$25,000 grant will help save historic photos for posterity

Friday, December 19, 2008
Glenna Booth and John Cross with a photo of early Eureka Springs. Booth is digitizing the bank's entire collection of 5,000 old photos and slides as part of a $25,000 Department of Arkansas Heritage grant. The collection will be available at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library and the bank. Kathryn Lucariello / Carroll County News

EUREKA SPRINGS -- It's taken decades for Cornerstone Bank (formerly the Bank of Eureka Springs) Chairman of the Board John Cross to collect 5,000 historical photographs of Eureka Springs and surrounding Carroll County.

Now it will take a little less than a year to put them all in a digital collection, but Glenna Booth is hard at work at it.

Booth is doing the project under a $25,000 grant received by the Community Development Partnership (CDP) from the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

"They had 202 applications for that grant, adding up to a total of $4.2 million," Booth said. "But $600,000 was what they had to give out. They gave grants to 33 projects, and $25,000 was the maximum they gave."

The Parks Department also received a grant, for $8,000, to do trail work at Harding and Sweet springs.

Booth, who was serving on the CDP board at the time of the grant application, resigned from her position to take on the project.

The project consists of scanning photos into a computer and storing them on detachable hard drives, which will be available at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and the Eureka Springs Carnegie Library. Cornerstone Bank will also have a copy of the collection.

With part of the grant money, Booth has purchased a computer system, a professional-quality scanner and a flatbed scanner. She will purchase hard drives and a printer for the museum.

She also intends to purchase a microfilm printer for the library, which currently has no way to retrieve hard copies of the information stored on its microfilm collection.

The photo collection will be available to customers at the museum and the library who wish to have printouts of photos for a fee.

"I've been preaching this to everyone who would listen," said Cross. "It will be a win-win deal for everyone, and it's a way for the museum and the library to raise funds."

Decades ago Cross began collecting historic photos with professional photographer Eugene Smith. He also had the idea to put together a historical calendar with them for the bank. It came out in 1978 and has been a much-anticipated release every year.

Years later Cross hired Allen Smith to continue compiling the collection. When new items came in, Smith makes negatives and a glossy 8 x 10 of each photo. The negatives are stored in the bank vault for safekeeping, and the photos are in file cabinets, with an index book.

All the photos are coded with numbers and descriptions. Smith can make prints from the negatives for those who request them.

Digitizing the photos and the index will be a great advance, Smith said.

"Now the items will get indexed better than they ever have been," he said. "Whatever text is there will be searchable on computer. It will be an important thing in the future for our leading historians, John (Cross), June Westphal, Bert Camp and others to be able to add to the text. My hat's off to the bank for collecting these photos over the years."

"Hardly a week goes by that someone isn't in here wanting to see pictures," Cross said.

They come for a variety of reasons: sometimes to find an early photo of a house they bought and would like to restore, or sometimes to look for relatives.

Cross sees the project as part of a larger list of projects first suggested in 1977 when the Centennial Committee was appointed by the mayor. They included identifying, cleaning up and planting around the major springs, painting the mural on the north side of the Chandler Mall building and restoring the courthouse.

The digitized photo collection will include not only the bank's photographs but a collection of slides from historic Blue Spring and a collection of photos of early stereoscopes of Eureka Springs taken by local resident Ken Bates.

Booth expects to complete the project by June 2009.

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