Opening access to more Oak Park treasures

Genealogists and local history buffs, take note: more photographic treasures telling Oak Park’s local story from the Civil War and beyond will soon be available online, thanks to a grant the library received in October.

On the heels of successfully completing its Hacking Hemingway: Cracking the Code to the Vault digital imaging grant, the library has received another grant from the State of Illinois. With the new $2,900 grant, the library will make available for the first time inventories of select collections and expand access to digital objects that give insight into Oak Park’s history from as early as the Civil War.

The library was awarded the matching grant in October from the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board (ISHRAB), which promotes the identification, preservation, access to, and use of historical records in Illinois. Other grant recipients receiving Historical Records Grant Program funds include The Adler Planetarium, the Southeast Chicago Historical Society, and the Sterling Morton Library at The Morton Arboretum.

Searchable inventories

“We are using our matching funds to create easily searchable inventories as well as to make digital items available online,” said Emily Reiher, Archivist at the Oak Park Public Library.

Under its “Engagement Through Access: Promoting Oak Park History Through Online Finding Aids” grant project, the library plans to create online inventories of four of its collections, plus one collection from The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, making their contents more searchable and accessible online.

The library also will publish more images of historical artifacts online in the Illinois Digital Archives and the Digital Public Library of America, building on the unprecedented access delivered this summer through the $86,900 grant-funded Hacking Hemingway project from Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White.

What’s to be included in the grant

The library’s Special Collections included in this grant are the Local Authors Correspondence Collection, the Philander Barclay Photograph Collection, the Grand Army of the Republic Volumes, and the Gilman Lane Photograph Collection. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park collection included is the Frank Laurence Collection, which is housed at the library and contains movie posters from films based on Hemingway’s works.

Potential digitized Items include:

  • Glass-plate negatives and prints taken around the turn of the 20th century by famous Oak Park local Philander Barclay
  • War sketches and photographs of Oak Parkers who served in the Civil War, including Ernest Hemingway’s grandfathers
  • Photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Oak Park, River Forest, and beyond, from the library’s Gilman Lane Photograph Collection

Showing impact

Although items from the collections will still be available to view in person at the Main Library by appointment, this grant project is expected to “dramatically increase options for viewing and using these unique one-of-a-kind historical materials,” said Leigh Tarullo, Curator of Special Collections.

“In a matter of weeks, we’ve already had two major researchers make requests to use materials displayed in the Illinois Digital Archives for book-length publications,” Reiher added. “We’re thrilled about the depth and reach of that exposure and want to continue to reach new audiences.”