Intern turns records into electronic files

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NATCHEZ — Tucked away in a back corner room upstairs at Melrose, Christina Arflack is making history digital.

Arflack, a summer intern for the Natchez National Historical Park, is spending her 10-week internship creating digital archives of records from the past 21 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebrations.

The records have been compiled into scrapbooks each year and stored at the convention’s office at Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez Campus.

The NLCC office will keep the digital records and the paper archives will be stored in acid free archival boxes and sent the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Carolyn Vance Smith, founder and co-chairman of the NLCC, said because of the delicate nature of many of the newspaper clippings and paper records from the conference, digital copies of those documents were needed.

“I refer to those records a lot in putting together the program every year,” Smith said. “We have wanted this project to take place for years. I am well aware of how important the collection is, and we are also beginning to see the early records begin to deteriorate.”

Smith said thanks to the internship program with the Natchez National Historical Park and a grant from the National Park Service her wish has been granted.

Without the archiving project, Smith said she would worry about losing the primary set of records for the conference.

“My fear is that these records, the primary records for the conference, are housed in a building that has enough wood in it that if it were to catch fire they would be gone in no time,” Also, we live in a storm zone. What if the roof was damaged and the records were damaged by water?

“Father time is taking its toll, too. It just concerns me that these wonderful records could be hurt or lost forever.”

Arflack said after nearly four weeks of working on the project, she has developed a system to scan, save and organize the paper records.

“It was slower in the beginning, but I’ve worked out a system that is pretty smooth and quick,” she said. “Sometimes, things catch my eye, and I have to stop and read them, but mostly it’s a good system.”

Arflack is in her second year as a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Memphis. She was also an intern for the Natchez National Historical Park last summer.

Working her way through two or three scrapbooks for each year of the convention, Arflack said the project at first seemed daunting, but she is hopeful that she will be able to work through all of the books in need of archiving.

“That’s the plan,” she said. “That’s what I’m hoping to do.”