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Barry Baker

Central Florida Memory: The Development of a Collaborative Digitization Partnership Model Serving Learning Communities.

Barry Baker
University of Central Florida

Central Florida Memory: The Development of a Collaborative Digitization Partnership Model Serving Learning Communities.
Central Florida Memory is a successful model of a digitization partnership among libraries, museums, historical societies and archives and serves the needs of learning communities. By providing ease of access to local primary source materials using the Internet, Central Florida Memory creates a bridge between learning communities and historical documents and artifacts, helping instill a strong connection to the past in current and future citizens. With "Florida Stories” and other educational components, Central Florida Memory plays a vital role in engaging learners. It has been designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners. The mission, goals, and development of this collaborative model for inter-institutional cooperation and the creation of a cooperative digital repository are described.

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This paper will describe Central Florida Memory, a successful model of a collaborative digitization partnership of libraries, museums, historical societies and archives which has a positive impact on the learning communities of the region.

Best known for its theme parks and other international tourist attractions, the Central Florida area has experienced rapid growth, turnover, and immigration, leaving the population without a sense of community identity. This phenomenon is not unique to the area, but makes developing a sense of shared history integral to building community. Because no single institution took the lead in the collection of historic materials in the region, collections are scattered, and public access to materials is fragmented.

Central Florida Memory helps create a sense of identity for the Central Florida region and its inhabitants by providing digital access to historic images and documents of the area. Travel diaries, photographs, maps, and other resources can be viewed at home or in schools, bringing history alive for students, families, researchers, and visitors, changing the way many citizens view the history of Central Florida. Site visitors are introduced to the rich, varied history proceeding the era of theme parks, booming population, and the industrial space complex.

By providing ease of access to local primary source material, Central Florida Memory creates a bridge between learning communities and historical primary source materials, helping instill a strong connection to the past in current and future citizens. It draws on the strengths of museums and libraries – authenticity and authority. What makes Central Florida Memory unique is its role as a community-building tool, its potential for leadership, and its strong educational component. Through its “Florida Stories” it provides interpretation and context for digitized materials. Central Florida Memory makes available resources for online digitization of collections to the smaller cultural heritage institutions and organizations of the region.


Central Florida Memory began in the spring of 2002 with an idea that developed during discussions between the Directors of the Orange County Library System and the University of Central Florida Libraries. In May of that year, the first of a series of meetings was held which led to the establishment of Central Florida Memory. At that initial meeting representatives from the UCF Libraries, the Orange County Library System and the Orange County Regional History Center discussed the possibility of a project to digitize local history materials held by their institutions. There was a lot of excitement about the possibilities and challenges of this cooperative effort among a public library, a history museum and an academic library. The focus was on improving access to collections and making materials available in a way they never had been before.

During these early formative meetings, the group discussed their collections and the items that were thought to be potential candidates for digitization as well as questions each organization had about the process; such as how to work with fragile materials and how large documents would be handled. Expertise and experience with digitization among the institutions was identified and it was decided to implement a pilot project to demonstrate to potential grant agencies that this was a successful project and that grant proposals should be funded.

A time period was established for the pilot project and the group organized into task forces charged with selection of materials, the development of storylines to bring the history of Central Florida to life in a unique way, the selection of software and hardware for storage and access to the image database, and the development of a website. Procedures were worked out for digitization and Contentdm was selected as the collection management software to be used. It was also agreed that an educational component was important for the use of K-12 teachers.

This was a tremendous volunteer effort. The persons involved contributed their time in serving on committees charged with investigating various aspects of the project and reporting back to the whole group. Without this significant effort and enthusiasm, Central Florida Memory would not exist.

Central Florida Memory began as a partnership of three institutions. Central Florida’s foremost virtual collection of culture and history was established with a mission to create a comprehensive and accessible digital collection for scholars, students, teachers, and residents of Central Florida as well as visitors to the region. Staff time and expertise, equipment and software were contributed by the partner institutions to create and develop Central Florida Memory. During the pilot phase, the three original partners selected and digitized over 2,000 images covering the period 1880-1930 without outside funding. The storylines, which bring the images to life, were also written and integrated into the website. A visually exciting website was designed that provides stories to engage learners, sample lesson plans and metadata descriptions for researcher accessibility.

About a year later, in May 2003, the pilot project for Central Florida Memory was launched online. During the next year, the site continued to be developed as funding was sought not only to continue Central Florida Memory, but expand the number of partner institutions. The partner institutions collaborated on a successful grant proposal to the Institute for Museum and Library Services which was funded in the fall of 2004 adding the Olin Library of Rollins College and the Museum of Seminole County History as partners. This new funding enabled the collaborative model to be expanded and enhanced, as well as to facilitate the further development of the digital collection and to include additional educational components. Approximately 60,000 images were added to the collection from the fall of 2004 to the spring of 2006 representing the most important materials held by the five institutions.


“The mission of Central Florida Memory is to create, through collaboration among museums, libraries, historical societies, and archives in Central Florida, a comprehensive digital collection, serving the needs of scholars, students, teachers, and residents. Here they will access textual and graphical images and objects that document the region’s historical and cultural heritage.
In order to fulfill its mission, Central Florida Memory established the following goals:

  • Provide access to the rich and varied content of libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives throughout Central Florida.
  • Create an extensive digital resource for scholars, students, teachers, genealogists, Central Florida residents, visitors, and the general public, promoting life long learning.
  • Assist museums, historical societies, and libraries in digitizing their collections and become a forum for sharing expertise and technical knowledge.
  • Offer a digital archive to those museums, historical societies, and archives unable to establish their own digital infrastructure.
  • Provide an innovative digital resource for K-12 teachers and parents to bring alive the region’s history into existing and new lesson plans.
  • Expand, enhance, and disseminate the collaborative structure model developed during the Central Florida Memory pilot phase.
  • Contribute to the larger body of knowledge of Florida history via access to the Central Florida Memory website through other statewide project sites.” From the Central Florida Memory Abstract which can be viewed at .


Drawing on the collections of its participating institutions, Central Florida Memory provides a comprehensive collection of manuscripts, public records, ephemera, books, photographs, and maps documenting social, business, and political, educational, cultural, and civic life. Materials from all partners are digitized centrally and initial descriptions gathered from each partner for the images from its collection are used in the creation of metadata entries.

The Central Florida Memory partnership offers small repositories, both museums and libraries, a chance to collaborate in the development of a digital repository for the region. And it provides the opportunity to use an open, publicly accessible resource on the diverse history of Central Florida.

Central Florida Memory is an important model of successful regional inter-institutional cooperation. It provides a common set of tools to describe, use, and make available historical documentation that adds importance and value to the region’s history while maintaining a community digital repository. The project audience is multiple local learning communities such as current and future residents, K-12 students, college students, historians, genealogists, and many others who desire access to historic materials to enhance their contributions as citizens and to understand their local history. Regional repositories, their librarians, archivists, and board members are both audience and contributors, as they teach their patrons to use the digital repository. Central Florida Memory provides resources for the sustainable online digitization of collections for a large regional group of cultural heritage institutions and organizations.

The majority of institutions, especially smaller cultural heritage institutions and organizations, do not have the tools, resources or expertise to implement a digital repository system. Because the Central Florida Memory project group is led by a state-funded public institution, the University of Central Florida Libraries, it provides the critical digital management infrastructure capable of storing, migrating, and providing access to the digitized collections. The institution’s resources are augmented by the statewide resources and consortia to which the University serves as a portal, such as the Florida Center for Library Automation’s Florida Heritage Project and the Florida Electronic Library. The UCF Libraries contributes to the Florida Heritage Project, a digital collection on Florida history, environment, and culture. Each of the participating State University Libraries--especially their special collections and archives departments--is contributing materials from their collections to the Florida Heritage Project. Some of these are local history books and booklets, advertising materials from the Florida Boom, Civil War letters, photographs, maps and other materials that each add to an understanding of Florida's history. Many of these materials are regional or local in scope. The Florida Electronic Library provides statewide access and resource sharing of electronic resources and services to all residents of the state. By meeting state and national standards for the creation of digitized images and metadata, Central Florida Memory insures its integration into these statewide projects.

One of the greatest benefits of institutional interoperability is the increased understanding and insight between the library and museum communities. Although museum and libraries have similar constituencies and missions, they have differing business models and incentives for collaboration. Inherent in a library’s mission is providing resources to patrons in as many easily accessible forms as possible, so the Internet is a natural outlet. Museums also look to the Internet as a way to share collections and build constituency; however, they tend to have very divergent views on digitization. Where libraries tend to think more in terms of fair use, for a museum, image-based collections (such as photographs and artwork) can provide a significant revenue stream through reproductions and merchandising. Through cooperation and negotiation between the museums and libraries involved, the Central Florida Memory website balances the needs of access and security.


Libraries and museums play a vital role in engaging learners. With its “Florida Stories” and educational curricula components, Central Florida Memory not only models inter-institutional cooperation, but partnerships between cultural heritage and educational institutions. Central Florida Memory has been designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners – from K-12 to life-long learners and genealogists; from homeschoolers to undergraduate and graduate students and scholars. The project provides educational resources and tools to enhance the delivery of instruction of history at all levels, especially fourth grade teachers and students learning Florida history.
During the development of the project, it was decided that, in addition to the ability to search by metadata, storylines should be created to provide context for site visitors, satisfying a spectrum of needs from the casual browser to the historical researcher. The storyline is a unique feature of the project, allowing the user to follow a historical story with unique primary source images from the collection. Narrative and stories in education have been the focus of increasing attention in recent years. The idea of narrative is fertile ground for adult educators who know intuitively the value of stories in teaching and learning. Narrative is deeply appealing and richly satisfying to the human soul, with an allure that transcends cultures, centuries, ideologies, and academic disciplines (Rossiter, n. d.)
Initial storylines were developed to document life in the Central Florida region during the 1880s to 1930s. Broad storyline categories reflect collecting areas and cultural concerns in the region’s history, including agriculture, tourism, the environment, and education. The storylines considered the following questions: “Why did people come to Central Florida?” (Dreams and Schemes);”How did people get here?” (Rivers, Rails and Trails); and “What was life like here?” (Critters, Crackers and Cottages). Due to the rare nature and scarce availability of materials from the nineteenth century, the decision was made that Central Florida Memory should focus initially on the period encompassing the 1880s through 1930. Images and quotations were then chosen to illustrate the storylines, which were further subcategorized as needed. The storyline on education provides images that link today’s students with the pupils of the past.

Using storylines, the project's educational consultants developed lesson plans and activities to support the interpretation and use of the digitized materials in K-12 classrooms. Lesson plans such as the one based on Newberry Award winning book, Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and plans on life as an early orange grower focus on what life was like in Central Florida in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Additional lesson plans and activities are planned.

The Vital Records section, part of the Critters, Crackers and Cottages storyline, adds depth by supporting research, contributing to family and community histories, and building Central Florida Memory’s constituencies. Important primary resources such as voter registration record ledgers, funeral records and city directories are included.


Digitization is performed by the Digital Services unit of the UCF Libraries. CONTENTdm was selected as the digital collection management software because it can handle the variety of materials found in the collection, including newspapers, maps, photographs, yearbooks, diaries, and rare books. CONTENTdm supports the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). CONTENTdm servers function as OAI repositories so project metadata is available for harvesting.

Items are scanned or photographed according to guidelines established by the State University Libraries of Florida for the Publication of Archival Library & Museum Materials (PALMM). The PALMM guidelines can be found at The master TIFF images created for the project will be burned to DVD for archival purposes. Derivatives (JPEG) created from these masters will remain on the server and will be backed up on tape. Metadata complies with Dublin Core standards and supports OAI-PMH. Using this standard insures that the metadata can be harvested for the Florida Electronic Library project. Copies of each partner institution’s image files are provided to them.


Central Florida Memory demonstrates how cooperative ventures involving museums and libraries combine resources and expertise by pooling diverse institutional strengths in the creation of a virtual collection. It offers a model of what a university library, a metropolitan library system, a college library and two county historical museums can accomplish in the absence of a primary repository.

One of the strengths of Central Florida Memory is its organizational structure. With the Steering Committee, the Operations Committee and various Working Groups as components, the synergy and commitment of the group is strong. This demonstrates that when administrators, curators, education specialists, technicians, librarians, catalogers, museum specialists, and archivists serve together on several committees, and work together as a “committee of the whole,” this collaborative service strengthens the project. From the first meetings of the various groups, a spirit of cooperation and collaboration was very evident. After the initial discussions as to what would be required to meet the needs of the various partnership institutions, it became apparent that the group was interested in furthering the goals of the partnership not that of the individual institutions alone. That fact has had much to do with the overall success of the Central Florida Memory.


What of the future? During the period January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2005, over 44,000 users visited the website with an average of 120 users per day. The website users found Central Florida Memory to be interesting and informative. Based on their comments, the users were enthusiastic and interested in the content and requested more content including more images. Images will continue to be added to the digital collection and plans are underway to include more direct activities for students of all ages building on activities such as the scavenger hunt for the K-12 school community. There will also be more training for teachers and others who interpret the website for learners. The libraries, museums and archives in Central Florida plan to continue their efforts to develop the means necessary to make a digital future a reality and bring access to primary source materials on a par with access to books. There are several challenges in providing better access to these materials, including limited archival training, unprocessed backlogs of materials, little or no cataloging/metadata expertise and limited funding.

New digital images will expand and complement the existing storylines, such as more biographical information on the diverse residents of Central Florida, the variety of agriculture and business development at the time, more information on tourist and recreational locales, and sports activities. New materials and educational activities will support a more in depth consideration of the concept of community as it developed and currently exists in Central Florida. An educational module for the website is planned which will encourage students to see themselves as collectors and historians and to enable them to discover local history. The idea is to encourage family and community collecting and to demonstrate how to “write your own history.” Activities such as collecting artifacts and documents, preservation of photographs and writing a journal will be featured.

Central Florida Memory’s curators, librarians, and information professionals seek to insure that the memory of Central Florida continues through the identification, preservation and use of its primary source materials. In the first grant application to the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Central Florida Memory (CFM) was described in this way: “CFM is a magic box, a technological model for the human memory, and it is filled with things that enliven, entertain, and inform. This project seeks to enhance the magic, to measure if others have entered into this shared experience and to share the memory of the model with others, always inviting the contribution of new memories, always inviting the past to inform the present and shape the future.” The narrative can be viewed at , and the Central Florida Memory website can be viewed at . An example of a page from the website is illustrated on page 6 of this paper.


Rossiter, M. Narrative and Stories in Adult Teaching and Learning (n. d.), Eric Digest, viewed 11 July, 2006,


Appendix I: CFM Screenshot

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