WASP collection coming to digital domain

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DRC/David Minton
A bronze statue of a Women Airforce Service Pilots aviator sits on the second floor of the Blagg-Huey Library at Texas Woman’s University.

TWU to use donor’s gift of $100,000 to preserve archives

Texas Woman's University announced last week that it had received a $100,000 gift from an anonymous donor to continue the digitization and preservation of the WASP collection.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots designated the TWU Blagg-Huey Library as the repository of their national archives in 1992.

The WASPs were the first women to serve as pilots and fly aircraft in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.

The WASP collection contains photographs, letters, diaries, postcards, uniforms and artifacts from women who were part of the organization between 1942 and 1944.

The recent gift was given by an anonymous donor who gave also TWU $100,000 in 2009 for the collection.

"We are using the money to further process the collections," said Sherilyn Bird, dean of the TWU Libraries.

The gift will help the university create a much larger Web presence for the archives by digitizing the collection and making it easier for scholars to find the information, Bird said.

It will also help preserve the original collection because once the information is on the Web, fewer people will be handling the actual items, she said.

The WASP collection has more than 1 million pieces of paper, about 25,000 photographs and about 700 oral histories, as well as more than 700 personal collections within the overall collection, said Kimberly Johnson, coordinator of special collections at the TWU library.

The gift will help support outreach programs by allowing the university to lend portions of the collection for exhibits around the country. It will also help the library document more oral histories, Johnson said.

Digitization will allow TWU to include information about what the women did after the organization disbanded in 1944, she said.

"Many of them [the women] continued to fly after the WASP disbanded," Johnson said.

The preservation of the collection helps promote women's place within aviation, she said, calling them "activists" of their time.

Johnson said the hope is that collection will spark enthusiasm about what the women pilots did and motivate people to want to know more.

"And it's also to preserve that history and that legacy," Johnson said.

"That mark they made in history is permanent."

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com .

 


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