We write frequently on this blog about the value of personal digital archiving–empowering people to pass on digital memories to their families and others. We’ve always seen public libraries as key allies in promoting personal archiving, and have highlighted libraries that undertake outreach and training in this area.
There is a related role for public libraries and allied organizations: facilitating development of community digital archives. A community collection could consist of born-digital and digitized images, audio, text or other cultural heritage materials that document local history. Community members use the collection to get a deeper understanding of their location, and people often are eager to donate their own personal materials.
This is an approach that has been gaining ground over the last few years. The American Library Association recently suggested (PDF) that public libraries consider digital special collections as a strategic option in planning for the future.
Here, in no special order, are 10 resources that provide useful insight into developing, managing and accessing community digital archives.
Digital Public Library of America Digital Hubs Program, “A national network out of the over forty state/regional digital libraries and myriad large digital libraries in the US, bringing together digitized content from across the country into a single access point for end users, and an open platform for developers.”
Houston Area Digital Archives. Accessed via the Internet Archives, “the Houston Area Digital Archives provides open, online access to the rich collections of the Houston Public Library and other community archives.”
Denver Public Library, Creating Your Community. “The Denver Public Library’s mission is to connect people with information, ideas and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives and strengthen our community. The Creating Your Community project was developed to engage the community to share and connect with their history in new ways using technology, partnerships and outreach programming.”
Arlington County (Va.) Public Library, Arlington Community Archive. Collection of historical documents that narrate the history of Arlington County, its citizens, organizations, and social issues. Researchers can find personal papers, photographs, and archival records of local organizations, clubs, and associations.
Community Archives and Heritage Group. A national group which aims to support and promote community archives in the UK and Ireland. The site provides an extensive list of advice and guidance, as well as a directory of individual archives.
Jones Public Library, Amherst, MA, Digital Amherst. “Brings our Town’s history alive through a collection of images, multimedia, and documents that reflect the independent spirit of our people, creative works, and culture.”
START AN ARCHIVES! “A blog about the trials and tribulations of starting a community archives,” by an archivist in Philadelphia, Pa.
Hershey (Pa.) Community Archives. “All the partners recognized that… Hershey’s historical record was at risk. Today the Archives serves as a corporate archives to The Hershey Company, Hershey Trust Company and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company while also serving as a repository for community and local organizations’ records.”
History Grand Rapids.org. “It is the plan of the Grand Rapids Historical Commission to collect images from the personal collections of local families, local archives of public and private institutions and organizations, and other local sources that reflect and reveal family and community life and the ways in which Grand Rapids people worked, traveled, educated and enjoyed themselves from the mid-nineteenth through the twentieth century.”
The Mass. Memories Road Show at UMass Boston. “An event-based public history project that digitizes family photos and memories shared by the people of Massachusetts. University Archives staff work with local planning teams to organize free public events where residents are invited to bring family photos to be scanned and included in this digital archive.”
We would love to have your suggestions for additional community archives resources.