From UConn Today
Soon after the dedication of its new building in 1995, the University Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center began to take a leadership role in the rapidly emerging world of digital technology with the launch of Connecticut History Online (CHO), one of the first collaborative digitization projects in the nation.
CHO, which was launched in 2001 by the collaboration between the Archives, Connecticut Historical Society, and Mystic Seaport, established a digital collection of more than 11,000 objects representing the 19th and early 20th century, primarily photographs, prints, and drawings. Subsequent efforts with additional partners, including the Connecticut State Library, created digitized documents from the 18th century that included newspapers, oral histories, maps, and broadsides, among other materials.
“CHO was meant to deliver materials. It was in the early days of the Internet. It wasn’t meant to be a preservation solution,” says Greg Colati, director of digital curation for University Libraries. “We weren’t ensuring that content would live on because we didn’t have any preservation infrastructure in place. We’re now in the fourth generation of digital libraries, which is all about creating long-term preservation and the ability to exchange this content with other systems.”
Fittingly, some of the first materials to be digitized for preservation are the 50,000 pages of documents that are the Nuremberg Trial Papers of Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, for whom UConn’s Dodd Research Center is named. The former Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General supervised the day-to-day prosecution team of the United States during the International Military Tribunals in 1945-46, which prosecuted the leadership of Nazi Germany for war crimes during World War II.
As Executive Trial Counsel, Dodd shaped many of the strategies and policies through which the trial took place. The depositions, photographs, evidence, correspondence, drafts of legal briefs, and other documents from the Nuremberg Trials have been used by scholars from around the world since they were opened to the public in 1997.
The Nuremberg Trial Papers consist of the materials handed to the prosecution staff in preparation for the trials. Although the official trial transcripts were digitized as part of the Avalon Project at Yale University, the papers dealing with the development of the trial presentation have never been available on the Internet. About 50 researchers travel to Storrs each year to study the original trial documents in the Dodd collection for various research projects.
Since last year, about 25,000 pages of the 50,000 documents in the collection have been digitized. Colati says it will take an estimated two years to complete the task, owing to the methodical process required to make curatorial decisions on the handling of sometimes fragile items. In addition, each individual document in the collection must be coded so it not only can be electronically retrieved but also cross-indexed and linked to related material in other collections. Twelve members of the Archives staff have some role at various points in the process of digitizing each document.