locked Re: Archives Issues....,

Kyle Shannon

Hello Ike and all,

I would recommend looking at the way the NYCSHS has offered their collections up as a way for the archive to hopefully pay for itself and also be a bit more autonomous on requests for drawings.

In a nutshell, they scanned many of their drawings and sell collections of drawings for each class of steam locomotives, name trains, car types, etc. They sell these drawings to modelers and offer a licensing rate for commercial use.

Several other historical societies have similar offerings but none as extensive that I have seen online as what the NYCSHS has. I know this is a large undertaking but could be a way to better justify the digitization of some of these resources and offer a way to offer them to the public. I don’t know exactly the extensiveness of the SRHA archives but I feel like there’s likely enough material to do a similar set up. There’s obviously some interest in the material so it could work.


On Tuesday, December 25, 2018, 10:00:11 AM EST, David Friedlander <davidjfriedlander@...> wrote:


Thanks for the response.  Merry Christmas to you and the list. TBS has already started their annual 24-hour run of A Christmas Story.

My replies are embedded within and start with DF and are in red.  I definitely don't have all of the answers.

David Friedlander

On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 4:18 PM George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:

Your points, and questions are excellent. Let me take a stab at an answer…..

Yes, there is the concept of multiple “processes” to organize, scan, make available for researchers and publish material from the SRHA archives. The issue is the resources (people and hardware) to do that work.

It is hard to describe the extent of the SRHA archives much less to estimate how much work needs to be done. I cannot make a complete list but we did weigh everything for the move to Chattanooga…the total was 30 Tons not including the Spacesaver shelving. The good news is that we already have many items scanned at archival resolution (3,261 diesel drawings, 5,889 diesel photo negatives, 3,604 SR steam photos, etc.) Everything is stored on redundant (and some remote) hard drives. That still leaves many thousands of photos, drawings and documents to do.

DF: That tonnage is massive. I can't imagine what you scanned so far even equals a ton, but that is awesome to hear.

At this point, we give priority to scan items needed for TIES, specific research projects and model manufacturers’ requests for information. We have not “OCRd” many items yet as just getting scans done takes a lot of time. (We can get assistance from folks away from Chattanooga with things like OCR once scans can be sent.)
DF: That prioritization makes sense, as long as you know everything you generally have scattered about in the 30 tons.  I'll help you with the OCR on what you sent earlier today.

Re your items:
1. The new building is about as fireproof as possible. We want as much “electrical” disconnected as possible when no one is there.
2. There are many documents that are more than 100 years old. Some are very difficult to scan and many cannot use a document feeder because of their age and condition.
3. Any task that can be done remotely is good.

DF: Can't argue with any of those points.

We have several important items that are not resolved. Access and use of the material is a biggie. Obviously, we want the collection to be used (I estimate people will care about historical information on the Southern for maybe the next twenty years?) but the cost to acquire and maintain the collection needs to be considered. For example, in the past ten years or so individual SRHA members and NS have paid at least $100,000 to purchase various private collections. How do we reconcile/afford acquiring and maintaining the archives if we make everything freely available? No one wants to see the ridiculous prices that appear so common today but we must find a balance between the two. (Investment in the new building exceeds $1M.)

DF: This is a more complex and interesting discussion.  All of this effort just for roughly twenty years of usage?  Now the prioritization for TIES, modeling, etc makes more sense.  Perhaps just bulk scan as much as you can and slide stuff out randomly with a naming convention to others to rename files and OCR for you.

DF: Cost wise...At this point, what else is there to acquire? What is the prioritization for acquisition vs. maintain? What happens to a private photo collection if no one is willing to pay for it?  Does it just disappear or does it eventually get donated or purchased at a lower cost? Can the owner get a tax write off by donating it? Whats the cost-benefit analysis for the members? Maintaining what the archive may arguably have a greater return at this point in time and seems like a higher priority given the $1M investment into a building. I never mentioned make anything freely available. Perhaps put together more equipment diagrams books or one-off's for particular cars, locomotives etc.  Not sure if a modeling e-zine like others do would be worth the effort to perhaps have an additional revenue source to help the archives.  Would take considerable effort to put together with volunteer effort for an unknown ability to bring in revenue. I would imagine the best bet to get a considerable sum towards the Archives is to pursue NS for some sort of yearly tax write-off on their part. Perhaps that sort of relationship already exists.

DF: At some point down the line...when the current leadership/membership/interested parties no longer have the resources to keep this effort going (that 20-year mark), does it make sense to eventually approach a third party, such as the national archives in DC to outsource the maintenance of the materials? Is the material something that they would take? How quickly do they go through collections and finish "archiving" them? Do they make material available to all?

IMHO, the Internet is making this question more difficult. People expect to find everything on the ’net at no cost. I sit in on many presentations where the only items shown are pulled from an Internet browser. No actual research beyond Google.

DF: That's kind of where society has gone, for better or worse. I've been out of college for about 8 years.  I was still taught to use a library in undergrad and grad school, but I can't speak for the generation that came after me and/or are still in school.  I remember when I was taught in school that citing Wikipedia and certain other websites was not acceptable, but it appears to be reasonably acceptable today.  I bet most kids today are used to things being available on the internet. Back to the library (like an "general" archive) example...I personally haven't stepped foot in a library since school, so I cannot say from first hand experience how they fit into today's society. The only books I read these days are for model railroading or my career(very few since most info is available online...freely) and nothing else and I don't need a Library for internet.

At the Collinsville RPM, people from at least a dozen RR historical groups described the issues they thought most important. There was nearly a 100% correlation between what everyone was thinking about…we didn’t have many answers but all recognized how important the issues are.

Every historical groups’ archive or library needs input and help, cash and labor, to figure this stuff out.

DF: Yea, I'm sure the SRHA is not the only group with this problem.  I don't necessarily think consolidation would help either...financially might help keep things going, but then there will be the politics and fighting over who's material is more important to further organize, preserve, etc. For the eternal preservation of all societies material...I have no idea how fruitful approaching a third party like the National Archives (about a railroading wing of material) would speed up any archival process, or restrict access to material for any such society.

I’d love to hear any comments, on or off list as anyone prefers.


On Dec 21, 2018, at 12:13 PM, David Friedlander <davidjfriedlander@...> wrote:


Since I don't actually know the answer...is there a process in place to just go ahead and do a blanket digital scan of everything in the Archives into a computer?  Tied to that, are scans being ran through OCR software to allow the scans's individual words to be searchable?  This would probably help the research phase of things big time.

I ask as scanning would open the door for a few things:
1. Redundancy of the Archives' Contents in case of fire, theft, lawsuit, etc.
2. Preservation of any documents that contain paper that has extremely aged, damaged, etc. and its lifespan is limited.
3. Opens up the ability for many more folks to organize, catalog, research, and write articles for the SRHA, etc. by removing the geographic requirement of needing to live near or visit Chattanooga.
4. As previously mentioned, if OCR'ed, this would make far easier to search key words in the text of all of the documents.

Just a question and a thought.

David Friedlander

On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 9:36 AM George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:

I have not seen the book yet but knowing some of the most knowledgable people put it together, I am certain it is excellent.

I have had the same problem with Southern, or Southeastern railroad books for years. Authors have always been “too busy” or “facing a deadline” to spend some serious research time in the SRHA archives. For example, when the Midwest-Florida books were in production, I explained that there was a considerable amount of material on the IC-CG passenger trains in the collection, including things like the equipment utilization contract between the two railroads, operating data and correspondence when the Central was trying (somewhat desperately) to add one of their cars to the IC train’s consist for additional mileage fees. None of the CG material made it into the book.

Among other projects, we are going through the finding aids for the SR Presidents’ files to see if they need additional finding aids so they can be put on-line for keyword searches. With something like 10,000 different files already identified, we can assume there are not many SR topics that are not covered. Add those files to the 1,000+ contract books, Valuation papers, etc. and the data available is multiplied.

What is needed are people interested in SR history that are willing to help organize, catalog, research and write articles that will make use of the resources in the new archives building. (The many tens of thousands of photos and SR/CG drawings have as much potential.)

The 2019 SRHA Archives work session dates are on www.srha.net now. We are not limited to those dates but we simply need to know when anyone wants to visit the archives to try to make arrangements (archives@...).

The SRHA 2019 convention will be the same dates as the NMRA SER meet in Chattanooga. We plan to officially open the archives that weekend. Between the NMRA and SRHA conventions, the archives and of course TVRM, what better reason to get to Chattanooga could there be?


On Dec 20, 2018, at 10:30 PM, D. Scott Chatfield <blindog@...> wrote:

My buddy Boras Rosser got his a couple days ago and while he wishes there was more coverage of the secondary lines, especially here in Georgia, he's happy with it.  I'm hoping Santa leaves one under the tree.

Scott Chatfield

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