THE CREATIVE TOOLBOX
BY DENISE OLSON
A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column
Mary Catherine Link (1850 - 1917)
The lady in the center of this photo is Mary Catherine Link (1850 - 1917), known as Miss Kate to her family, friends and students. She taught school for 40 years, helped raise her brother's children after his wife died and was active in church and community affairs. This is the only photo I have of Miss Kate, but I do have one very special treasure that belonged to her - her autograph book.
This beautiful little book contains notes from friends and students spanning a period from 1885 to 1906. Unfortunately the binding has mostly disintegrated, but the pages are still intact. Although its condition requires limiting how much it is handled, today's technology makes it easy to digitize. To limit further damage, I chose to photograph the book rather than scan it.
Several cousins had expressed an interest in the autograph book so the next question was how to share it in a way that would maintain the integrity of its contents.
At that time I had just become aware of the Lulu publishing-on-demand platform. This is one of several such services now available online. It gives everyone the opportunity to produce a book with little or no upfront costs and, in Lulu's case, even provides a platform for selling your creation. I was intrigued with its potential for publishing an affordable family history but then it dawned on me that this was also a perfect solution for sharing the digitized collections of family documents, letters - and even autograph books.
Since the photos were already taken, building the book was a relatively simple process. With publishing-on-demand, you control both the editorial and layout/design efforts. At the time I photographed the book, I had no idea I would ever "publish" the photos. If I had, I would probably have included a more complete view of the pages with cover and binding showing all around each page to better show the age and condition of the book. Still, I'm pleased that all the notes are quite readable and the colors true.
Once you've written and formatted your book, it must be converted to a PDF format before being uploaded to your Lulu project area. I created my book using OpenOffice.org's Writer app. Other than a brief intro and a short biography at the end of the booklet, all I did was place one photographed page from the autograph book per page in my book. Cover to cover there are 23 pages in this little book.
One of the things I really like about Lulu is that they offer both a hardcopy print option and an e-book download option. When I added Miss Kate's Autograph Album to my Moultrie Creek bookstore, I chose to offer both. For this publication, I chose to offer the printed book at cost - $9.30. The downloadable e-book is offered at no charge. Costs are based on several variables - binding choice, physical size, number of pages, color or black and white, and so on. This also includes what it costs Lulu to provide the online project area for its users and to maintain the user's storefront. When someone comes to purchase the book, Lulu handles all the work - order management, printing, shipping, customer service, etc. This allows me to share Miss Kate with all my research cousins at a price everyone can afford.
While we are all aware of these online printing services for photo books, scrapbooking and family histories, it's time to think outside the box and use them to share even more of your family treasures. Is there an artist in your family who left sketchbooks behind? What about those letters, journals, recipe cards and scrapbooks? We're all busy scanning these family treasures, but what are you going to do with them now?
Maybe it's time to add a few publishing parties into our scanfest schedule.