowing us to digitize more of our collection, and at a faster rate, than we expected. The $20,000 goal is just a down payment on a multi-year project, so the support you provide will be used to get additional materials in the hands of our former student-athletes, their families, friends and fans. The sooner we can preserve these materials, the better. Thank you so much for all the support, and please continue to share the word!
More than 125 years of varsity athletics has provided memorable moments on and off the competition field, full of splendid student-athletes, coaches who embodied the idea of athletics as part of the educational process and colorful characters who painted the picture of the Big Red for the world to see.
It has been said that Cornell has had a baseball team since the first nine men registered. Rich tradition and history have followed Cornell athletics throughout the university’s storied past. Cornellians have been national champions in ice hockey, lacrosse, polo, rowing, track and field and wrestling. They have earned spots in halls of fame, on All-America teams, on the Olympic medal podium and have written their named in record books as Wimbledon tennis champions and major league players in baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey and lacrosse. All the while, it has done so by making its athletic and physical education program an integral part of the educational process without allowing its academic standards to drop one bit.
That history remains very much alive — in video, photos, box scores, stories and so much more. Much of the University’s historical archives currently reside in binders, file cabinets and boxes inside of Schoellkopf House, under the watchful and protective eyes of the Athletics Communication team. It’s now time to make much of that history available to all while protecting it for future generations. Digitizing documents, photo negatives and videos from the long and storied history of Cornell Athletics will allow for alumni, friends and fans to access this treasure trove of information for the first time. Just as importantly, it will also allow the department to pass off documents, film reels and photo negatives for proper storage with the University archives team. There they can be climate controlled and protected — safe and sound for the next 125 years — while still being fully accessible for modern day projects and research. The most immediate needs are:
- Digitizing tens of thousands of negatives in the department’s possession, more than 50 years of photos taken when only the very best images would be printed (unlike now, when digital images are cheap and easy to store). Including hardware/software and student work staff.
- Incrementally transferring reel-to-reel film and other assorted formats to digital. Transfer, because of the specialization, gets more expensive every year due to a number of factors, including scarcity of vendors and degradation of film.
For each image and document, there is a corresponding workflow that will allow them to be “tagged” with metadata and uploaded to the system so they will be searchable in the library. Much of this will fall on trained student help. The entire process is expected to take 5+ years, but can initially be launched within months. As photos and videos are delivered, they can be added in real time. Follow some of this work on Twitter: @BigRedArchives
We’ll also begin a crowdsourcing project to identify photos in a way that will generate conversation, stir up memories from those in the photos/videos and bring them closer to their teams and the department by letting them re-live their experiences as student-athletes. We have already accomplished:
- Digitizing the department’s paper documents, including statistics, results and press coverage, Hall of Fame, all-time great individual athletes and various staff and facilities files — estimated between 250,000-300,000 images. That’s roughly 125 file cabinet drawers worth of information accumulated over 80+ years. The digitization project created searchable PDFs using OCR technology.
This is a worthy and necessary addition to the department’s service offerings for present day coaches and student-athletes, alumni, family and friends. It serves multiple purposes, but none bigger than the opportunity to preserve, protect and widely share the storied history of Big Red athletics.