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Protecting Phoenix history by digitizing it and giving it away

I like Phoenix history, and I especially like old photos. Yes, I can read, but I still mostly wanna look at pictures. I'm a "pictures and captions" kinda guy. I like a short explanation and a really nice picture. And since I'm a Photoshop guy, I like to store photos digitally, where I can look at them at my leisure, as up close as I want to, with no limit whatsoever on the amount I have. My career as a graphic designer started with the change from analog (drawing boards) to digital (Macintosh computers) in the 1980s, and I loved digital stuff right away.

But a lot of people of my generation disagree with me. They don't value digital stuff, and it's not real unless it's on paper. And that attitude puts a lot of precious history at risk. I'll see if I can explain.

I was at the Burton Barr (the main library of Phoenix) a week before the flood damage, in the Arizona Room. I had never been in that room before, but I'd been in lots of places with wonderful old documents and every time I had asked in the past if I could take photos of the books I had been told no. Sometimes the no included a look of disbelief, or downright anger. But I still asked, and to my surprise they said "yes" that day. I was so nervous about this that I continued to ask the next librarian who took over the next shift, and they kept assuring me that it was OK. I took a lot of photos, brought them home, optimized them in Photoshop, and shared them on the internet.

A Phoenix summer bedroom in 1899, from the Arizona Graphic

Most of the photos were from a publication there called "the Arizona Graphic" from 1899. Yes, it's still there, and, no, it wasn't damaged in the flood, and none of the material in the Arizona Room was damaged. But if it had been, those probably would have been all that would have been left of that magazine (unless someone else had taken photos from it). Soggy paper never looks the same.

But digitizing is only half of it. In addition to that, the photos need to be distributed. I have a website that will allow me to do unlimited uploads, and I also share on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other places. I don't write "copyright" all over the images (which I consider desecration) nor do I insist that whoever uses them tips their hat to me. Copyright makes people nervous, and it makes people afraid to share. And the best way for the precious history that people like me are digitizing is to share it. I'd like to think that that photo up there, of the Carnival Queens of Phoenix in 1899 will be shared so many times that there would never be a chance of its ever being lost.

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