Historic Milby High School yearbooks going digital

Florence Waters Schillaci, 95, displays her photo from the 1936 Milby High School yearbook "The Buffalo" on a tablet at her home, December 17, 2013. Milby students have been digitizing past copies of the yearbook for a class project. (HISD/Dave Einsel)

Milby HS alumna Florence Schillaci (née Waters) holds up an iPad with a photo of herself on it from the newly digitized 1936 yearbook, The Buffalo. (HISD/Dave Einsel)

Librarian Rowena Verdin has come up with an innovative way of handling the many requests she receives each year for copies of old yearbooks—she is taking Milby High School digital.

Verdin began digitizing the school’s old yearbooks in 2010, starting with two editions from each decade. “Right now, only the 1925 and the 1936 editions are online, but we’ve got about 15 of them in digital format,” she said. “We’ve even got one from 1920, back when Milby was still known as Harrisburg High School.”

HISD Strategic Communications Manager Valerie Schillaci learned about the project in a Tweet from Milby High School on Dec. 5, and was delighted to discover pictures of her paternal grandmother, Florence Waters, on pages 25, 35, and 61 of the 1936 edition (.pdf) after clicking through to the related article.

“I sent the link to all my aunts and uncles,” said Schillaci, whose grandmother is in her 90s now and living in Baytown. “It was so exciting. We all know her as Aunt Flo. We’d never heard of ‘Flossie.’”

Today’s Milby students are also enjoying the glimpse into the past that old issues of The Buffalo provide, and Verdin is using them as a tool to deliver miniature history lessons on the City of Houston.

“We digitize every page, from the front cover to the back, and that includes all the advertisements in between from back then,” said Verdin. “The kids see ads for things like the Rice Hotel and ask if they still exist.”

It costs between $70 and $100 to convert each yearbook to a digital format (depending on the number of pages), so additional funds will be required to continue the project. To make a contribution or to donate a missing edition of The Buffalo, please contact Rowena Verdin at 713-928-7401, via email, or @milbylibrary on Twitter.

To learn more about how HISD is bringing technology into the classroom, visit the PowerUp site.