02 September 2011

Philadelphia Department of Records Wins 2011 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Awards

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Department of Records (DOR) and Azavea has announced that PhillyHistory.org, its online database of historic photograph and map collections has won an Award of Merit from the AASLH Leadership in History Awards. The AASHL Leadership in History Awards, now in its 66th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. This year, AASLH will confer fifty-nine national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books, and organizations. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2011 AASLH Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday, September 16, 2011.

This is not the first award that the Philadelphia Department of Records has received for PhillyHistory.org. In 2007, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) recognized the site as an 'Exemplary System in Government' and conferred on it a "Distinguished System" award. The same year, the website received a Philadelphia Magazine ‘Best of Philly’ award, followed in 2008 by a ‘Henry Magaziner Award’ from the AIA Philadelphia.

To date, five Philadelphia organizations - the Department of Records, the Philadelphia Water Department, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Office of the City Representative, and the Library Company of Philadelphia - have joined the PhillyHistory.org consortium and are contributing ten different collections, for a total of over 98,000 historic images and maps so far. Thanks to a geographic digital collection management system built by GIS software firm, Azavea, each collection can be managed separately and directly from the website. Each agency can upload assets to the site, edit metadata, geocode (assign latitude and longitude) their assets, retrieve usage information and sales, and receive collection-based error reports. Authorized users have access to only the collections from their institution, making the system ideal for a consortium of organizations that might not individually have the funding to build their own web-based digital collection. The collections are also available via a location-aware iPhone application, enabling users to compare historic images to their present location. Most recently, the Philadelphia Department of Records was awarded an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to build a prototype augmented reality application in order to research the use of mobile augmented reality techniques for enhancing digital access to historical and cultural resources. The results of this research are available in a white paper free to download at http://www.azavea.com/augmented-reality.

With an average of 13,500 unique visitors per month and 8,000 registered users who can tag favorite assets, save searches, be notified when PhillyHistory.org adds new photos, share assets, and leave comments on images, the site is heavily used and has attracted the attention of historians, genealogists, researchers and history buffs in Philadelphia and around the world.

“We are thrilled for the Philadelphia Department of Records. The project started with 80 photos and has now reached 98,000 assets, making PhillyHistory.org one of the most important historical photographic resources in the nation and a learning tool that transcends the traditional classroom. The project is a true commitment from the City of Philadelphia, funders, and the public to make history freely accessible to all.” – Robert Cheetham, President and CEO, Azavea

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