I’m becoming a historian through osmosis. After a couple of
weeks of creating metadata, I have an increasing understanding of the documents
and the context in which they exist. I already knew some things from scanning documents
and looking for interesting tidbits for social media and blog posts.
Now that I’m creating metadata, my understanding of the topics
in our collection has increased tenfold. This is the nature of creating
metadata, I am trying to synthesize information contained in the document so
that when it is uploaded researchers browsing our collection will be able to
filter through the material.
It is obviously interesting to learn about major
events like the construction of the Hoover Dam, but it may be more
surprising to hear that my favorite things to learn about are the less
narratives. This week, for example, I created metadata for a series of
written between 1935 and 1938 between the City of Ontario and the
Water District of Southern California.
During this time the Colorado River was seen as the solution
to the water scarcity problem in Southern California. Increasing numbers of
people settling in the area meant increasing amounts of water was required for both
agricultural and domestic use. Southern Californians looked east to the
Colorado River, one of the largest rivers in the United States for assistance.
A dam in the Boulder Canyon was proposed and subsequently an
aqueduct leading to Southern California. The Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California was responsible for the building of the Colorado River
Aqueduct. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
originally encompassed Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Compton, Fullerton,
Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Marino, Santa Ana, Santa
Monica, and Torrance. Later on it would include dozens of Southern Californian
cities including Ontario.
This series of letters, however, gives a smaller,
intimate, and incredibly interesting history of this time. According to
from the City of Ontario, several city streets had been damaged by the
of the Colorado River Aqueduct. The letters addressed to the
District of Southern California requested that they cover the cost
repair the city streets. This correspondence continues with the
Water District of Southern California’s denial of responsibility of the
Between 1935 and 1938, the City of Ontario and the Metropolitan Water
of Southern California send letter after letter until a conclusion is
made. According to one of the final letters, an Ontario City
Council meeting passed a resolution that freed the Metropolitan Water
of Southern California from liability for the damage done during the
construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct.
As I created metadata for these items, I was intrigued by
this story. Although it is not a major event in the history of Southern California, it
is an interesting narrative that could very easily have been lost to time. Instead
I am able to make these letters available to researchers through the Claremont
Colleges Digital Library.