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Moving the NMRA Kalmbach Memorial Library online

Railroading experts at Historical Archives Services have begun the daunting task of scanning the NMRA Kalmbach Memorial Library’s massive collection of photographs, drawings, slides, and plans. The first photos should be available online in early 2011.

Moving the NMRA Kalmbach Memorial Library online

by Gerry Leone, NMRA Communications Director

Research is an important part of any model railroading project. Having access to the right materials has become a little easier now that most library catalogs are available online in addition to the many photos and documents that have been digitized and made available to anyone. If you’re a subscriber to NMRA Magazine (formerly Scale Rails) you’ve seen the “Timeframes” series of photographs printed on the magazine’s last page. Those are all shots taken from the Kalmbach Memorial Library (KML) archives. The fact is, our NMRA Library has over 100,000 images, negatives, slides, plans and drawings, and only a handful have ever been seen by NMRA members because it would have entailed making a personal trip to Headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to flip through the files.

Soon that will all change, thanks to the NMRA’s Diamond Club. The Diamond Club is a fundraiser specifically designed to support adding enhanced content to our website. The first item on the list of is scanning those 100,000 images and making them available for download.

The good news is that scanning of the photographs has begun! Historical Archives Services (HAS) has been hired by the NMRA Board of Directors to do the scans and design the photo archive website. They began receiving and cataloging shipments of photographs from KML in August 2010. HAS estimates that the first batch of photographs will be available for viewing online sometime in the first quarter of 2011, after a short period of beta testing later this year.

Putting the entire library online will be a costly, time consuming task, since each photo’s listing will also contain highly detailed, searchable “metadata,” which is being added by the railroad experts at HAS. This detailed metadata will make it easier and faster for users to find exactly the photograph they’re looking for. Current plans are to make the low-resolution thumbnails of the photographs available to everyone via the website around the clock. Registered users will be able to download high-resolution files for a small fee, with NMRA members receiving a substantial discount. Proceeds from the download sales will help fund the remainder of the project and future Diamond Club web projects.

As promising as this sounds, it’s important to remember that the Diamond Club still hasn’t reached its projected goal of $75,000. If you haven’t contributed to this worthy cause, please send your donation now to The Diamond Club, NMRA, 4121 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, TN 376421, or do it online at www.nmra.org/diamondclub.

The NMRA is the National Model Railroad Association, Inc., a non-profit educational association whose purpose is both to promote the hobby of model railroading, and to help set standards within the industry. Membership is open to anyone, and offers broad access to a wide range of useful information for the model railroader.

This article was posted on: September 10, 2010