• Session: Going Digital with Community History

    In 2009, I began work on the Rochester Oral History (ROHA) Project, an initiative to collect oral histories of Rochester residents (ages 55 and over) that emphasizes web-enabled sharing. Residents are invited to participate in the project by sharing memories connected to local historical sites, events, communities, individuals and institutions. Oakland University students enrolled in first-year composition courses with a community-engagement component are invited to participate in the project as researchers. Funded by a grant from Building the Civic Net (a local philanthropic organization) and the Meadow Brook Writing Project, with resources and support from the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at Oakland University, the ROHA mission includes making technology accessible to seniors, building a resource for citizens of all ages involved in local history projects, and engaging college students in digital archiving.

    This project depends on social media presence (Facebook and Twitter) for delivery, and presents special challenges and opportunities that I would like to explore, including the relationship (or conflicts or tensions) between digital delivery and traditional archiving. Maximizing old-media channels and ethos-building remain important components of the project, and I continue to seek ways to generate visibility, create value, and build relationships with community organizations, leaders and citizens.

    I would like to explore the ways that social media might create new audiences, new connections, and new delivery opportunities for community history projects.  In addition, the relationships between local physical archives and these digital endeavors present opportunities for shared work. For example, the Rochester Hills Museum has agreed to archive the ROHA oral histories, ensuring their preservation. How does “instant” digital accessibility impact the value of the contributed histories? I would like to participate in a session that covers starting a community project from the ground up, and share the encountered obstacles and serendipities. What kind of issues should mark the “end” of the project, and what does “the end” mean for a digital archive project?

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1 Comment


  1. ArchMeg says:

    I would also be interested in talking about the issues you’ve outlined here. I’m interested in both 1) how we can use social networks to connect organizations to individuals that otherwise might not participate (such as rural community members) and 2) how we can use the internet to connect the boards/organizers of small organizations/projects to each other, to develop networks that were not reasonable in a pre-digital age.

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