The Digital Library

Shar­ing our Knowl­edge
Part 3: The Dig­i­tal Library

Shar­ing our Knowl­edge is a series of arti­cles about the His­to­rian Archives Project and how you can become involved.

The key here, is to “show what we got” on the Inter­net in a way that peo­ple can find us. Peo­ple look­ing for spe­cific Strong geneal­ogy related to the first five gen­er­a­tions can already find us in Google. But what about the infor­ma­tion buried in those fil­ing cab­i­nets, or the updates sub­mit­ted to us as com­puter files? There is no indi­ca­tion online – yet – that those things even exist.

My local library has their cat­a­log online. I have to go to the library to pick up the book, but I can see what they have, by search­ing with my com­puter. I’d like to do some­thing sim­i­lar with the His­to­rian Archives.

Recovering from PC/AT and Floppy Disks

Recov­er­ing from PC/AT and Floppy Disks

I’m not sug­gest­ing that we place every­thing we know online – far from it! I’m sug­gest­ing we make a com­plete inven­tory of what we have, and place the inven­tory online. Show what we know! You can well imag­ine that mak­ing that inven­tory is a large project in itself, going through six­teen file cab­i­net draw­ers, file folder by file folder.

The result is that we actu­ally know what we have, and we know what we have avail­able to share. Some infor­ma­tion will undoubt­edly be pri­vate, and we won’t want to adver­tise to the world at large that we have it. But with nearly every­thing we’ve been col­lect­ing for decades, we do want to tell the world we have it. That’s a large part of why we are here!

A dig­i­tal cat­a­log is not ter­ri­bly excit­ing. It does not pro­vide an inter­est­ing answer to “Why would I want to join?” But it’s a nec­es­sary and impor­tant first step. Let’s look at some more inter­est­ing possibilities.

His­to­rian Archives Online

First, we can choose to place some of our His­to­rian Archives mate­r­ial online. We have the preser­va­tion copy, which is a photo (or scanned image) of the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment; we can place that image online. (Turn­ing those pages into search­able text requires lit­er­ally 10 times more hours of preser­va­tion work; it’s just not prac­ti­cal on this scale. Later we explain just what we can do with that material.)

We have sud­denly become a dig­i­tal library or dig­i­tal repos­i­tory. We may or may not want to go this route, but it’s def­i­nitely a prac­ti­cal option. Fur­ther­more, it’s a famil­iar route that may be quite appeal­ing to some­one com­ing from the younger gen­er­a­tion. We have the pos­si­bil­ity of the SFAA becom­ing a world class Inter­net presence.

Google takes spe­cial note of dig­i­tal libraries, dig­i­tal repos­i­to­ries, dig­i­tal cat­a­logs and muse­ums. Reg­is­ter your dig­i­tal library with Google Scholar, and Google Scholar becomes our up-to-the-minute ref­er­ence librar­ian with quite a depth of spe­cial­ized knowl­edge and insight.

Old Fam­ily Pho­tos Online

Sec­ond, con­sider what appeals most to peo­ple with a casual or tran­sient inter­est in fam­ily her­itage. Pic­tures! Here is what my great-grandparents looked like! If we choose to, we have the abil­ity to put vir­tu­ally any num­ber of pho­tos and photo albums online, either as part of our Dig­i­tal Library, or as tra­di­tional photo albums in our main web site.

2009 Strong Family Reunion

2009 Strong Fam­ily Reunion

The more visual mate­r­ial we make avail­able, the more inter­est­ing and appeal­ing we become to peo­ple of any age. If we make the mate­r­ial freely avail­able online, we reach the younger gen­er­a­tion around the world.

Peo­ple Are Look­ing for Us

The same prin­ci­ple applies to writ­ten text. The more arti­cles, essays, genealo­gies, rem­i­nis­cences we place online, the more ways we have of peo­ple find­ing us and gain­ing their inter­est. Peo­ple find us online by look­ing, which means they’ll be search­ing for some­thing. The more we put online and freely avail­able, the bet­ter the chances are that peo­ple can find what they seek.

Please share your ideas!

Posted in Sharing our Knowledge.

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