USF preserving history with the power of technology

February 15, 2024
1 min read


The University of South Florida’s Institute for Digital Exploration has digitized over 80,000 items for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, including jail ledgers, photographs, and newspaper clippings. The digital records will be cataloged in a searchable database, providing easy access for HCSO personnel. This project marks a critical step forward in preserving the history of the HCSO and may enhance investigative capabilities, including solving cold cases.

The University of South Florida’s Institute for Digital Exploration has collaborated with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) to digitize over 80,000 items spanning over 100 years of history. The items, which range from jail ledgers to old uniforms, were photographed and scanned to create a searchable digital database. The project aims to preserve the HCSO’s history and make information easily accessible for personnel.

The digitization project was carried out by the Institute for Digital Exploration team, who spent six months capturing and cataloging the items. Dr. Davide Tanasi, the institute’s director, expressed his surprise at the incredible amount of information found in the collection. The team used digital scholarship to generate knowledge for the community, as there are many community stories within the preserved documents.

The challenge of the project was not just the size but also the age of some of the items, dating back to the 1890s. To avoid further damage to the delicate records, the institute aimed to limit physical handling and provide HCSO members with digital files for easy access. The digital database allows for keyword searches, eliminating the need to flip through countless pages to find specific information.

It’s not just documents that were digitized; the project also included old equipment, badges, and uniforms. A structured light scanner was used to create three-dimensional models of these objects, ensuring their preservation and allowing for public outreach activities. The project demonstrates the effectiveness of digital curation in archiving large collections and marks a critical step forward in securing the history of the HCSO.

Sheriff Chad Chronister highlighted the potential impact of the digitization project, stating that it may enhance investigative capabilities, potentially solving cold cases and bringing closure to families. The final presentation of the digital database will be made to HCSO command staff in the following week.

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