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Access Granted

March 17, 2014

By Carolyn Purcell

Museums and archives have long been challenged to find balance between public access and preservation. Long-term preservation concerns often lead to stringent and restrictive public access policies that can impede the enrichment of the people the museums and libraries serve. Finding a balance that meets the needs of both preservation and access is the ultimate goal.

Photo of the Walfz-Allaway family reunion taken in Hood River in 1955. Images like this are available from the OSU Digital Collections.

Photo of the Walfz-Allaway family reunion taken in Hood River in 1955. Images like this from Wasco County are available from the OSU Digital Collections.

Digital technology has broached the preservation vs. access divide by offering a workable solution: the best preservation actually offers the best access. Digital copies of photographs and documents provide the ability to offer safe off-site storage of virtual copies and have images that can be viewed by anyone at anytime via the internet. This access does not in any way diminish the preservation of the originals.

Two noteworthy collaborative projects in our community in the past few years have offered solutions to long-standing preservation vs. access concerns. Through the assistance of Oregon Heritage Commission and Oregon State University Libraries we now have high-resolution scans of the entire 10,000+ images of the Wasco County Pioneer Association photograph collection and the images are available to everyone on the Oregon State University Digital Collections website.

Another very important resource for not only the community, but for the state and region, is the newspaper collection owned by Eagle Newspapers that has long been stored at The Dalles Chronicle office. This collection of papers dates back to 1864, chronicling the news of eastern Oregon. Realizing how vulnerable the collection was, the publisher began restricting access to it some years ago. Through funding from Oregon Heritage Commission and with the assistance of University of Oregon Libraries, the newspapers have now been re-microfilmed for inclusion in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Library Project. The new, better quality microfilm has been digitized to allow key-word searches and is available to everyone for free!

It is a pleasure working side-by-side with those who hold a passionate interest in Oregon’s cultural heritage. By employing the tools of digital access, heritage preservation is advancing at the velocity of the high speed internet.

Carolyn Purcell is the Executive Director of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Visit the Columbia Gorge Discover Center website at

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