What’s Up At Willennar: Postcards From the Past

One of our big projects at the Willennar Genealogy Center right now is the digital preservation of the John Martin Smith Collection.

The late John Martin Smith was the DeKalb County Historian and a prolific collector of history. His family has given Eckhart Public Library digitization rights to his massive collection. (The Smith family still owns the collection, but the library gets the opportunity to digitize items in the collection!)

It’s a huge project, one that we’re thinking could take around five years. So, we’re taking the project piece by piece, finding some parts of the collection that we can digitize all together.

A natural first step for the John Martin Smith project was to digitize his huge collection of DeKalb County postcards, which is what we’re working hard on right now! Staff members and volunteers are scanning postcard after postcard – both front and back – and staff members are entering information, called metadata, into a computer program called PastPerfect-Online along with the images of the postcards. So far, we’ve scanned more than 1,600 postcards! The pictures and images from this project, called Postcards From the Past, will eventually be online at the Willennar Genealogy Center website and the Indiana State Library’s digital library, Indiana Memory.


This photo shows some Willennar Genealogy staff members looking through a portion of the postcards at a reception at the Willennar Genealogy Center in October.

Staff members, myself included, have really enjoyed working on this project. Not only do we get to see pictures of DeKalb County from years past, which is really cool, but we also enjoy reading the messages on the backs of many of the postcards. They tell bits of unique stories of people from years ago. It’s not uncommon for a staff member to pipe up while he or she is working on the postcards and say, “Listen to what this postcard says!” or to wonder aloud about the context of a particular postcard.

We’re really looking forward to getting to share these images with the world, and we’re very pleased that we have been able to preserve the images of these postcards. It’s a great collection!

By the way … are you interested in learning more about the John Martin Smith collection? Well, you’re in luck! The Friends of the Eckhart Public Library annual meeting on Tuesday, March 18, at 7 p.m. at the Sinclair Station, 1304 N. Main St., Auburn, will feature a presentation on the collection, including a talk by project consultant Dr. David Vanderstel. There also will be a small sample of items on display at the meeting. To learn more about the Friends, click here.

Postcards From the Past is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Indiana State Library. To learn more about the Institute, visit imls.gov.


About Jenny

I am the Associate Director of Eckhart Public Library. My office is in the Administrative Annex, but I can often be found roaming the Eckhart Public Library Campus, performing acts of librarianship in every department! I love to read and learn about history. I'm also a huge fan of movies, TV and pop culture in general, and I love to read books of all types. Currently, I'm working my way around the romance section, with some historical fiction and graphic novels thrown in for variety! But you never know what I'm going to pick up next.
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