The nonprofit organization that handled the digitization of the material and hosts the content, Internet Archives, charged Meredith College 10 cents a page for up to 25,000 pages, and just five cents a page for anything over that amount.
“We ended up digitizing nearly 35,000 pages of archives—everything we had,” said Waller.
The project, which took just three months from the initial contact through completion, has been a huge success, Waller said. Not only has digitization saved many old and crumbling print documents, but alumnae and relatives of alumnae are finding and using the archives more than ever before.
Although the archives have been online for just a few months, past editions of the yearbook alone have been downloaded many thousands of times.
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In the past, if someone who had a class reunion coming up approached Waller and wanted material for the reunion, that person had to engage in a lengthy process.
“They would have to make an appointment, spend hours with us, [and] we’d make copies of everything for them. If they got home and thought of something else they needed, they’d have to go through the whole thing again,” Waller explained. “Now, we refer them to the links to all our documents, and they can do it at their leisure, go back as many times as they want, print as many times as they want. It’s much more accessible to everyone.”
He continued: “In addition to that, in the short time [the digital archives have] been available, we’ve had a number of encounters, not just from alumnae, but children or grandchildren of alumnae.”
One man had a great aunt who went to Meredith in 1901; he found the archives useful in learning about the woman he had never met. Another had a mother who had attended Meredith; she had been editor of the student newspaper in 1943. When she died, her son was able to access those newspapers for her memorial service.
“This encourages children and grandchildren to donate as well,” said Waller.
Deciding what to put online was not a challenge for Meredith officials.