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Grant to Fund Online Collection
of Historical Images
October 11, 1999

The Institute for Museum and Library Services' National Leadership Grant program has awarded $335,000 for the creation of a 15,000 image, Web-based visual collection of 19th-century Connecticut images, Connecticut History Online.

The project, made possible by a collaboration between the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, the Connecticut Historical Society and Mystic Seaport Museum, is intended to foster online research. As image collections appear on the Web, patterns of research and classroom instruction are changing to accommodate the explosion of new resources. Connecticut History Online will make available 15,000 graphics documenting various aspects of life in 19th- and early 20th-century Connecticut and America. The database will be one of the larger collections of digital images available over the Web, providing an unparalleled opportunity to search masses of images efficiently.

"This is an excellent opportunity to make available to a much wider audience important and one-of-a-kind material."

Thomas Wilsted
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

"From the middle school student seeking to illustrate a class report, to the architectural historian looking for examples of window design in early 20th-century industrial buildings, researchers will find Connecticut History Online to be both a starting point for broader research and an easily accessible, self-contained world for the visual exploration of history, design, and material culture," says David Kahn, executive director of the Connecticut Historical Society.

The Dodd Center, the Connecticut Historical Society and Mystic Seaport Museum own a vast range and variety of Connecticut images, numbering more than 400,000 in total. Throughout the museum and library world, however, access tools such as catalogs, indices, and lists rarely reference sources for visual images.

Connecticut History Online will begin as a database of 15,000 images and succinct individual descriptions. The configuration is not a new concept - images linked to descriptions - but the size of the database, its cooperative origins, and the multiple levels of access provided will establish a model. The collaboration between the three partners has been designed so that additional members can be added.

"This is an excellent opportunity to make available to a much wider audience important and one-of-a-kind visual material only found at historical repositories," says Thomas Wilsted, director of the Dodd Center. "In addition, staff of three significant Connecticut institutions will develop and expand their skills in order to share collection materials with the public in ways which reflect current technological developments."

The project will create better access to local history for middle and high school students learning about Connecticut and American history. It also will facilitate "online field trips" and encourage follow up visits to the actual repositories.

Teachers and students will work with the project leaders during the next two years as researchers and investigators to develop online activities, classroom lessons, teachers' workshops, and student-friendly finding aids.