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Meet a History Saver: Daniel Orr

As HistoryIT celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2021, we want to take the time to share how amazing our team of history savers is. In this blog series, you’ll get to know each member of our organization who makes HistoryIT’s history-saving work possible. We’d like to introduce you to Daniel Orr, our Digital Imaging Manager.

Daniel is the cornerstone of our digital imaging team. He keeps us up-to-date on best practices for preserving the precise likeness of each and every item — no matter the shape, size or material. From the HistoryIT studios to onsite composite imaging sessions, he’s always looking to save the little details that sometimes matter the most.

1. What about history inspires you?

I suppose I like getting to the bottom of things, and sometimes it’s just nice having solid answers. Digging in archives can offer just that if the work is put in. The gratifying and necessary context these clues can offer in our modern lives is immeasurable.

2. When did you discover HistoryIT and what is one memory from your first year working here?

I was still in NYC working in commercial photography. I was daydreaming about a life in Maine and saw a job posting that seemed to roll my current skill set in with archival work. The position was gone after I’d moved here, so I freelanced for a multitude of clients. About a year later, the position had reopened and I luckily got my foot in the door.

Very shortly after working here, I was able to work with materials from Hog Island Audubon Camp, and was particularly fascinated with some images of the celebrated ornithologist and photographer Allan Cruikshank doing fieldwork. Some photographs evoke a feeling of looking at the past and having it look back.

3. In your role at HistoryIT what does a typical day look like?

The core of my role is creating as true a digital record of an item as possible, which is a daily exercise. If I’m taking on a new client or new item type, I communicate with team members to form the best plan of action. Each new project potentially contains untold surprises. Finding the gems are truly a special thing, and can make everything worth it. Podcasts and coffee take care of the rest.

4. In celebration of HistoryIT’s 10th Anniversary, what is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I have thoroughly enjoyed our recent on-site captures for Greek academic organizations. It combines the challenge of travel with my current duties, with the added bonus of gaining insights into the setting in which I’m capturing composites. I most recently went to a house dating to the late 1800s for an Ivy-League chapter. The liaison for that particular chapter was highly knowledgeable about the space and the materials, which made the whole process exciting and truly immersive.

5. Why is it important to digitally preserve our history?

I think the ease of access digital technology offers even the youngest of us speaks for itself. The further we become more ingrained as a digital society, the easier it will be for current and future generations to share and continue preserving digital records. Physical things are sadly not guaranteed against decay or being forgotten on a long enough time scale.

6. If you were to look back on this interview in 10 years, what mystery of history do you hope will be solved?

I really want to know if Tony Soprano dies in that diner in the last episode before they cut away at the end. Oh, you mean real events…

I’ve always wondered exactly what transpired in the Dyatlov Pass Incident, in which 9 experienced skiers met demises that have been very difficult to explain. Even though there are new compelling theories on what transpired there, I’d still like the closure and certainty to know 100%.

7. What’s one thing you want your clients to know about HistoryIT?

The services we offer are a valuable and inevitable need for everything truly worth preserving.

8. Who will play you when they create a movie about the making of HistoryIT?

Maybe Penn Badgley? I sit in a dark room with old books all day. He played a character with a similar job (with assuredly dissimilar hobbies) in an awful show. There are certainly worse comparisons, but I suppose it’s made frequently enough to mention here.

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