Central Ohio residents now have an easy way to help the Columbus Metropolitan Library system preserve local history for future generations.

My Upload, the library system’s new historic-preservation tool, allows residents to upload photos to the My History digital collection. It was launched April 27.

The My History database has existed since 1996, said Angela O’Neal, manager of the Local History & Genealogy division at the Main Library.

Most of the materials are from the library system, as well as other partner libraries and organizations around central Ohio, O’Neal said. The oldest materials date to the 1770s, she said.

In the past, library customers could contribute to the collection by bringing in materials to be scanned, O’Neal said.

But the procedures involved exchanging flash drives to transfer images already in electronic form, so library staff members started thinking about how much easier it would be if customers could send the images directly, she said.

The project to automate the manual process originated in 2019, O’Neal said.

In August, the library system received a $25,000 grant for the initiative from LYRASIS, a nonprofit membership organization in Atlanta that serves archives, libraries and museums, she said. The library system worked with the New Albany-based Buckeye Interactive digital agency to assemble an online platform in which residents could upload images, she said.

“Our goal for this really is about preserving history and sharing it, of course,” O’Neal said.

Specifically, the library system is seeking photos of historic buildings or homes in central Ohio; old photos of Columbus businesses, events, places or people; and images of central Ohio during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Letters, posters and other materials showing the story of the central Ohio community and its neighborhoods also may be submitted, O’Neal said. For example, she said, she would not upload a typical baby photo of herself, but she would upload a photo of herself as a baby outside the old COSI building in downtown Columbus.

All file formats are supported, except GIFs, O’Neal said.

Documenting the pandemic especially is important because people will want to remember what had occurred during this time, she said. Children living through the pandemic also would be able to revisit their experience by looking through photos as adults, she said.

Many people have compared the pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, O’Neal said. The Columbus Metropolitan Library has only three photos from that time, she said.

Shelina Virjee, a 56-year-old Columbus resident, was among the first people to submit photos on the new platform. She said she had learned about it via a library email.

Virjee said she had used the library many times in the past to research genealogy and submitting a photo was her way of paying back the library.

Although she is at home because of state orders, Virjee said, she still uses a camera or cellphone every day to practice her photography skills.

She submitted a photo she had taken in March of Fairmoor Elementary School’s sign, which reads, “All CCS schools closed March 16-April 3.” A sign urging voters to support a Columbus State Community College ballot issue also is shown on the lawn at the Columbus City Schools building in east Columbus, between Bexley and Whitehall.

The image illustrates what the central Ohio community has experienced during the pandemic, Virjee said.