There’s something about history…

Or herstory. Or our collective past. Something that makes talking about our past and the need to treat it with care and respect silence a room full of people like few other topics in the humanities.

This was the case when Jon Voss of HistoryPin spoke to a room full of librarians and information specialists at ACCESS 2013. Voss gave a great talk titled “Can one story change the world?”, taking the audience back to a diary and photos of a family member and the need to connect the past, present, and future. This is what HistoryPin allows its users to do. By uploading their old photos to the site and then pinning them to a map of the location in which they were taken, users can both create a personal archive of their past, and share their history with other users from all over the globe.

A relatively simple idea like this spawns so much creativity. Voss spoke about working with 6th graders and having them ask their parents about their family history. There are ongoing projects with museums and archives to pin their collections and make their images truly public. And its not just photos that can be pinned. Take a look at Putting Art on the Map, a collaboration between HistoryPin and the Imperial War Museum to capture information about art and artists of WWI. This site is a wonderful    place for scholars in history to come together with those in geography, art, and computing to make an interactive information space for the public. By collecting old photographs, art, letters, and memories, users of HistoryPin can help keep their personal histories alive, and embed them in a network of cultural information. Acting as memory-keepers is exactly what Voss encouraged the audience to do: “Let’s grab these stories when we can. Let’s start these conversations.” I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s do so, before its too late.

Voss’s talk also touched on a couple of topics that were repeated throughout ACCESS: collaboration and linked data. He made one of many references to the Google Knowledge Graph, showing how linked data has been put to good use, though invoked some fear (in this scholar, at least) that the benefits of linked data might one day mean never having to leave the Google page. His call for collaboration, however, was repeated in talks such as these:

Gettin Sh*t Done in the Digital Archives

Nick Ruest & Anna St. Onge

Building crowdsourced photographic collections with lentil and Instagram

Jason Casden

It’s dangerous to go alone! How about *we* do this!?

Steve Marks, Nick Ruest, Graham Stewart & Amaz Taufique

This year at ACCESS, like last, collaboration was one of the topics of almost every conversation I had. People came up to Sarah and I with great ideas for how to help with the DHMakerBus. We shared our thoughts about Makerspaces in libraries with them. This is perhaps why Voss’s talk was so well-received: librarians like to share and participate: he hit the ‘pin’ right on the head.

p.s. Librarians are rarely quiet folks, especially when we’re all in a room together. So of course, we weren’t really silent during Jon Voss’s talk. We were on Twitter:

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