Akerlund Studio Glass Plate Scanning Project
(b) Statewide Historic and Cultural Grants. (i) $2,250,000 in 2010 and $4,500,000 in 2011 are appropriated for history programs and projects operated or conducted by or through local, county, regional or other historical or cultural organizations; or for activities to preserve significant historic and cultural resources. Funds are to be distributed through a competitive grants process. The Minnesota Historical Society shall administer these funds using established grants mechanisms, and with assistance from the advisory committee created herein.
The grant allowed the Cokato Historical Society to hire a vendor to scan 817 8x10 glass plate negatives from the Gust Akerlund Photographic Studio's negative collection, housed at the Cokato Museum. The total size of the Akerlund Negative Collection is 14,017 images. Of that amount, 11,552 are of the rare and fragile glass plate negative variety.
These images provide a photographic chronicle of the people of the Cokato area for most of the first half of the twentieth century. The 14,017 negatives which comprise the collection cover all the stages of life of the area's residents, including birth, youth, confirmation, graduation, marriage, family, business, entertainment, social functions, and finally death. This collection is one of the largest held in any local history museum in the state to come from a single source.
Due to the fragile nature of the glass plate negatives, along with the 2465 acetate and nitrate negatives, the Cokato Historical Society is continually looking for ways to maintain proper access to those images, while still adhering to acceptable collections management principles. Digitization is an appropriate step to preserve that balance.
By engaging in digitization, one major lasting impact of the project will be continued and improved access to the collection by staff and the public. At the same time they are minimizing handling of the original negatives, many of which are over 100 years old. Having digital copies will also make reproductions much more simple. Many of the prints made from the negatives have degraded over the last twenty years to the point that they no longer create usable scans for reproduction. Digital files will resolve that.