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Historic Houston High School Digitizes Yearbooks for Online Access

Milby High School alumna Florence Waters holds a digitized version of the school's yearbook from 1936.
Milby High School Alumna Florence Waters holds a digitized version of the school's yearbook from 1936.

In order to keep up with the "constant" requests she receives every year for copies of old yearbooks, a high school librarian in Texas has been digitizing her school's collection going back to 1925 and making them available on the library Web site. Librarian Rowena Verdin at Charles H. Milby High School in Houston began the project in 2010, starting with two editions from each decade.

Currently, 13 of the volumes have been scanned and made into downloadable PDF files. The 1925 PDF file edition, for example, is about 53 megabytes.

When the library tweeted about its latest editions, Houston Independent School District staff member Valerie Schillaci found pictures of her grandmother, Florence Waters, on several pages of the 1936 edition. "I sent the link to all my aunts and uncles," said Schillaci, whose grandmother is in her 90s now. "It was so exciting. We all know her as Aunt Flo. We'd never heard of 'Flossie.'"

Besides helping alumni and their families track down images from the past, the library is using the books as a resource to instruct students about the history of their high school and to give them a window to student life in the past. "We digitize every page, from the front cover to the back, and that includes all the advertisements in between from back then," said Verdin. "The kids see ads for things like the Rice Hotel and ask if they still exist."

The process costs between $70 and $100 to convert each yearbook to a digital format. The library has received some funding from the school's alumni association, but it's also soliciting donations among visitors to continue the project and seeking yearbooks that are missing from its collection.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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