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Digitizing Decades
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street


Larry Brooks and Lauren Bridges at the DMHS storage space at the Del Mar Community Building.
Photo Nancy Fisher.  Click on photo to enlarge.

The Del Mar Historical Society, incorporated by Swede Throneson in 1985 with a $1000 grant from the Del Mar Foundation, is moving toward the future in a big way.

When Larry Brooks, current President of the DMHS, first became involved with the organization about twelve years ago, he found that their entire collection of photographs was stored in three-ring binders in the trunks of the cars of several members. He laughs at the memory and recalls asking “haven’t you guys ever heard of computers?” After loading the photos onto his laptop, he began walking around town asking “who is this, who is that, and what was the event?”

Since then the DMHS has come a long way, with members working together to convert photographs and a growing collection of oral histories to digital format, but their biggest break came about a year ago when they received an unexpected call from Lauren Bridges of “Uncommon Archaeology.”

Lauren, who has a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Historical Archaeology, has worked with museums and historical societies all over the country to organize collections and make them accessible to the public. When her military family was relocated to the San Diego area, she reached out to local historical societies to see if she could donate her time and services. “I’ve always had a passion for public outreach and making sure that the history of a place is accessible to the public, because why else are you preserving it? And it helps me learn about the history of the community pretty quickly, too.” Brooks was thrilled to get the call and says “she could probably hear me jumping up and down from the other end of the phone!”

During the past year Lauren has worked with the DMHS to make strides toward their goals of making the collection both accessible to, and searchable by, the public. “If someone comes to town and says that their mother used to live in Del Mar and they’d like more information,” says Lauren, “you want the system to be in a digital, searchable, format.”

The first step was to take stock of what the society had in its archives, which included collections of historic photographs, papers, and a few artifacts related to the history of Del Mar. Among these objects were the oral histories by Del Mar’s first historian, Swede Throneson, which inspired the current oral history projects. The collections room, at the Del Mar Community Building, was reorganized and labeled (with all of the storage materials generously donated by DMHS members) to ensure future members can easily locate specific collections for public exhibits. A Collections Management Policy was put in place to set the standards for how items are brought into the collection, how objects are maintained, and specific action steps to be taken in the event of a disaster. Something Lauren has noted in many years of working with historical societies is that membership changes often, so she strives to create a system that future leadership can build upon rather than reinvent.

In addition to her organizational skills, Lauren has also provided expertise on how to reach out to the community to get more residents involved. Among her suggestions are traveling trunk shows, centered around a theme, that could be displayed in the library, the post office, or a classroom, and would be accompanied by activities related to the exhibit. The first trunk show may contain items associated with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Del Mar Lifeguards which will be co-sponsored by the DMHS and the Friends of the Powerhouse in March 2015.

When asked about ongoing attempts to relocate the historic Alvarado House to a permanent location, Lauren offers that “from my experience it will take someone who can commit full-time to moving a historic home, advocating for it, and creating public awareness and support for it.”

The DMHS is currently seeking people interested in Del Mar history and upcoming projects, and encourages residents to join them in preserving and sharing Del Mar’s past. Please contact them at info@delmarhistoricalsociety.org.



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