Army past is preserved for the future

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Museum of the West, located at Crestmont in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, uses modern technology to preserve Army history.

by Matt Bingham – 

The Salvation Army’s Museum of the West has recently begun the ambitious project of digitizing its collection, which includes some 20,000 pieces. A commitment has been made to transfer the many audio cassette tapes, LPs, VHS tapes, photographs, documents, 35mm slides, and film negatives to popular digital formats. The museum also has set up a reproduction stand for photographing three-dimensional objects and two-dimensional pieces that are too large to be scanned. The digital reproductions can then be incorporated into the museum’s catalog, enabling more thorough and effective research.

When looking up a record of a photograph in the catalog, a user would find not only the details about the photo’s known history and provenance (origin), but also a high-resolution digital version of the photograph that could be fully examined and printed without ever having to handle the original. Similarly, instead of just a text record about a musical instrument, for example, the user could instantly view digital photographs of the instrument, taken from several angles.

The advantages of having these digital records so easily accessible are many. In addition to having a permanent record of each item in the event of damage to or loss of the original, the researcher is saved the work of having to physically remove each item from the collection in order to view it. Perhaps most importantly, the historical items themselves are saved the inevitable deterioration that results from frequent handling. By harnessing the power and convenience of digital media, the Museum of the West is working to more effectively preserve and share our Army heritage.

Captain Linda Jackson serves as the director of the Museum of the West; Matt Bingham is the museum coordinator.

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