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Friday September 29, 2000

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Arizona State Museum receives grant for Arizona-Mexico history preservation

Headline Photo

By Hillary Davis

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Historical documents will be accessible on the Web with UA Library help

Historical documents from 18th and 19th-century Arizona and neighboring Sonora, Mexico will be given a technological facelift by the UA's Arizona State Museum, thanks to a grant of more than $200,000.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded the grant for $210,786 to the museum to support the AGES Project: Preserving and Sharing the Sonoran Archives. The project will involve making copies of the parts of the archives that covers Mexican and Spanish relations with American Indians in Arizona, and the Mexican-American War that led to the American' takeover of the region.

Tracy Duvall, assistant curator of ethnohistory at the museum and project director of the AGES undertaking, said the archives are useful as early Arizona family and legal records - as well as for presenting a tumultuous time in Southwestern history in a non-textbook way.

"Beyond that, it is just plain interesting," Duvall said. "There is a lot of warfare going on. It's not the driest historical document that you'll ever find."

The center in Hermosillo, Mexico that houses the documents - the Archivo General del Estado de Sonora, from which the project also derives its name - is damp and lacks climate control, leading to the deterioration of the aging papers, Duvall said.

The indexing and scanning of the documents will take place in Mexico. Then digitalization by a crew, under the control of the UA Library, will lead to the documents being accessible on the World Wide Web.

The bi-national project has created excitement among American and Mexican historians, Duvall said.

"It's an idea that many people have claimed ownership of," he said. "People in Mexico and the United States have been so excited that they've wanted to claim authorship over the idea."

"There's a lot of benefit on both sides," he added. "They (historians at the Mexican archive) get a preservation of their archives paid for, mostly on the U.S. side, and we get access."

Duvall said the project is significant because of its breadth.

"There aren't any projects that I know that are trying to take a whole archive and index it, scan it, convert it into microfilm and make it available on the Web," he said. "We're putting together pieces that others developed elsewhere, but we're putting it together in one big project."

Barbara Allen, special assistant to the dean of libraries, said the library will be able to assist the project with the organizational skills necessary for librarian work.

"Librarians are cataloguers, so we will be organizing it so it makes sense - so we don't have a 1860 document next to an 1880 document," she said.

"We already have the skills to do this in the library and we do have the space," Allen added. "What we don't have is a server and that will be the biggest piece of equipment we'll need to get. That will cause some storage issues, but nothing that we feel we can't handle."

Also participating in the preservation project are the Tucson-Pima County Public library, the Tucson-Mexico Project, and Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.