Western New York Suffragists: Winning the Vote
Every project is a learning experience and there are always things that
could be done differently. Those involved in the project have compiled the following list of
major lessons learned.
- Collaboration with the participating institutions:
- The project team often worked with volunteer or part-time staff at historical societies
and historian offices. This required more of an educational effort about the project than
- In some cases, the team had to work with multiple individuals to determine use and
restrictions on specific items. This occurred both in large and small institutions. In
some large institutions, our request had to be approved by a committee that oversees use
of the collection.
- Not all institutions know what items they have in their collections. This required the
team to make multiple contacts with the institution to ask about the collection in
"different" ways. For example, since many institutions have not recognized that some
of the items belonged to suffragists, the team had to determine which institutions
would likely contain items belonged to which regional suffragists and then ask the
institution about those specific people.
- Some institutions, even though they understood the project and its value, did not
want to participate. Institutions may be reluctant to let materials leave the site. In
a few cases, internal political issues, structural changes, and building construction
prevented some institutions from participating.
- Although some institutions did not participate, the team received assistance from
private individuals, government institutions, small historical societies and museums,
large museums, public libraries, academic libraries, and local "Friends" organizations.
- Collaboration among members of the virtual project team:
- The team project staff plus volunteers worked together well and was very flexible,
however, several things would have improved the overall process.
- The "virtual team" -- staff, contract workers, volunteers -- should have met
occasionally as a "real" team, in order to improve communication. This was difficult
because all staff were part-time and in different locations.
- The job of cataloging -- which was not covered by the grant, but which was necessary
for the project, had to be handled by a volunteer cataloger (an intern from the Library
School at SUNY Buffalo). This created problems in integrating cataloging into the project.
- Letters of recommendation:
- The project was fortunate to have a digitization vendor who has worked with several
of our participating institutions but not all of them. Some did not know of the company's
quality and care. This caused concern with at least one institution. With another
institution, once we said who the vendor was, we were given an immediate "go ahead".
Because the digitization vendor works with all of the institutions, it may be helpful
to get letters of recommendation for the vendor's past work that can be shown to the
participants. This will make them more comfortable in working with the vendor.
- Project cost and timeline:
- Although this was a digitization project, the actual digitization was a minor piece
of the implementation and one that went seemingly by the book. The real effort was in
creating the web site and the text content. That is what gives the site its "meaning" -
but it is also what costs the most.
- Institutions undertaking digitization projects should anticipate some ongoing
maintenance costs. The cost to market a web site is estimated by some institutions to
be 5 - 10 times the cost to build the site. This would include hardcopy and electronic
PR/marketing. Even the low-cost methods (e.g., submission to search engines) require
time and energy to implement and monitor.
- Education issues:
- For as much as we know, there is still more to learn and to be reinforced. It will
take a long time and much effort before all of the institutions that need to learn
about digitization are well informed and ready to begin digitization projects on
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