CASTLE ROCK- Did you know that Douglas County High School (DCHS) once had an accordion band? That is one of the many unusual facts unveiled by a new project that is making the school’s old yearbooks accessible to anyone who wants to see them.
DCHS was the only Douglas County school chosen to be part of Creating Communities
, a social archive created by the Denver Public Library. The project was made possible through a $778,000 National Leadership grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services. The goal is to capture the stories and images that have shaped Western culture. At first, the focus was on Denver neighborhoods and schools, but it expanded to include Douglas County.
Working with the Douglas County Libraries, DCHS’s library and media specialist, Peggy Cummings, has worked to pull together old yearbooks and other historical artifacts.
“We already had archived our older books and we had special preservation techniques that we use with those. It is special to bring those older ones out into the light to be handled. They're getting a little bit fragile,” Cummings said.
Cummings and the DCL staff carefully transported yearbooks from 1940-1979 to the Denver Public Library, where they were scanned using a special machine that is designed for digitizing books.
“Instead of putting the book flat and smashing down the pages, the cradle holds it gently and then they're able to scan the pages without damaging the archival books as they go through for the scan,” Cummings explained.
She says the work will provide easier access for alumni and others who are interested in Douglas County history.
“About twice a month I get phone calls from alumni or from our connected community to ask about our yearbook collection because many of our former students and alumni know that we have this collection,” explained Cummings.
Some of the school’s older programs and yearbooks are so fragile that they are no longer on display. The new website will ensure those old volumes are protected, while still giving people access.
“We've had some really touching stories,” Cummings said. “A community member knew his father had gone to high school here, but the family has separated and he never had seen a picture of his father. We were able to locate that for him. It was very moving.”
The website chronicles the growth and changes of Douglas County High School, which dates back to 1897.
“Included in the exhibit are some very special photos from the Douglas County history section of the different buildings and when Douglas County High School was in the different buildings,” Cummings explained.
Plus, there are also photos of the little known Parker High School, as well as before and after the Hayman fire.
The Creating Communities website also aims to be a living archive, allowing users to upload stories and photos of themselves or their schools, as long as they are decent and not copyright protected. In fact, you won’t see any yearbooks from 1980 to the present because those copyright laws changed, making it more difficult to digitize those books.
Cummings says the project has been a labor of love, but is not finished yet. She hopes as news of the digital archive spreads that more people will not only learn about the history that they’ve captured, but that they’ll share more documents so that the collection keeps growing.