Binghamton University to digitally preserve local history through Past 2 Future Project

2016-02-03

BINGHAMTON, NY – You might have preserved your grandmother’s wedding gown for posterity, or plan to pass a cherished family necklace along to your children, but what about photos, films, letters and other records – the kind of records that tell stories so easily lost?

What if you could have them digitized at no cost to you?

Binghamton University’s Past 2 Future Project (P2F) can do just that and is actively seeking letters, documents, photos, diaries, movies, audio-tapes and other records that depict the rich history of individuals and organizations in the Southern Tier. Students will digitize the records, return them and a digital copy to the owner, and Binghamton University will retain a copy for students, faculty and the community to use for research.

Kevin Wright, P2F director, has developed the project to be a true University-community connection, and one that opens up several paths for undergraduate research:

·      through information collection, processing and preservation (film digitization, cataloguing, preserving paper records and life-history interviewing);

·      by interpreting and analyzing the information; and

·      through independent research mentored by faculty members.

Wright’s vision is that some important themes or tracks will emerge from the digitized materials. "What I hope and think will happen is that we will start to accumulate a lot of information and some important tracks will emerge, like in innovation, entrepreneurship, immigration, environmental impact – and we can actually use the project as a recruitment device for getting freshmen here," he said. "We will teach them research methods and they’ll have real, live data to do research in their second semester of their freshman year."

A number of students are already involved in P2F, and will begin a series of oral histories with local residents in the spring semester, while others train on digitizing material.

As the digitized collection grows, it will provide scholars and students with valuable data for exploration and analysis that will provide the people of the Southern Tier with documentation of the area’s rich history, accomplishments, failures and everyday life over time.

There is certainly plenty of material out there. "Pretty much any time I talk to someone about it, they say ‘I’ve got something for you,’" said Wright, who noted P2F will be in the data collection stage well into the next semester and next year.

"We need a sufficient amount of data before we can hand it to students," he said. "As a researcher, collecting data and beginning to put it into user format is also part of the research project, not for the analysis, but by being actively engaged in data collection and data management."

P2F is located in the Nelson Rockefeller Center, Room 262, at Binghamton University. Contact Wright at wright@binghamton.edu or call 607-777-2051. 

Last Updated: 9/17/13