The Oregon-California Trails Association, one of the premier organizations of western history, presented their 2010 Distinguished Service Award recently to Melvin L. Bashore, a librarian at the Church History Library who has overseen the development of the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database. Their award recognizes the contribution of Bro. Bashore and his missionary team to western history beyond those whose primary interest is Mormon history.
OCTA’s announcement of the award gives some idea of the scope of the project: “It indexes over 350 known emigrating companies … indexes over 50,000 emigrant names and contains full-text transcriptions to nearly 3,200 Mormon Trail narratives including diaries, reminiscences, reports, letters, and contemporary newspaper reports. … [It] has received 336,520 visits since 2003.”
The award notes that the “site’s scope goes far beyond Mormon companies” and that “because of the high quality and reliability of the transcripts, the database can be quoted confidently by graduate students and scholars, yet it is accessible even to a 4th grade history student.”
With the physical layout of the new Church History Library, I don’t see Mel and don’t pick up bits of news about the database nearly as often as I used to. Yet I see the results of his work and that of the missionaries working with him on a regular basis – I probably account for a couple thousand of those 336,520 visits to the database! He and they are quick to make additions and corrections whenever details are sent to them, and he is very free with his recognition of the assistance of his missionaries and of patrons like me. I’m glad OCTA has recognized Mel and his work in this way.
Thanks to blueagleranch for sending the OCTA announcement; I likely would never have heard of it otherwise — Mel is a modest man.