The Lawrence Public Library, Watkins Community Museum and Douglas County Genealogical Society on Sunday launched their collaborative online local history portal with a warning about the site’s seductive content.
Addressing a Kansas Day gathering at the Lawrence Public Library marking the launch of the collaborative online site, history.lplks.org, Peter Carttar advised viewers to have time to spare when they start looking at the collection of postcards his mother-in-law, Sally Postma, and her mother, Charline Fitzpatrick, amassed.
“I get into these, and I get lost,” he said. “It’s the same kind of thing as going down internet rabbit holes.”
Also accessible on the site are all the published materials of the Douglas County Genealogical Society, which disbanded at the end of 2016, various photographs from the Watkins Museum and interviews from the city of Lawrence’s ongoing oral history project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Lawrence Fair Housing Ordinance.
The postcards Fitzpatrick and Postma collected nearly all depict scenes of Lawrence from the late 19th century through the first two decades of the 20th century, Carttar said. The collection contains many photographs of downtown Lawrence, Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas and various disasters that visited the town from a 1911 tornado to ice flow jams on the Kansas River, he said.
Rosalea Carttar said her mother and grandmother filled “albums and albums” of postcards by going to conventions dedicated to the hobby, perusing postcard newspapers and building a network of other enthusiasts. Her mother would buy out the supplies of merchants as well as their postcard displays, on which she would rotate cards with seasonal themes.
For many years, the Carttars have wanted to make the collection available to the public but were concerned about the safety of a family treasure, said Brad Allen, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library. The new online local history portal was the way to safely put the collection before a larger audience, he said.
The portal represents the fulfillment of a goal of working with the Watkins Museum on an internet presence, which was included in the library’s successful 2012 application for a five-year $275,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, said Kathleen Morgan, the library’s development and community partnership director.
“It feels good we can mark that off when we make our next annual report to NEH,” she said.
The digital effort also got a recent boost when the Douglas County Genealogical Society, knowing it was about to disband, had all its documents formatted for digital use, said Mary Burchill, the society’s longtime president. That digital collection can be viewed on the portal. The society also closed out its savings with gifts to the Watkins Museum and the library of $4,555 each to further their digital efforts.
Steve Nowak, director of the Douglas County Historical Society and the Watkins Museum, said the new online portal allowed viewers to post comments on materials viewed on the website. That would be beneficial when the museum was putting together exhibitions because the public would be able to submit additional information on documents or artifacts or offer relevant materials for shows.
“If someone has a letter or artifact, we’d love to hear from them,” he said.