Backstage Pass: Photographs

by Lauren Chevlan, volunteer

Hi, my name is Lauren Chevlen and I am a volunteer here at the Napa County Historical Society. I relocated to the Napa Valley six years ago from Los Angeles. I have a Masters in History and worked for many years for an oral history project as a Historical Content Analyst…fancy title for Cataloguer.

When I began volunteering for NCHS two years ago, I was assigned the task of digitizing and cataloguing a large cache of photographs donated by the Napa Valley Register from the 1960s through the 1980s. Capturing the people, places and events that tell the story of the valley is a valuable endeavor.

The photographs we received were not stored properly and had already begun showing signs of degradation. A small few were wholly unusable. Capturing the images through digitization is one way in which history is preserved for future generations.

Each photograph is put in the scanner and that image is captured in the Napa History Center’s digital archive. The photograph is then cataloged, that is, assigned one or more keyword terms in order for it to be retrieved by a researcher at a later date. With thousands of photographs in the collection, this step is vital. The more keyword terms assigned to an image, the more likely that image will be found by the end user. As someone who has worked with a digital archive in Los Angeles, I was aware that having a lot of stored information is useless unless it can be retrieved through the use of keywords or search terms.

On a regular basis we have people from the community and beyond come to the Goodman Library to conduct research of one kind or another. It never fails to give me a thrill when I am able to pull a photograph from our archive that the researcher has never seen before. I look forward to helping you in your research.