As the librarian for UVa’s School of Architecture, I work with many scholars who are deeply interested in the history of communities. Often, the interest is local (Charlottesville), but our historians and urban planners are also digging into communities throughout the United States and the world. While the research is often centered on architecture and urban planning, it extends to interdisciplinary aspects of food planning, use of public space, and many other directions. In terms of media, it encompasses images, texts, primary documents, maps, oral histories, planning documents, and just about anything else you can imagine. I find so many wonderful new ways of discovering local history resources, many of which are the direct result of DH technologies like Omeka, GIS, etc. But, implementation is scattered, and often limited to the silo of a single institutional collection.
I’d love to create a vision for the ideal local history portal for researchers. I imagine that it would combine multiple aspects of some of my favorite sites (HistoryPin, WhatWasThere, the NYPL MapWarper, Visualizing Emancipation), along with characteristics of tools like Omeka (and I have a feeling I’ll be adding NeatLine to that list soon). It would also need to transcend silos of individual institutional collections—bringing together photos, documents, etc. from the local historical society, university archives, local planning and preservation org, public library, and more—while allowing those institutions to promote and “brand” their own resources.
I’m hopeful that there’s a group of folks that might be interested in playing a game of “Imagine going to one site for a city/town and being able to….”. I would guess that many of us will contribute knowledge of projects that are inching us closer to this research utopia, and we might also come up with some “boy, it would be great if someone developed…” ideas as well. At the end, we might walk away with a road-map to some amazing possibilities, and hopefully some excited people that might want to collaborate to make that a reality.