Nearly a century of Salem High School (SHS) yearbooks are now online in a completely searchable format thanks to a partnership between the Salem Public Library and the Salem High School Alumni Association.
All the content-approximately 16,000 digital pages-is fully searchable. This amazing feature means that when users enter a name, club, activity, or advertiser in the search box they receive comprehensive search results dating to 1915.
The full yearbooks are available for low-resolution download as well.
"Our staff's conversion of the yearbooks to digital format removes geographic barriers to accessing this information and helps ensure the yearbooks are preserved for the future," said Library Director Brad Stephens.
"Making the yearbooks available online is fabulous way to open our doors 'virtually' so that our alumni and the public alike can view our treasure trove of fascinating historic content. We see this as a first step with other content being available in the coming months," said Todd Olson, the SHSAA board member who leads the association's efforts to preserve its archives.
SHSAA's website designer, Dr. Peter Apicella, has made it easy to browse through a century of SHS history by simply selecting the cover of a yearbook and browsing through the volume. "The yearbooks are priceless treasures of our past. Being able to search for family and friends over nearly 100 years, seeing the faculty and student dressed from the early 19th century, admiring the hand-drawn artwork, and delving into the writings of the day will keep our website viewers entertained for hours," said Apicella, who is also an alumni association board member.
The Salem High School Alumni Association is a non-profit organization with two key missions. It sustains memories and friendships of Salem High School and provides scholarships to Salem High School students, recent high school graduates, and alumni.
Thanks to the attentive management of the alumni association, which began in 1882, and the generous alumni of Salem's public high school, the alumni association's collection contains a wide array of Salem High School archival information and memorabilia.
Despite the size of the association's collection and the materials in the Salem Public Library's local history collection, yearbooks from 1917 to 1920 are missing and, therefore, are not in the yearbook database.
It is possible yearbooks were not printed during those years that coincide with the final years of World War I and a worldwide flu pandemic.
Olson encouraged anyone who has a SHS yearbook from one of the missing years to contact the library. These yearbooks will be preserved during the digitizing process and returned to the owner upon completion. He also noted that going forward the yearbook database will not include the five most recent years in order to protect against the dissemination of minors' photographs.
"This project highlights the commitment of both organizations to fulfill their respective missions to the Salem community. As a result, Salem is now one of a very short list of communities that can view an important piece of its past right from the comfort of home. Give it a look. It is fabulous," Olson said.
Stephens noted that "preserving nearly 100 years of Salem High School yearbooks has been a project that fits well with the library's core objectives of preserving and increasing access to information."
The library's other local history digitization projects include the Salem News Obituary Index; Grandview Cemetery Burial Records; and a digital collection of the Salem News since 2009.
Given that the Salem News Obituary Index is searched more than 10,000 times per month, Stephens said the library plans to create digital versions of other local history collections as well.
In addition to local history materials, the library's digital collection contains extensive contemporary materials including more than 100,000 eBooks, audio books, digital magazines, and databases like Chilton Auto Repair and Morningstar Investment Research.
All of these resources may be accessed remotely via the library's website or in the library at 821 East State Street.