Pella Community Memory Database

November 2019 - Introductory Issue

Welcome to the Pella Community Memory Database Monthly Newsletter!

Pella Public Library is pleased to provide you with this free monthly newsletter keeping you informed on the progress being made on the Pella Community Memory Database (PCMD), a new grant-funded project sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). We hope you will find this newsletter informative!
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What is the PCMD?

The Pella Community Memory Database is a new web site being created by the Pella Public Library to house digitized versions of local history documents for Pella and the surrounding areas. In other words, you will be able to go online, search through these documents the same way you would search through Google, and view them online or download or print a copy for your own use. In a practical sense, this means that you will now have access to photos, letters, certificates, documents and other historical items, including those that may either have been locked away for years from the public or may be too delicate to handle. We expect this database to eventually used by people of all ages, including in the local schools, and be of importance not only to local citizens but also to state, national, and international researchers.

This database is created through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library services, through their Accelerating Promising Practices for Small Libraries grant program. The first two years of this database are funded entirely through the grant.

Why have I not been contacted about volunteering?

We are incredibly blessed to have an overwhelming number of volunteers ask how they can help, all at the same time! Due to this large influx of volunteers, it will take some time to get everything sorted and get ready to assign tasks. Further, we were not expecting to have volunteers so soon in the project! This was a pleasant surprise! Since many of the volunteer tasks involve working with content in the PCMD, we're going to take another month to get some more content in before unleashing a tidal wave of volunteers to do cleanup, transcription, translation, and identification. We will be sending out a link to a volunteer application after the preliminary opinion survey closes on November 30. If you are interested in volunteering and would like to go ahead and fill out the application, we would greatly appreciate it! Click here to fill out the volunteer application!

Your Comments on the PCMD

A user from our survey writes:

I'm concerned about bias in which types of information and history will be available in the database. History is so often told from the perspective of white, European, straight, male, cisgender, able-bodied, upper-middle class folks. Will this project be mindful to tell the full picture, or will it continue to erase the voices of the marginalized from our history?

Answer: This is an incredibly insightful and relevant question, especially in the modern day. The Pella Community Memory Database focuses on the preservation of historical materials in a digital format. We strive to do this without bias. The two collections selected for digitization during this initial grant project were done so simply because it was a logical starting point - one collection exists on-site at the Pella Public Library; the other collection at the Pella Historical Society and Museums has never been cataloged or digitized.

In the selection of future projects, we will strive to digitize collections that represent a wide variety of perspectives. Do keep in mind that the ultimate long-long term goal is to digitize the vast majority or all of the available historical materials in Pella. In other words, due to limited staff and workspace, some collections will necessarily be digitized after others.

Also keep in mind that these are historical documents, many from the 1800s and even sometimes earlier. At that time the prevailing viewpoint was, in fact, male, white, and European. Many of the documents are written from or focus on this viewpoint. We will be as diligent as possible in describing all viewpoints, however it is not possible to create or digitize something which does not exist. For example, documents related to the history of Native Americans in the area prior to the arrival of white settlers will be much more rare, if they exist at all. Only time will tell what documents may be discovered, but we will make every effort to be as unbiased as possible in our presentation.

Rest assured that the Pella Public Library follows the principles in the American Library Association's Library Bill of RIghts. Among those principles is that "Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval."

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Featured document of the month: Original Invitation to Central University of Iowa Alumni Exercises

This original invitation to the June 14, 1887 Central University of Iowa Alumni Exercises was sent to J.H. Cole of Miller, Dakota. This document is now a part of the Pella Community Memory Database. View it here.

Contributing Organizations!

Know an organization that has local historical materials to contribute to the Pella Community Memory Database? Let's talk! Have them contact Chris Brown, Project Director, at or 641-628-4268.

For More Information

This newsletter is published monthly with funding from an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.

For more information, please contact:

Chris Brown

Project Director