The Lorain Public Library System wants to save memories of the region before they are lost.

The library system is putting out a call for items that people may have put away in a cupboard or basement, whether it’s old photographs, high school yearbooks or newspaper articles, said John Guscott, manager of the Columbia Station branch library.

The library system wants to digitally preserve the history and fabric of the region for the Lorain County Memory Project and make it more accessible to future generations.

During a presentation at the Avon branch library on Feb. 12, Guscott encouraged residents to share old family and neighborhood photos, street scenes of places such as corner grocery stores and restaurants, high school yearbooks and scrapbooks and record their stories.

“A lot of cities throughout Lorain County and Westshore communities have changed a lot through the years,” he said. “A lot of times when those stories aren’t shared or recorded, they’re lost.”

About a year ago, Guscott and library officials started working with Cleveland State University digital humanities professor Mark Souther to help identify historical-related items and images in the library system it could digitize. The library system started digitizing items in the fall and is partnering with the Avon Lake Public Library and local historical societies to identify and share collections.

The system has digitized 14 collections that the public can access online. Among the items are most of the issues from 1950 to 2010 of Highlights, Avon High School’s annual yearbook, and about a dozen oral histories from Avon residents who have seen changes in the city. There are also copies of the North Ridgeville Press and Light newspaper and Lorain High School yearbooks from 1950 to 2010.

Guscott said the library would love to have more vintage photographs and oral histories of local military veterans, people who lived in ethnic neighborhoods and those who worked in the factories throughout the region.

“We know that stuff is out there,” he said. “I’d love to see old photos of the Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted. I remember going to the mall in the ’80s, but nobody ever went there to take pictures inside. It would be neat to see if someone had a series of interior pictures of Great Northern through the years.”

The memory project will mirror the Cleveland Memory Project, a vast digital archive spearheaded by Cleveland State University’s Michael Schwartz Library in 2002 that contains vintage photographs and oral histories. Over time, LPLS employees with IT and research backgrounds will digitize items at the system’s six libraries.

The library system’s collection of the Avon High School yearbooks was missing the 1969 edition of Highlights. Doug Petersen, an Avon native who attended the presentation and graduated in 1969, said he and his wife, 1968 Avon graduate Kathy Simon, would donate their extra one.

“It’s a great project for history preservation,” Petersen said. “It can help people learn more about their community. It’s also a good tool for genealogy research.”

Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, director of the Lorain Public Library System, said it collects history and memories in its books, but would like to do it digitally.

“When we do that, our customers could access information from their homes or wherever they are at,” she said. “Our goal is to preserve the history of our region and for people to have the best access to it they can.”

If anyone has historical-related photographs or items they would like to donate or share, or would like to have their stories recorded for the Lorain County Memory Project, call 440-236-8751, ext. 8706 or email jguscott@lpls.info.

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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