One of the main activities of the Center for History and New Media these days is collecting and preserving history online. Our biggest project is the September 11 Digital Archive, but we have several other similar projects, the newest of which is the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.
One of the great things about these memory banks is that they can be used to collect the history of just about anything. So, when our university’s men’s basketball team reached the NCAA Final Four this week, one of our graduate students, Meagan Hess, decided to create the George Mason Basketball Digital Memory Bank. The database is up and running yet, so start uploading your stories, images, memories of GMU’s dream-like run through the NCAA Tournament this year.
What’s the lesson here? Watching this project take shape as the collaboration of several talented graduate students over the past three days, I’ve reached a couple of tentative conclusions:
1. We need to develop several templates that potential users can simply sign up for and use as the idea strikes them–much the same way that the Blogger.com interface allows anyone to start a blog in less than 10 minutes. Creating a simple digital memory bank is more complex than creating a blog, but that’s really just a technical problem to be overcome, not an inherent obstacle.
2. When we do develop a series of templates (design + underlying database for that design), we’ll have to wrestle with the server capacity issues that arise. And we’ll have to think through the ways we can control what people may be putting on our servers–a particularly pressing issue given that we’re a state agency (no porn, thank you very much). This is a combination technical and management problem.
3. Given the amount of work it required several talented graduate students to get this project up and running, without such a template approach, digital memory banks will, for the present, remain the province of a small community of people with the requisite technical skills.
So, check back in a few days to see what ends up in this new digital memory bank. By then, I’ll have more to say about the necessity of promoting websites to obtain the participation one desires.