The American Jewish historical society and technology.

Author:Lithgow, Rachel
Position:Column
 
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The current climate of Jewish non-profits, scholarly or otherwise, is an interesting one in all areas. Perhaps the most interesting, and the one that many in our business have failed to understand, is technology. While we celebrated our 122nd birthday this June, and continue to collect and keep materials from the 17th century through the present day, the American Jewish Historical Society is committed to 21st-century technology in all aspects of our activities.

Soon to be gone are the days when scholars would be able to access material only if they traveled to archives far and wide. While nothing can replace the kind of tangible, experiential moment of looking at primary source material in the reading room or in the stacks of dusty archives, it is no longer completely practical to expect starving graduate students, researchers, scholars or simply interested parties to travel. AJHS has begun the long and expensive process of digitizing its holdings. At our home base at the Center for Jewish History in New York, we have open digitization, archival processing, and preservation labs on site to begin this overwhelming yet important process. To date, only a small percentage of our holdings have been digitized through a generous, multiyear grant commitment from the Leon Levy Foundation. We are constantly applying for and looking for funding to continue down this important road. Currently, our priorities include digitizing the American Archive of the Soviet Jewry Movement archives and the records of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York, and finishing the UJA-Federation papers and other important components of our holdings. Our end goal is to have all of our material, with the exception of restricted holdings, available digitally online for simple access. This opens our field up exponentially to the world at large, and it will allow multitudes to view our remarkable collections from the comfort of their home or office.

Our Portal to American Jewish History is where much of this material will reside once it is digitized and uploaded. This portal, the brainchild of the Society, will be a "one-stop shop" for all things related to American Jewish history. AJHS has begun to forge significant partnerships with historical societies across the United States, including the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and many others, to ensure that their holdings will be included in our portal. In August of 2014, we...

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