Back in 2004, the Johnson County Museum approached the Johnson County Library with an idea. They wanted to provide a one-stop source for county historical materials on the Web. At that time, thousands of wonderful photographs, documents and artifacts were only accessible by visiting various organizations in person and sifting through the archives. So the Museum applied to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for a Museums for America grant and received an award to purchase software, scan the materials and develop a web presence. The Library would manage the technology portion and assist with promotion.
JoCoHistory officially launched in October of 2006. It housed digital collections from the Museum as well as the Olathe Public Library and the Johnson County Archives. Shortly thereafter JoCoHistory saw the addition of collections from the Overland Park Historical Society, Kansas School for the Deaf, Lenexa Historical Society and the Johnson County Library. The site added complementary web tools like the Johnson County Obituary Index and the Digital Cemetery to serve local genealogists and history enthusiasts.
The IMLS undertook an assessment of the Museums for American program in 2010, selecting six case studies from 1,191 grants it awarded. JoCoHistory was selected as one of these six case studies because of its success in connecting the public to Museum collections and providing a forum for education, entertainment and reminiscence.
The assessment has been completed and is available for download on the IMLS website. They also produced a short video about JoCoHistory and its impact on the community.
It is only fitting that this assessment, which takes us back to the origins of the JoCoHistory project, is made public on the very day of our official launch in 2006, our fifth birthday.
Thanks to all those who have worked or continue to work on the project, and mostly thanks to the historically-engaged citizens of Johnson County who have used and supported the site.