Did you know the Caldwell Public Library has a collection of historical documents and other materials? This collection began in the late 1970s when Caldwell's Oral History Committee started gathering oral history stories from long-time Caldwell residents. Photographs and other memorabilia were also collected during this time. Materials continued to be collected during the directorship of Elaine Leppert, who was active with local history groups, including the Oral History Committee.
Elaine Leppert and Lorene Thurston wrote the book Early Caldwell Through Photographs, a brief but informative photographic history of Caldwell's early years using the library's historical collection materials. Plans for a second book, covering the next part of Caldwell's history, were made but never realized.
Over the last six years, library staff has worked diligently to make the library's historical collection more accessible to the public. Grants have been sought out and secured to purchase software to digitize newspapers and photographs, preserve historical maps, and hire summer interns to assist with organizing and digitizing the collection. Once a significant amount of the physical collection was relocated from storage to the Idaho Room, it was officially named the Elaine Leppert Historical Collection in honor of the person who spent so much time building and using the collection.
Three major projects with this collection took place over the last year:
1) Most of the library's historical maps were copied and preserved for long-term use. This project was made possible through a grant from the Canyon County Historic Preservation Commission. Copies and lamination were made at Copy Cat on 10th Ave. in Caldwell.
The maps are housed in the Library's Idaho Room and are available during the library's operating hours. Unfortunately, we ran out of funding with our grant to complete the entire map collection. The rest of the maps will be completed at a future date.
2) A brief historical timeline of Caldwell was constructed on the wall in front of the Idaho Room. This project was made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities via a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council.
The timeline was officially unveiled during the library's Once Upon a Time fundraiser Gala on April 26. Local historian Chuck Randolph assisted staff with historical details and unveiled the timeline to Gala attendees. An in-depth timeline was put together virtually. This timeline includes major historical events in the city's history, including photographs and audio interviews from the oral history interviews conducted in the 1970s. The virtual timeline is available in English and Spanish and can be accessed here.
3) The library owns over 6,000 photographic slides that have been converted to digital photo files over the last several years. In the summer of 2021, the library hired an intern to assist with selecting an appropriate online platform to make these photographs accessible to the public. Once a platform was selected, staff began the arduous process of adding photographs and accompanying information to the site, which can be accessed here. As of May 2022, 856 photos are available to search and browse through the website.
Although much work has been done over the past six years, there are many projects in the future for the historical collection. The remaining maps need to be copied and stored for optimal preservation; digitized items must be added to the public site with accompanying information, inventories need to be completed, and continued digitization and preservation of material must ensue. This summer, the library will work with an intern to continue adding photographs to the public site and continue the multi-year project of digitizing the local newspaper from microfilm. If you or someone you know is interested in historic preservation, we would love to have volunteers help with these ongoing projects.
If you haven't had an opportunity to see the wall timeline, we encourage you to make a trip to the back of the library, behind adult non-fiction, and look at the installation. You may learn something new about Caldwell's rich history!
We hope you will consider the library for your historical research needs. If you have a question about local history or want to learn more about the historical collection, you can contact us at 208-459-3242 or email@example.com.