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History lessons through a digital lens
Aug 7, 2018

While we often think about community service projects as those that address basic needs like hunger and shelter, there are other ways to fulfill unique needs in your community, too. BB&T Lighthouse Project Team Captain and Client Support Specialist Karen Zirk worked on a service project with the local Massanutten Regional Library several years back. When searching for this year’s Lighthouse Project for the Cash Operations team, Zirk reached out to the library to see if they needed any assistance.

The library’s Director of Advancement Michael Evans told her about the need to digitize a collection of 100-year-old photos taken by local photographer Floyd Wilmer Coffman, who served as an aerial reconnaissance photographer during World War I. The delicate images were dated between the end of 1918 and beginning of 1919. Currently, the photos are only viewable based on catalog descriptions and in the presence of library staff. Digitizing the photos will make them accessible to anyone.

The team decided it was the perfect opportunity to employ their own digital imaging and processing skills to help the community. Using a digital SLR camera and scanner purchased by the team, the BB&T associates worked in shifts to complete the often-involved process of scanning and uploading the photos. Operations Division Support Manager Theresa McMillan attended every session to document the associates’ hard work.  

A library staff member placed the photo on the scanner before the BB&T associate focused the camera to achieve the best-enhanced digital image. After uploading the images, both the associate and library staff member reviewed them, often discovering even more than what the naked eye could see.

“I think it’s amazing that once we digitized a photo, more detail became visible,” BB&T Client Support Specialist Tabitha Hemmis said.

Eventually, the library staff will transcribe the comments printed on the photo and photo pages, and catalog each of the images. The final step will be to upload the images to an internet host site where they will be visible to the public. In total, the team captured 497 images.

“The photos we worked with are of landscapes, battlefields and other sights in Europe after World War I and are super-unique for their content,” Zirk said. On one particular visit, Client Support Specialist Becky Halterman even digitized a German Army recruitment card.

The BB&T associates feel this project not only allowed them to digitize rare and unique photos, but also opens the opportunity for the public to access other local photographs for multiple uses.

“It is granting access to this collection that, for the most part, is unseen and unavailable to the public at-large,” Zirk said. “In addition, the collection has pictures, negatives and slides of local significance like flooding events, our downtown and photographs of the community. This project helps preserve this bit of history, and the raw images can be utilized by media and organizations for sharing, projects and research.”

The project had an immediate impact on the BB&T team. Production Supervisor Allison Fletcher and Client Support Specialist Dawn Kovesi both agree it has renewed their sense of curiosity in history and interest in the locations.

And the rest, as they say is… well, you know.

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