2018-06-07 / Editorial

Biddeford history more accessible than ever

By Renée DesRoberts

For anyone interested in local history or genealogy, these are great days. The internet has made it possible to access information from anywhere in the world, 24/7, and many places (like your awesome local library) offer free and open internet access using our devices or your own. There is so much information out there today, it is amazing. When it comes to local history and genealogy materials, it’s good to remember that both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are digitizing materials for online access.

In some cases it’s a big company with automated scanning equipment going into large libraries and digitizing as much material as they can. Some companies then make that material freely available for all to use (such as Family Search), while others charge a fee (such as Ancestry or Newspaper Archive).

Those big companies certainly don’t come to your little local museum, library or historical society to scan their collections and put them online though – it is up to the staff or volunteers at those organizations to do that work. Once things are scanned, they must figure out how and where to post them online so you can access them and how to make those materials findable. As you can see, it’s a whole thing. Luckily for you most libraries today are very dedicated to doing that work and getting our collections out there so you can use them. So while you won’t find everything online, you’ll find more and more each day.

McArthur Library makes our digital material available online at our site, biddefordhistory.com. The front page of the site has links to the library’s general catalog, our local history catalog (mostly photographs, but other things too), and you’ll see buttons along the bottom linking to our Maine Memory Network, HistoryPin (an especially neat application that combines historic images with maps), Internet Archive, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter pages.

At the top of biddefordhistory.com you’ll find tabs for: Archives (inventories and information about our personal papers and business records collections); Name index (a somewhat random but growing collection of Biddeford people, topics and places, with links when available); News + Genealogy (digitized newspapers and newspaper indexes, plus cemetery and other genealogy resources); eBooks (all the books, pamphlets, etc. we’ve scanned and placed online for reading and downloading); Images (everything to use our photo collections and learn about Biddeford area photographers); General Info (about our library, what we do, and what we have); and Links (mostly links to other libraries, archives and museums of interest to Biddeford researchers).

We are most excited to have started the long-term project to digitize and provide online access to all of the Biddeford newspapers that we have in our library, which is a lot. This spring we sent out the first batch, all of our Biddeford Weekly Journals (1880-1930), and you can now search and read those online.

As we are able to afford it, we’ll be sending off more newspapers to be filmed, digitized and added to the online archive: Biddeford.advantage-preservation.com. Or, if you go to biddefordhistory.com, click on the News+Genealogy tab and you’ll find the link to the newspapers right there. It will likely take us several years to have all the work done, but we are dedicated to preserving and providing access to these newspapers, which we can all agree are priceless documentaries of Biddeford and her people and well worth the time and effort.

If you retain nothing else about this tour of local history and genealogy materials available to you from McArthur Library, remember this URL: www.biddefordhistory.com. That is our local history and genealogy page and the location to access all of our links, sites and online indexes and catalogs. It is the place to start for all your Biddeford history and genealogy research needs.

Renée DesRoberts is special collections librarian at McArthur Library in Biddeford.

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