The Cromaine District Library in Hartland Michigan, like many smaller libraries, has a unique local history collection. And, like many smaller libraries, there are difficulties in balancing preservation of and access to information in the collection.

A special portion of the Cromaine Library local history collection was assembled by library founder, J. Robert Crouse, Sr. A fascinating autograph collection gathered by Crouse includes manuscripts of Louisa May Alcott, Charles Lindbergh, Felix Mendelssohn, and Pope Gregory XIII to name but four of the 250 documents in the record.

This collection was originally housed in the Cromaine Library. Many of the original manuscripts and photographs were framed and displayed throughout the building. Other items were found in boxes and file folders in the basement. In 1975, the library director, properly discerning the value of the items and understanding the library did not have the facilities to properly house it, placed the collection of 250 autographed letters and photographs on permanent loan at the Bentley Library, University of Michigan. This collection was basically unknown and not accessible to the Cromaine patrons or other interested researchers.*

In the summer of 2000, the Cromaine District Library applied for, and received, a grant from the Heartland Foundation in order to digitize the John Robert Crouse, Sr. Autographed Letter Collection to make it publicly accessible through the Library's web site, www.cromaine.org. The grant from the Foundation has been supplemented by funds from the Library's Annual Fund. The Library has also supported the project by providing staff time to manage the project and research information about the people represented in the autograph collection. Additional assistance has been provided by Nadine Cloutier, Hartland Area Historical Society president.

The goal of "Bringing the Crouse Autographed Letter Collection Home" was to

  • Promote the preservation of, and access to, the J. Robert Crouse, Sr. Autographed Letter Collection, and to stimulate interest and research about Mr. Crouse, his accomplishments, his impact on Hartland, and his autograph collection.

The objectives were to

  • Heighten awareness of J. Robert Crouse, Sr. and his contributions to American society,
  • Spark interest in Hartland local history, and
  • Provide an on-line environment that will promote use of the Crouse Collection in the Hartland Schools.

The Library engaged the services of Terwilliger Associates to provide technical support for the project. Terwilliger Associates has been responsible for digitizing, database design, information architecture, web interface, developing procedures and manuals, mounting the database, and staff training.

While the technical work was being done, Library staff researched and wrote short biographical notes for each of the people represented in the collection.

* Image used with permission.

 
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