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Article updated: 11/17/2012 5:39 PM

Residents add to Hampshire library digital collection

By Elena Ferrarin

Valerie Ruth of Hampshire has spent years putting together scrapbooks that have become testimonials of life over the decades in her hometown.

"I've used a lot of sticky pads," said Ruth, who with husband Orris owned the old "Chuck's Pub" in Hampshire. The pub was renamed "The Kave" after the couple's son, David Ruth, took ownership in 2008.

Her effort -- a collection of photographs of old Hampshire, pub customers, plus documents such as birth certificates and more -- now will become part of the town's collective memory, as the Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library District in Hampshire builds digital collection archives with images of residents' historical items. Ruth was among those who attended "Digital Donation Day" Saturday morning at the library.

About six to eight residents brought in their photo albums and scrapbooks so volunteers from the library's Tree Climbers ancestry group could scan them on the spot.

"What they brought was prodigious," said library reference specialist Kelly Sheahan, who coordinated the event.

For example, the library obtained photographs of the old Starks Corner service station and the people who worked there decades ago, Sheahan said.

"It's a corner of the district that we don't have anything for. It was fantastic," she said.

Plato Township resident Carolyn Gathman brought in an album of black-and-white photos of life on her family's farm in the 1940s and 1950s as well as images and postcards of the now-defunct Elgin National Watch Co. that closed in 1968.

"It's great you can show your stuff and not have to give it away," Gathman said. "I don't want to give it away, because it's from my family. But I think people would like to see this, especially the watch factory in Elgin. Some of that is collectors' items."

Someone brought documents about teacher salaries and contracts from one-room schoolhouses dating back to the first half of the 20th century. Another resident was expected later to bring photographs of a local POW camp that held Germans captured in Africa during World War II, Sheahan said.

"Back then it was illegal to take pictures of POWs, so this is very rare. These are the only known photos we know of," she said.

Even if they missed Saturday's event, district residents are welcome to stop by any time with their possessions -- anything from old family photos to church bulletins -- so they can be digitally preserved for future generations, Sheahan said.

"We'll take items from the community any time. We're going to keep working on the historical archives as long as we can," she said.

The Ella Johnson library district serves more than 16,000 people in Hampshire, Pingree Grove, Burlington and parts of Elgin and Huntley. The library is at 109 South State St. in Hampshire. For details, visit ellajohnsonlibrary.org.

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