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Dam museum’s collection moves online

The Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum is taking its archive collection to the next level of accessibility — online and searchable with the touch of a button.

“This is probably the most valuable curation we can make,” said Roger Shoaff, general manager of the Boulder Dam Hotel and board liaison for the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association.

Shoaff said the museum, which is in the hotel and funded by it, has started putting all of its 20,000 photographs, articles, artifacts and primary source materials in a searchable database on its website, http://www.bchdmuseum.org/.

He said this type of project is on the mind of every museum in the country because it provides a backup of the archives and increases access to the collection.

“It’s been on our mind for years. … This allows us to keep these items and share them. … There are fewer times we’re opening the boxes and fewer hands on the material,” he said. “It helps preserve it.”

There are three phases to building the database, and the museum is currently in phase one. Tiane Marie, manager of the museum and collections, said she hopes to begin phase two within the next two years.

“Museums are about more than their collections; they are also about the connections they make with their community,” she said. “They are about the exhibits, educational opportunities and research projects that spring from a well-curated, properly catalogued collection.”

Marie said the museum actually started this project in the fall of 2019 but was able to focus more on it when the pandemic started last year.

“This project has only just begun and the fascinating thing about going digital is any time we get new donations, which averages about three to 10 people a month with donations, we can just get them digitized faster. So it’s our never-ending project for our history to thrive on,” she said.

The museum is utilizing a new software system, Catalog It, to build this database. Shoaff said it’s a subscription-based service with cloud-type storage that allows for easier uploading and access.

Through it, each photograph has information attached to it, allowing it to be searched by keywords. They are also arranged in different topical albums.

“Eventually, our entire collection will be searchable that way,” said Shoaff.

Shoaff said for this first phase, they do not need to raise any money to complete it, but getting their volunteers back will help move it along.

“Hopefully, we can get them back soon,” he said. “We can’t right now because of the pandemic. Once we can get our volunteers back, we can get them on this and get more completed.”

The second and third phase will include getting all the manuscripts, documents, biographies and 3D objects into the database. Once those are in, people will be able to view them on the computer as if they were looking at them in person.

Shoaff said once they get to that point, the museum will need to raise money for more equipment.

To explore the museum’s database, go to http://www.bchdmuseum.org and click on the BCMHA Collections Hub button toward the bottom of the home page.

Those who are interested in volunteering to help with the project, call 702-294-1988 or email tianemariebcmha@gmail.com.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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