Traverse Area District Library is looking to grow its database and needs your donation. From postcards to yearbooks, they are taking any historic photos, documents and more. Learn how you can support this project and additional Northern Michigan nonprofits featured in our 2021 GIVE issue.

Recently, a Swedish former hockey player contacted the Traverse Area District Library (TADL) with a request: He had played a number of hockey games here in his youth, in the 1970s, and wondered, could someone help him find what the scores had been?

It’s just a day in the life for the reference librarians at TADL, who tend the historical archives and field inquiries about the distant and not-so-distant past of the Traverse City region. Take the sweet husband who called wanting to make a gift of an old photo from the Traverse City Record Eagle of his wife as a young Cherry Fest princess. Or the folks who’ve long moved away and reach out looking to find out the fate of an old neighbor, childhood home or beloved school teacher.

To keep the archives usable and robust, volunteers and library staff are working furiously to acquire, preserve, digitize and tag (identify people, places, buildings) countless documents and photos of area history and life—and time is not on their side.

“We’re seeing a generational shift,” explains Michele Howard, executive director of TADL. “As this generation of elders is passing away, there’s an inclination for families to ‘Marie Kondo’ the house and get rid of things, and we’re losing knowledge and artifacts of local history we can never replace.”

To that end, the library is seeking donations to their vast collection—anything from old postcards, historical area photos or yearbooks make the cut—and TADL needs volunteers who can lend time to electronically review old photos and tag them for greater searchability. As part of their efforts, TADL recently digitized the records of the Immaculate Conception Church in Peshawbestown, which contains precious genealogical information regarding births, deaths, weddings and baptisms.

The library’s goal is to both help make the collection more accessible and encourage area residents to use and support it. You can search online (history.tadl.org) or visit the main library to explore genealogy resources. A smaller, roving collection of historical records will be accessible through a new bookmobile.

“Taking care of local history has a monumental impact,” says Heather Harris-Brady, marketing and communications manager for TADL. “If we don’t save these things, they are lost from our collective knowledge forever.”

History lovers can volunteer their time, knowledge or financial support on the Traverse Area District Library website to help in this preservation effort.

This Article Was First Featured in Northern Michigan GIVE 2021

Read more Northern Michigan nonprofit stories and learn how to donate and volunteer in the free edition of MyNorth GIVE 2021. You can also preview and purchase our digital issues Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.

Northern Michigan GIVE 2021 by MyNorth

Photo(s) by Kris Riley

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