Three years ago, West Hempstead Public Library Director Regina Mascia approached the West Hempstead Historical Society to propose a collaborative effort, which would enter the community’s archive collection on the NYS Board of Regents NY Digital Collection Initiative. New York Heritage is a project of the Empire State Library Network, and it is a research portal for the public to witness New York history through photos in a broad statewide sense or in a very personal hometown selection.
Educators, students, genealogists, historians and the general public can freely access more than 170 digital collections totaling hundreds of thousands of items. Now West Hempstead has its own ever-growing collection. Each month, Archive Director Lesley McAvoy chooses items from the archives and scrupulously notes details about them. She then meets with Research Librarian Jean King who scans them onto www.nyheritage.org. King enhances the sometimes century-old photos and then uses her skills to add further documentation. Over 300 photos of the West Hempstead community are currently digitized and new items are being added regularly.
“It is hard to witness historical items fade and crumble before your eyes, no matter how careful you try to handle or store them,” McAvoy said.
The Historical Society is confident that this project will protect the longevity of our community’s historical items. It will also provide free, easy access to anyone virtually anytime. Students and scouts will have access for projects. The public can view history in the comfort of their homes, and the community’s rich history will become more broadcast to its current residents. McAvoy hopes to digitize over 500 photos in the coming years and invites the community to send in old photos of West Hempstead to the Historical Society via the library or Facebook.
Submitted by Lesley McAvoy