Saturday, December 12, 2009

Preserving the History of Engineers' Days

As the Director of Administration for Speed School Student Council one of my main responsibilities is to "keep all Speed Student Council records other than financial." In this modern age of technology, this is coming up with a system to use modern technology in such a way that it will not be lost to history. This has primarily materialized in how I manage the Student Council website ( Specifically, the main records that SSSC produces are meeting minutes. At the moment, I am using Google Docs to manage these documents and it is working out nicely for the generation of new content.

While I still want to tackle the issue of all of the old meeting minutes, I have been actively uncovering historical records in another area. Engineers' Days, now known as Engineering Exposition, is a long standing tradition at Speed School. My new mission has been digitizing the past programs from the events and posting them on

I have been scanning in the collection of old programs that have survived the years in the council office. The oldest program that survived was from 1975. However, even older programs dating back to the 1930's have survived in the University Archives.

What I have been doing is scanning in the programs and creating PDF versions of the paper programs. This is a good first step, but how is it possible to preserve these records online without trusting that some service is around years from now. The approach I have taken is somewhat complicated, but it seems to be working.

The new E-Expo website is hosted using an install of MediaWiki that allows for very simple editing. The PDF files can be easily uploaded to the wiki and made available on the internet. However, the level of accessibility is somewhat limited. Google has made available Google docs Viewer which translates any PDF or PowerPoint into an HTML iFrame. This way the actual PDF is hosted by SSSC, but an easy way of viewing the document is provided by Google.

Here is the 1975 Program for Engineers' Days:

All of the programs and information about each of the past events is available under Past Events on the E-Expo website.

Moving forward I still need to find a way to get digital copies of the programs that are located in the University Archives. Because the library charges to scan in these documents there is no means for getting digital copies of these materials at the moment.

Additionally, even with the programs hosted on council's website, they may not survive the test of time and technology. One method of preserving these records may be to release them under a Creative Commons license and publish them to the Internet Archive.

This task has taken up quite a bit of my time, but I feel that preserving this history is well worth all of the work that it takes.

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