In recent months, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office has been utilizing the skills of two young men on the autism spectrum to digitize information about Delaware’s historic properties for preservation purposes and to make it more accessible to the public. This information is part of a vast quantity of printed files, photographs, microfilm and microfiche that the office has accumulated since it was created in 1970 as a result of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
Bob and Paul (their actual names have been changed to protect their privacy) work for CAI (Computer Aid, Inc.) a global information-technology consulting and services firm that employs more than 3,000 associates worldwide, with over 800 working in Delaware. CAI’s workforce includes several people on the autism spectrum whose unique skills help the company address its customers’ needs.
In February, 2015, the Delaware Department of State contracted with CAI to utilize the company’s autism-spectrum associates in scanning photographic-inventory cards and microfiche from the preservation office, as well as materials from the Delaware Public Archives. The Department of State sweetened the deal by loaning computers and scanning equipment to CAI for the project.
CAI’s Dana Slachta, who supervises Bob and Paul, as well as many other people on the autism spectrum, noted that they are “the perfect fit for work such as scanning, data entry and quality-assurance testing. Their strengths include focused concentration, attention to detail, an ability to recognize patterns and deviations in data, and thinking outside the box. … We focus on the unique skills that they can bring to our company, and try to accommodate the difficulties that they face such as discomfort in social situations.”
Alice Guerrant, manager of the preservation office’s research center, noted that “the quality of work done by the CAI associates has been outstanding. Previous digitization projects have been slow, tedious and prone to errors due to the repetitive nature of the work … and when we tried to have the scanning mass-produced by machine, the results were less than perfect. With Bob and Paul, we know the job will be done right because they scan each file by hand and they pay attention to detail.”
The journey that led to CAI’s work with people on the autism spectrum began after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell read a New York Times article that spotlighted the work of Specialisterne, a Danish company that uses the characteristics of people with autism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help those people secure employment. Markell subsequently invited representatives of Specialisterne to meet local stakeholders, including CAI, to discuss opportunities for the company in Delaware. The governor chaired the meetings and the result was a strong commitment to support the establishment of Specialisterne in Delaware as a hub for the Mid-Atlantic region and the United States.
On May 29, 2013, Specialisterne and CAI announced a National Founding Partnership to train and hire people on the autism spectrum. The two associates working on the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ project were early graduates of this training program and were subsequently hired by CAI. That’s good news for the division which is now getting a large chunk of its historic-property files digitized. In turn, this information is being made available to the public through digital vehicles such as the Cultural and Historical Resource Information System (CHRIS), a geographic information system on historic properties that are located in the state.
Go to the following for press articles on Specialisterne and its partnership with CAI.
Specialisterne links businesses, autistic workers
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—May 19, 2014
Creating Great Employees (Who Happen To Be Autistic)
Forbes Magazine, New York, N.Y.—Oct. 28, 2013
Delaware organization matches people with autism and tech jobs
Newsworks, WHYY TV 12, Wilmington, Del.—Aug. 28, 2013
The Autism Advantage
New York Times, N.Y.—Nov. 29, 2012
During August 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched an online calendar of events that provides comprehensive, long-term listings of programs taking place at the five museums administered by the division, and at the Buena Vista Conference Center.
Click the following icon to view the online calendar.
By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer
In previous blogs, I discussed military gliders used during World War II but now I would like to move on to an aircraft that played a pivotal role in the outcome of the war, the B-17 Flying Fortress. What, you ask, was a Flying Fortress? Developed by the Boeing Company in the 1930s, the B-17 was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft used by the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. It was a very effective weapons system, dropping more bombs during the war than any other American aircraft.
Why was the B-17 called the “Flying Fortress”? The name was coined when the plane, with its heavy firepower and multiple machine gun emplacements, made its public debut in July 1935. Richard Williams, a reporter for The Seattle Times, exclaimed, “Why, it’s a flying fortress!” The Boeing Company recognized the value of the name and had it trademarked.
Early in the war, the U.S. Army Air Force command felt that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off enemy fighters on their own without accompanying fighter escort. However, starting with the Combined Bomber Offensive in 1943, this theory was severely challenged. The goal of this offensive was to gain air superiority over the cities, factories, railways, refineries and battlefronts of Western Europe by performing round-the-clock bombing of these strategic areas in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The U.S. 8th Army Air Force, based in airfields in southern England, and the 15th Army Air Force, based in Italy, were assigned to daytime bombing of these areas while the British Royal Air Force performed nighttime bombing. Heavy losses of bombers and crews forced the Army Air Force to rethink its strategy and, rather than abandoning the daylight raids as suggested by other allies, it began assigning fighter escorts, such as the P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang, to accompany the bombers.
The B-17 was a sturdily built aircraft. Though many were shot down, many more severely damaged aircraft were able to return their crews safely to base. As each of these wounded airplanes returned, the legend of the B-17 grew.
The B-17 Flying Fortress became a symbol of the power of the United States and its air force. There were 12,731 B-17s built between 1936 and 1945. Though most B-17s were scrapped after the war, we are fortunate to have one on exhibit at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Del. Several other B-17s remain air-worthy to this day.
In my next blog, I will discuss military mission symbols.
The images in this blog were selected from the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Mr. Willis of Dover, Del. served as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during the Second World War. A display of items from the collection, “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis,” was on view at Legislative Hall in Dover through Feb. 21, 2016.
Go to the following for Carolyn Apple’s earlier blogs exploring the subjects of images from the state’s William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection.