ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City Free Public Library recently launched a new online database highlighting the resort’s unique African American history.
The City of Dreams: The Atlantic City Experience has archived tens of thousands of photos and videos, audio files and documents that tell the story of the African American community including everything from nightlife and churches to social clubs and politics.
Now, students, teachers, researchers, and others who want to learn more about the resort’s African American community can search from anywhere if they have an internet connection and a suitable device.
“For years, we’ve been digitizing documents, but the problem was you had to come to the library,” said Library Director Robert Rynkiewicz. “This digitization project greatly improves access to the rich history of Atlantic City.”
The library unveiled the new database on Monday, Oct. 17, at the Stockton University Atlantic City Campus in the Fannie Lou Hamer Room.
The library received a grant of nearly $125,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund the project.
“The African American collection is one of our most requested,” said City of Dreams Project Director Jacqueline Silver-Morillo, who works as a library archivist.
Silver-Morillo said that about 25% of the research requests that the library receives come from people looking for information from the African American archive.
The library staff digitized 25 African American collections, including 7,000 documents and 4,800 photographs.
Among the most exclusive collections are historic papers from the city’s first African American Mayor James L. Usry and Councilwoman Barbara Hudgins.
Libbie Wills, acting president of the Atlantic City Free Public Library Board of Trustees, said this is the kind of effort that makes the library special.
“Libraries are the unsung heroes,” said Wills.
Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who attended the event, said the city government is in full support of the effort.
“This is a tremendous achievement,” said Shabazz. “The library is a shining gem of what’s good in Atlantic City and what’s positive in Atlantic City.”
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