New digital collection 'Sixty Books, Sixty Libraries' goes online

July 19, 2007

Ever dream of having your photos, drawings or stories published online? For a few Wisconsinites, that dream was realized through a collaborative art project digitized by the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center, which goes live this week.

"The Bone Folders' Guild & the Wisconsin Book Festival - Sixty Books, Sixty Libraries" project was originally inspired by the 1,000 Journals Project, which sent 1,000 journals around the globe. People added their own unique content and passed the journals on, creating an interactive community.

Image from one of the books that has been digitized and is now available online.

’Collection no. 1,’ created by Louran Jour Walter, is part of the journal from the Lakeview branch of the Madison Public Library. The digitization of the "Sixty Books, Sixty Libraries" project allows anyone to view the work online.

With the same community goal in mind, the Bone Folders' Guild, a Madison-based book arts group, created 60 blank journals and distributed them to each of the 60 libraries in Wisconsin's South Central Library System.

The project drew a wide range of participants-from farmers and bankers to children and the elderly-who contributed their own unique flavor to the journals.

"You have everything from original poetry to paintings, even some original photographs," says Melissa McLimans, a digital services librarian. "Material comes from experienced artists to kids who are just coloring."

’Land,’ by J. Burwell of Madison

“Land,” by J. Burwell of Madison

When the project started in 2005, some were skeptical the journals would be checked out or that patrons would create any art, according to Laura Komai of the Bone Folders' Guild. Shortly after they hit the libraries, however, the project quickly took off and the journals routinely had lists more than 50 people long waiting for a chance to contribute.

The digitization of the journals allows anyone from around the world to view the unique work of some of south central Wisconsin's residents. The prospect of reaching out worldwide is "quite a thrill," according to Komai.

"It raises the books culture to an unexpected level," Komai says. "It was pretty wonderful on the night of the closing reception to sit at a table with all 60 books and page through them. With the books digitized, they are now more accessible."

The journals were displayed at the 2006 Wisconsin Book Festival and sent to UWDCC for digitization. A Madison CitiARTS Grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council sponsored the original project.