Chicago Rotary club puts its past online
Chicago club members kick back at a weekend retreat at Paw Paw Lake in Michigan, USA, July 1910. Courtesy of the Rotary Club of Chicago
The Rotary Club of Chicago has put 20,000 items from its archives into a new online collection.
The online archives feature photos, correspondence, and other writings from VIP members like Paul Harris, Chesley Perry, and Silvester Schiele; minutes of board of directors meetings dating back to 1920; a scrapbook assembled by Perry; a collection of documents about women of Rotary from 1921 to 1995; and other important records such as bylaws and early newsletters.
Richard McKay, past club president and founding secretary treasurer of the Rotary Global History Fellowship, and his wife gave more than US$40,000 to launch the project.
"Through working with the Rotary Global History Fellowship, I could see what Rotary historians around the world are doing to preserve Rotary history, and I thought that Rotary One (the Rotary Club of Chicago) should certainly promote its archives too," says McKay.
Past club president David Templin headed the archives project, and consultants Jane Kenamore and Laura Lorenzana were hired to begin electronically archiving the massive collection.
"The Rotary One archives are fantastic," says Kenamore. "The files contain early correspondence of Paul Harris and other leaders of Rotary. They have a tremendous amount of material.”
Some of the team's favorite items are correspondence between Perry and Harris about the role of women in Rotary, Perry's letter of resignation, and photos of early members enjoying a belly-dancing performance at a Rotary celebration.
Templin helped publicize the project among club members by making photocopies of some of the interesting finds and passing them out at meetings.
The club introduced the electronic archives at its booth at the 2008 RI Convention in Los Angeles.
Templin says the club plans to continue scanning documents from the collection as they’re requested by members and other Rotarians worldwide. Archives visitors can also search through a list of archived materials not yet posted online--including dozens of documents related to other Rotary clubs, such as a letter from a Japanese club in the 1930s and letters from a club in Shanghai in the 1920s.
"We thought this was a great opportunity to give something back, to get 20,000 documents scanned and onto the Internet and make them available to Rotarians and historians worldwide," says Templin. "Today is a different challenge from the last 100 years. It'll be interesting to see how the Rotarians of the next 100 years track their activities."