Preservation is what the Somervell County Historical Commission is all about.
While Dorothy Leach was recently being named Preservationist of the Year by the city of Glen Rose, she was directing a behind the scenes effort aimed at preserving local history for generations to come.
Leach, historical commission secretary, is charged with documenting the efforts of the organization as it works to record the county’s history. That effort led her to sign on to lead the “My Hometown Community History Project,” through NOAH, “The World’s Digital Museum.”
The project is a digital archive of the county’s past, present and future generations through an online resource - NOAH (Network Optimized Archive of History).
The program is the brainchild of a group of digital archiving veterans, which includes Glen Rose native Bridges Hague, co-founder of a company called Digital Ark.
Members of the commission began the process of placing digital copies of historical media that was previously catalogued and stored into the network last summer.
“Now we can bring the county’s history to life and share it with all citizens,” Leach said.
While its creators hope to see NOAH take root around the world, creating digital family trees for individuals, communities and organizations, they are kicking off awareness through community projects like the one underway for Somervell County.
Visitors to alwaysnoah.com can see “Visual History of Somervell County, Texas” beginning to take shape by clicking on “view timelines.” Another project celebrating Highland Park’s 100-year anniversary can also be seen.
Hague said preservationists like Leach have made the effort possible.
“Our local museums and historical commission have done a great job of finding and archiving media,” Hague said. “Until now, those archives have been protected by being placed into a box and put into a closet somewhere. When someone wanted to learn about that history, they had to dig through the boxes until they found what they were looking for.”
The preservation of history begins when archivists scan historical data and images and save them into the online data base, which allows them to record keywords and associated dates to be attached to the images.
When visitors view the images and have additional detail, about the image’s history, they can suggest edits and revisions to make the records as accurate as possible.
NOAH allows individuals interested in learning more on a topic to use a search engine to filter content by using keywords such as family names, community events or year as specified by archivists.
For example, if an individual was interested in searching the history of the Bridges family, they would enter the name and the rest of the county’s digitized history would disappear from view.
While NOAH offers preservationists like Leach an opportunity to encapsulate history, it also offers an innovative way to preserve the present.
“The intent is to also capture history as it happens, while the memories of events are still fresh, continuing the historical timeline indefinitely," Leach said.
The idea behind NOAH was sparked when a friend’s home in Nemo caught fire about three years ago.
“She said the wood and stone were insured, and the house could be rebuilt,” Hague recalled. “But the family Bible, historic letters and family photos were gone and could never be replaced.”
Thus the idea of “creating an archive for the common man” was born. Hague said although the lives and history of famous people are protected, the average guy gets lost in time or destroyed by disaster.
The online archive can be used to record important documents like birth and marriage certificates, photos of a person’s life and souvenirs from memorable events can be recorded in image or text format.
The records can then be shared with a select group of people, such as family members or open to anyone around the world.
“Families, platoons, churches… no matter who the subjects are, NOAH gives us the ability to watch and track their lives,” Hague said. “Noah is designed to be an archive that can be shared for many generations to come.”
And anyone, anywhere can access the archive - family members in the military, away at college or working across the country – and add their own history to the timeline.
“Decades from now, people can go back and see what was going on in our lives, individually or as a family,” Hague said.
On a personal level, genealogical events such as weddings, births and deaths can be recorded alongside the history of family recipes and heirlooms. Even things like business advice shared between family members can be saved.
“If I were to die tomorrow while my children are still young, they could go back to my personal timeline and learn things about me they might have never known, advice I was never able to give,” Hague said.
As the Somervell County project progresses, Hague said documenting the county’s history is a community-wide effort.
Community members can provide records of current events – Fourth of July Parade, Christmas in the Park, high school graduations - and they become a part of the historical archive.
“Citizens are asked to consider any photos, historical documents or letters or movies or videos, which they would like to share on the community timeline,” he said. “Volunteers will be available 1-3 p.m. every Tuesday at the courthouse over the next few weeks to scan records and they could be placed in the archive.”
Individuals who already possess digital copies of their records or who have questions about the project can email Hague at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors are asked to share any relevant information about the images or information they are submitting, including names, dates and storyline. Contributors will not be asked to surrender their archives, as digital copies will be made. They also retain all rights to the images submitted.