The WestConn Archives have been working with local historical societies in Western Connecticut, including the Danbury Railway Museum, to help digitize collections and make them more widely available to the public. Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Brian Stevens saw that local historical societies had a wealth of information, but needed technical support to help them digitize.
Stevens has worked to become the point person for any assistance historical societies need. “I’m a resource to them as they get ready to increase their web profile. I help with anything from best practices for describing archival collections, to determining what would be a good collections management system. I want to be a resource to them,” said Stevens. WestConn even sets up internship opportunities at local historical societies that give students hands-on experience while providing historical societies extra support.
Stevens found many historical societies don’t know whom to contact for help. He aims to have the WestConn archives be the best and most well known resource for historical societies. Stevens sees this as a boon to WestConn and societies. “WestConn brings their materials that were in a back storage room onto the web. So everyone wins and they get help handling their materials, finding interns, and finding new systems,” he said.
Historical societies are the custodians of local history. One of Stevens’ goals is to help people who are conducting research gain access to materials more easily. “I want to really help make these collections useful to people doing research. I wanted to bring together different sources so that it’s simpler and more seamless for people to do regional research,” he said. Once digitized, materials are held in the WestConn Archives where any interested researcher can access them.
Stevens believes that local history plays an essential role in world history. “All history is local. You can’t do any macro history without micro history. If someone doesn’t have their eye on the micro, then the macro won’t exist.” He mentioned that Danbury was home to the Danbury Hatters Case (also known as Loewe vs. Lawlor), a landmark labor case that went to the Supreme Court. “It was a very important case and the only primary source documentation on it, outside of the hatters union records, are in places like the Danbury Railway Museum and the WestConn archives, places that are maintaining that micro history,” said Stevens.