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JPMorgan Chase Teams with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center to Digitize Civil Rights Documents

JPMorgan Chase has teamed with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change to digitize over one million documents from the civil rights movement.

Related: Images From the JPMorgan Chase Booth at the Recent Martin Luther King Jr. Expo

Bank technology doesn't always have to be about analytics, security or marketing. In some cases, it can also be used for promoting social causes.

JPMorgan Chase, through its Technology for Social Good Program, is using its imaging and document management capabilities for such a cause: digitizing over 1 million documents from Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders for prosperity. The Technology for Social Good program is run under the direction of CIO Guy Chiarello.

Dubbed the King Center Imaging Project, the initiative is a partnership between the bank and the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

The end result of the project will be an educational website based on a comprehensive collection of King's papers and other audiovisual materials. The website will, for the first time, make historical materials such as King's speeches, sermons and correspondence readily available to anyone with access to the internet.

"We are digitizing everything so it can be preserved," said Ali Marano, head of the Technology for Social Good program. "They are mostly documents, but there are photographs, videos and audio recordings too. The general public has to go to Atlanta to see some of these papers; now they'll be available on the web."

Marano explained that not every single one of the million-or-so documents will be available online immediately. She said the more prominent and popular documents -- such as King's Letter from Birmingham Jail -- will be featured initially, but which ones are on the site will change based on public feedback and analytics.

"We will monitor activities for searches on the site and use that information to determine what papers we put up," she said. Marano added that all the documents will be digitized, even if they are not initially up on the site.

"Every one of the documents will be treated the same way, not just the ones going up on the website," she said.

Marano said JPMorgan Chase engaged in "a thoughtful process" in imaging all the documents. It first consulted an expert archivist to determine the best way to handle the pieces for the imaging, such as what to do with staples or creases in the paper.

Each individual document is then sent to an "imaging station" where photos are taken with digital cameras after it is prepared. The bank hired college students as temporary help for this portion of the project, including many from King's alma mater Morehouse College in Atlanta. JPMorgan Chase also dovetailed the imaging project with its "100,000 Jobs Mission," which is an initiative it started with 10 other companies to commit to collectively hire 100,000 military members leaving active duty service and other veterans by the end of 2020.

For more information, visit www.thekingcenter.org or www.jpmorganchase.com/mlk.

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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