In 2009, then-Liberty Librarian Adriana Perez secured a $5,000 grant from the California State Library and Local History Digital Resource Project, which was used to scan and preserve Liberty High yearbooks dating back to 1905.
Since the school lost its archive of yearbooks to a fire in 1963 – and now maintains a collection dating back only to the ’60s – the East Contra Costa Historical Society has helped to acquire earlier editions. Now all Liberty yearbooks from 1905 to 2004 are available online.
“Digitizing yearbooks is a relatively new practice,” said Liberty Union High School District Librarian Cathy Johnson. “There aren’t a lot of high schools that have such a rich history like Liberty, which was built more than 100 years ago. Even though it’s burned down a few times, the school was always rebuilt and the history is still here.”
To complete the digitizing process, the yearbooks were sent to a facility in San Francisco where personnel spent months scanning every page, which can now be viewed at the Liberty website. To locate the yearbooks, click here. Just click a year and that yearbook will be displayed on your desktop with buttons that allow you to flip through the pages as if you were holding the real thing.
The zoom feature allows you to get a better look at candid photos of events such as the Donkey Basketball Game of 1962, in which students wearing football helmets rode donkeys down the court. History and nostalgia buffs will also find a group shot of the Liberty Glee Club in 1938 and snaps from the 1990 Homecoming rally. It’s all there, and memory lane has never been so accessible.
Local historian and East Contra Costa Historical Society member Kathy Leighton believes the digitization of the yearbooks is an innovative way to preserve history.
“When we heard about the grant, we were thrilled,” Leighton said. “Not only were we able to copy all of the yearbooks, but the grant money was also used to buy fireproof cabinets to store the yearbooks. And we purchased archival materials such as cases and acid-free envelopes to preserve each book. Those materials are outrageously expensive, so it’s nice that we were able to secure this part of East County’s history.”
Leighton said the yearbooks are more than high school mementos. Each volume is a bound piece of history that showcases cultural trends, such as the fashions of the day. And since those early books were filled with student essays and not just pictures, online readers can gain unique, personal perspectives on life in bygone Brentwood.
The yearbooks are also a useful tool for tracking genealogy. Just this week, Leighton was scanning yearbooks to help a family trace its family tree, an increasingly popular practice now that the Internet makes tracking relatives much easier.
“More and more people are tracking their family history,” Leighton said. “A yearbook is a great place to start. A yearbook is a general research tool. It’s not just for the students; it’s a window to the past. And with the digitization of the yearbooks, the window is wide open.”