About the Coralville Digital History Library
"Every community in Iowa should appreciate its heritage and Coralville is no exception. Beginning as a small settlement surrounding a cluster of mills in a bend of the Iowa River in the 1850s, Coralville has grown to a robust center of commerce and culture at the turn of the 21st century. It is appropriate that “Coralville Pride” is the motto of our city."
- Tim Walch, in a letter to the Historical Society Incorporation, requesting support for the Coralville Digital History Library project
The Coralville Public Library (CPL) has long championed the right of the public to access educational resources. By sharing the history of Coralville, Iowa and the surrounding area of Johnson County through photographs and other documents, the online repository of the Coralville Digital History Library (CDHL) acts as a natural extension to that goal. The images, documents, and histories recorded on this site are not only open to the patrons of the CPL, but all past, present, and future residents of the city of Coralville, students, researchers, historians, and the rest of the public.
Beyond recording the history of decades and centuries past, the CDHL recognizes that history is constantly in the making. The CDHL is therefore committed to creating local community projects and partnerships in an effort to preserve the stories of current residents, buildings, events, and city initiatives, so that future generations may learn from and better understand the Coralville of today.
This project began as a book.
When Arcadia Publishing House approached local historian Tim Walch about creating a book for their Images of America series, he suggested the city of Coralville be the focus of the photograph history. Though around since the 1850s, the growing city had very few written resources covering its unique past and initial origins; Walch wanted to fill in this historical gap. The Publishing House agreed, and Walch began his search for images of Coralville.
Thanks to the generosity of local donors and strong partnerships with the Johnson County Historical Society, Coralville Public Library, and Coralville city resident Rex Brandstatter, Walch collected around 400 images that shared the history of Coralville. Of those, about half were published in the book Images of America: Coralville in 2015. While the book was a success, Walch and his partners had concerns. What about the photographs that weren't included? Shouldn't the residents of Coralville also have access to those? And what of the possible additional photographs and documents currently tucked away in attics and family memory chests? The city had neither a platform to share what images they did have, nor a set process to search for additional historical material or preserve current events.
The partners agreed the best way to continue the work started by Walch was to found a city digital archives. After being awarded with a grant from the Historical Society of Iowa and additional funds from the Coralville Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Coralville Public Library, the CPL staff hired Rachel Black as Digital Archivist to convert the photographs used in the book for display on a website. These 198 photographs represent the foundation of a larger on-line archives of additional photographs and documents to be added in future years.
Tim Walch offers a more in-depth perspective about his experience and partnerships on the Coralville: Story of a Book page.
The Coralville Digital History Library is an initiative of the Coralville Public Library and the Johnson County Historical Society, overseen by Wendy Stevenson, who took leadership on this project in July of 2020.
The Coralville Digital History Library thanks and acknowledges the early supporters of this project, including Tim Walch, Alex Drehman of the Johnson County Historical Society, Allison Ames Galstad, Ellen Hampe Alexander, and Matt Bock of the Coralville Public Library, and Rex Brandstatter. We also thank the Friends of the Coralville Public Library, the Coralville Public Library Foundation, and Historical Society Incorporated, whose generous financial gifts and grants gave this project a lasting foundation to build upon.
Finally, thank you to the many donors and volunteers who gave their photographs, documents, knowledge, and time in order to share the history of the people and city of Coralville. This project would not have been possible without you.