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Friday, June 22, 2012

History is Personal on Des Plaines Memory

Last month, the library and the Des Plaines History Center launched Des Plaines Memory, an online resource for local history. I spoke with Steven Giese, our Digital Projects Librarian, to learn more about Des Plaines Memory and how it has made history a very personal thing for him.

What is Des Plaines Memory?

Des Plaines Memory is an online collection of photographs, letters, postcards, newspapers and telephone directories. My job is to work with Shari Caine, the Executive Director of the history center, preparing and uploading historical materials to the web site. We are also interested in working with local organizations and businesses to archive historical documents they might have.

You must be very passionate about history!

I’ve never been what you’d call a “history buff.” Don’t get me wrong: I liked my history classes in school and I read the occasional historical novel. But history has always seemed sort of dry and far removed from my everyday life. But my attitude’s been changing ever since I started working on Des Plaines Memory.

Jefferson Township High School Postcard, circa 1910 

In what way?

Because of all this exposure to local history on Des Plaines Memory, I’m realizing that I can’t get away from it! When I grab lunch at the Sugar Bowl diner I can imagine that I’m sitting in the old post office as it was in 1915. On my daily commute to work I pass by the old site of Maine Township’s Jefferson High School and I think about a postcard of the school I added to the collection from a woman named Lucille to her old friend and classmate, Grace.

Children at Douglas Aircraft child care center

What else has surprised you about the project?

I've been amazed to see people connecting with the project in very personal ways. Sandra & Carol Schallawitz found a picture of their mother, Ruth, working at the Douglas Aircraft day care center during World War II. Lane Hudson found original photographs of several homes he bought and restored. He also left interesting comments about the histories of individual homes.

Any final thoughts?

Visit Des Plaines Memory often as new content is uploaded frequently. Leave your own comments or add posts to your Facebook page. Or you can follow us on Twitter and Tumblr.

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