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.
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.
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!