This was an eye-opening module that forced me to think about the overlap between project sponsored by local history organizations and affinity-group community organizations. As Tammy Gordon notes in “Community Exhibition: History, Identity, and Dialogue”: “Community exhibits are conceived and created by people who have lived the historical subject, who descend from those who lived it, or who identify strongly with the place that was shaped by the heritage being presented.” I surveyed several projects that utilize digital technology sponsored by both types of organizations but will focus briefly on two in order to compare and contrast.
According to the project site: “The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered in 1885, the Ohio History Connection carries out history services for Ohio and its citizens focused on preserving and sharing the state’s history. This includes housing the state historic preservation office, the official state archives, local history office and managing more than 50 sites and museums across Ohio” (http://ohiohistory.org). It preserves over 2 million objects and is a large organization with over 180 staff members and over 13 full-time director-level positions. It offers and manages physical locations and in-person programming as well as collections, exhibits, and educational resources available online. Its goals are to be inclusive, relevant, and collaborative for all Ohioans and to protect (stewardship) and represent (authenticity) the state’s diverse history. While the history presented can be personal and connected to specific groups or theme, the Ohio History Connection is more purposefully broad as the state’s main arbiter of local histories throughout the state.
Other local historical society projects surveyed include:
- The Historical Society of Washington DC
- Minnesota Historical Society
- Connecticut History
- The Portal to Texas History
- Chicago History Museum
- Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
- Low Country Digital History Initiative
The Postville Project: Documenting a Community in Transition, works to collect, preserve, and present the stories and materials related to the community of Postville, Iowa before, during and after the 2008 immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant (http://postvilleproject.org). It is sponsored by two institutions of higher education: Luther College and the University of Northern Iowa. The project utilizes crowdsourcing, which allows users to contribute materials, and the site also provide primary sources, organized by thematic collections, for scholars and the general public alike. It is well organized, maintained, and in addition to collections and exhibits there is also a curriculum guide for educators. The project is focused on documenting and preserving a deeply personal event for many, but it also provides an important case study for scholars interested in labor history, immigration, food production, government, and other interdisciplinary studies.
Other group-affinity projects surveyed included.
These materials have affected the way I think about my project. I have to remember that my project, focused on historical markers must satisfy the needs of two audiences: 1) Nashville audience who has a vested interest in the version of “their story” being presented and 2) Visitors who are curious in learning more and understanding Nashville as a southern city known for its schools, hospitals, unique role in the Civil War, music, food, and famous citizens. I need to make sure that I organize and present my exhibits so that both audiences can understand the significance of each site from the initial record or dig deeper if they so choose. As Lauren Gutterman reminds us (“OutHistory.org: An Experiment in LGBTQ Community History-Making), “Although the medium is digital history, the purpose is public.” This statement is simple but powerful and will guide my work over the course of the next two weeks.
Gordon, Tammy. “Community Exhibition: History, Identity, and Dialogue.” In Private History in Public: Exhibition and the Settings of Everyday Life, 33-57. Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2010.
Gutterman, Lauren. “OutHistory.org: An Experiment in LGBTQ Community History-Making.” The Public Historian 32.4 (2010).