The wheels on Keli Schmind’s cart squeak as she pushes it down the seemingly endless rows of boxes on the Denver Public Library’s sixth floor archive.
“This is where we keep most of the 10th Mountain Division collection,” she explains. Schmind is the head of the 10th Mountain Resource Center. “The official repository for all the artifacts, ephemera, and correspondence from the World War II era 10th Mountain Division.”
The Tenth was the first army division to go through high altitude and ski training during World War II.
Most of the intense training was done at Camp Hale near Leadville.
“They went through grueling training learning how to climb mountains, live in snow and ice, and how to ski,” Keli said.
The library has collected hundreds of hours of oral histories donated from friends, family, and film makers since the war.
These first hand stories of training and fighting in the Tenth are on digital video cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and other fragile media.
“There’s always a chance that a tape is going to break or a CD or DVD is going to degrade or crack or peel and then be lost forever," she said.
On Oct. 31, the library was awarded a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
The $22,990 from the Recordings at Risk grant program will help them digitize their collection of oral histories from the Tenth.
“Once we digitize them, we’ll have files that we can copy we can post we can save,” she said.
Schmind and her team will gather all of the media with oral histories and ship them out to be digitized.
Their job now is to make sure each file works properly, make a log of what topics are discussed on each file, and finally upload all three hundred plus hours to Denver Public Library’s YouTube channel next fall.
“We love to digitize files and photographs, and put them online where people can see them and access them,” Schmind said. “But we typically don’t have the resources to do that.”
Keli is entranced by the veterans sharing their stories on tape as she sits in the AV room of the library's fifth floor.
“To actually see somebody talk about it and see their eyes and the expression on their face as they kind of relive those moments...it’s just amazing," she said. "It gives me chills.”