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Enlighten Me: Delaware Historical Society’s Collection goes digital

The Delaware Historical Society in downtown Wilmington
Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media
The Delaware Historical Society in downtown Wilmington

The Delaware Historical Society is taking its collection online, currently work to digitize its treasure trove of history and make it more readily available.

In this week’s Enlighten Me, Delaware Historical Society’s Chief Curator Leigh Rifenburg discusses the process and what it will mean for anyone interested in examining the First State’s past.

Delaware Public Media's Tom Byrne interviews Delaware Historical Society Chief Curator Leigh Rifenburg

Photographs and documents compromise a major portion of the digital collection, and Delaware Historical Society chief curator Leigh Rifenburg says not everything will be digitized.

"There are certain things that are simply too fragile already to be digitized, and so we don't want to compromise those items. There are certain things that aren't necessarily of particular interest that we would make a priority for digitization. So we're really looking for things that are of the greatest visual interest, for instance a lot of our photographs are wonderful candidates for digitization," said Rifenburg.

Rifenburg adds that taking the collection online was always part of their plans, but the pandemic provided incentive to do it quicker.

"The pandemic certainly was a factor although access is one of our core goals here at the Delaware Historical Society, and it is something that we've been thinking about for a long time,” said Rifenburg. “But we were
able to pair with a wonderful program called Force for Good - which is sponsored by JP Morgan Chase - to be able to really sort of work with an experienced tech team to help us with our digitizing and create a mechanism for sharing and storing those materials for people to access easily."

Digitizing the collection is a work in progress with more being added each month.

To explore Delaware’s past online- you can visit the Delaware Historical Society's digital platform.

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Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.