...I've had one question in the back of my head the entire time, and maybe it is just the devil's advocate in me, or maybe I'm a miserly administrator in the making, but my question is, why do this? Such a project would be a large expense of time, money and energy and would the final produce be "worth" it. What I don't know is who uses these digitized local history type collections? - apart from the K-12 community. There may well be strong evidence for the usefulness and need for these kind of projects and I would love to see it. I don't mean to dismiss the idea, it sounds wonderful and I would love to see it succeed. I'm just curious to know what kind of ongoing use these projects see to justify all the expense.Kevin, playing devil's advocate is quite necessary. We do often think of projects and realize how cool they would be to do, but don't do enough investigation -- sometimes -- to know if they really would be heavily used.
A project focused on local/regional history (like the mythical project for Harrisburg) could be used by:
- K-12 students, especially those in 4th, 7th and 11th grades were local/national history is emphasized.
- A local history project should market itself to local teachers and school/public librarians, so they will use the project and refer students to it.
- Genealogists are often huge users of local history online, including newspaper archives. They really will go through a site looking for pertinent information and they don't mind paying a reasonable price for access.
- History buffs
- Researchers of topics where the impact can be found a local history. For example:
- The fall of Saigon
- The Agnes hurricane in 1972
- Racial tensions of the 1960s
- Religious freedom
- Corporations who are interested in relocating to the region. The decision-making process is not straightforward and often entails things that we might not consider (the number of universities, transportation infrastructure, cultural mix, cultural outlets). In addition, could a look at the past help the corporation understand the area's current state and its future?
- Vacationers, who are looking to spend time in an area with a rich history. It has been proven that having materials online can attract people to view actually collections.
It is also important to realize that we are becoming more dependent on the information that is available online. If we can't find something online, then we might think it doesn't exist. Therefore, I think it behooves every region and every institution to have an online presence and to have some of its history online. Does the information need to be as extensive as what I'm outlining? No, but it doesn't hurt to dream big, since we do sometimes dream too small.
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