Sharing the collection is an important final step in the participatory archiving process. While putting the collection online through a digital repository makes it accessible and searchable, there are many things you can do to publicize its availability and interpret its significance.
Roles & Responsibilities
For an overview of all RoPA Roles and Responsibilities, please review the Building a Team module.
The Community Coordinator will work with the Collections Coordinator to host a Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting. Together, they will guide the Project Team in making decisions about interpretive programming and/or projects and ensure that any interpretive project or program is assigned or delegated to appropriate individuals.
If your Project Team does not have an Outreach Specialist, the Community Coordinator will also be responsible for publicizing the availability of the collection. They will work with the Collections Coordinator, the Collecting Organization, and/or the Community Working Group to promote the collection among researchers, educators, and relevant community groups.
If your Project Team includes an Outreach Specialist, they will be responsible for publicizing the availability of the collection in lieu of the Community Coordinator. The Outreach Specialist will create and implement a Publicity Plan. They will also work with the Collections Coordinator, the Collecting Organization, and/or Community Working Group to promote the collection among researchers, educators, and relevant community groups.
If your Project Team includes a Social Media Specialist, they will be responsible for using social media to publicize the availability of the collection in lieu of the Community Coordinator. The Social Media Specialist will create and implement a social media campaign, working with the Community Coordinator, Collections Coordinator, the Collecting Organization, partner organizations, and/or Community Working Group, to promote the collection among researchers, educators, and relevant community groups.
If needed, the Community Working Group can help implement the Publicity Plan by contacting individuals from the Contact Spreadsheet.
The Collection Coordinator assists in creating and implementing the Publicity Plan and works with the Community Coordinator and/or Collecting Organization to promote the collection among researchers and educators. The Collection Coordinator will work with the Community Coordinator to host a Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting; the Collection Coordinator is responsible for creating the meeting slide deck. Together, they will guide the Project Team in making decisions about interpretive programming and/or projects and ensure that any interpretive project or program is assigned or delegated to appropriate individuals.
The Project Team will attend the Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting, where they will identify and finalize the type(s) of interpretive projects or programs that will be produced. The Project Team may decide to form a dedicated working group of volunteers and hired professionals to complete the work.
The Collecting Organization will assist the Community and Collection Coordinators in promoting the new collection to researchers and educators. They will also provide support in creating interpretive programming and/or projects.
Depending on the type of interpretive programming or project your Project Team chooses to create, your Project Team may decide to hire professionals to produce the initiative.
Steps to Success
Download a Quick Checklist of the Sharing the Collections steps here.
Best Practice Examples
Do you know of a project or program that could be featured here? Please contact us.
Students at the University of Central Florida (UCF) partnered with the Oviedo Historical Society through the RICHES (Regional Initiative for Collecting the Histories, Experiences, and Stories) program to host a History Harvest event in 2015. Community members were invited to share their personal photos, historical documents, and any items that they felt helped tell the history of Oviedo, Florida. The resulting collection of over 300 items included many images of Oviedo’s Black community, which was previously underrepresented in the town’s archival collection holdings. Inspired by the event and collection, UCF student Porsha Dossie created a digital exhibit to explore the lived experiences of African Americans in the town during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
RICHES uses Omeka as a digital repository, and Dossie used the platform’s Exhibit Builder plugin to curate the digital exhibit by selecting specific images from the collection and assembling them together according to different topics. Dossie included a narrative for each topic to place the images in context and describe their historical significance to the Black community in Oviedo. Her resulting exhibit, Invisible History: Black Life in Oviedo, includes six “exhibit panels” highlighting images, documents, and oral histories gathered at the event.
Partnering together, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, and the Brownsville Independent School District held a History Harvest at the Brownsville Public Library Central Branch in 2014 to collect and document the history of Brownsville, Texas. The collaboration publicized its new collection through a Humanities Texas blog post. Humanities Texas is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that conducts and supports public programs in history, and its organizational blog has a wide readership within Texas.
The blog post recapped the Brownsville History Harvest event, detailing the number of participants and items collected as well as sharing images from both the event and the new collection in an embedded slideshow. The Humanities Texas blog is hosted by an open-sourced content management platform called Drupal, which is similar to WordPress or Joomla. Each of these platforms, as well as many other blogging platforms, have built-in slideshow plugins that users can quickly and easily embed into blog posts to add a visual element. These slideshows allow users to share and caption as many images as needed.
In 2011, the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives began a series of exhibitions featuring each of the various ethnic groups that make up the population in Butte, Montana. Community members were invited to share important aspects of their culture and to loan family artifacts and photographs for the duration of the exhibit. In 2017, the organization brought all of these exhibitions to create the All Nations exhibit, a collection of 17 panels about each ethnic group. In 2019-2020, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage Program, the archives held four participatory archiving workshops with underrepresented communities in the city--Jewish, German, Finnish, and Hispanic--to create additional interpretive panels to add to the 2017 exhibit.
At each workshop, archivists recorded interviews and collected documents and images from community members resulting in four digital collections. After reviewing the new collections, the archives staff identified interpretive themes and then supplemented the new items with existing collections to help support the themes for the exhibit. Archives staff further asked members of each community to review and approve the information prior to display. The final exhibit featured tall standing panels with graphic design featuring stories and images from each community.
In addition, the archives staff worked with the Greater Montana Foundation and Butte Broadcasting Inc. to produce 30-minute radio programs about each of the four communities. These programs presented historical narratives about each community group and featured the recorded interviews with community members, using additional archival research to provide context.
In Spring 2020, Malden Reads, a non-profit community reading organization, planned to collaborate with UMass Boston to host an in-person Mass. Memories Road Show event. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the partners to shift the event online, renaming the event the Mass. Memories Stuck-at-Home Show. Malden, Massachusetts community members were invited to contribute their images and stories remotely by submitting an online submission form. The partners collected 61 images and plan to add to the collection by hosting an in-person event in the future.
To highlight the new collection and enhance public understanding of its significance, UMass Boston public history graduate student and intern, Marielle Gutierrez, worked with Anne D’Urso-Rose and Stephanie Schorow, the editors of the Malden citizen journal, Neighborhood View, on a series of profiles called, Malden Memory Makers. Gutierrez selected four contributors from the Mass. Memories Stuck-at-Home Show, each representing a different cross-section of the community. She interviewed each person about their materials and conducted additional historical research to place their stories in context for Neighborhood View readers.
The American Association for State and Local History’s Small Museum Toolkit: Interpretation: Education, Programs and Exhibits (2013) is a primer on planning and researching interpretive programs as well as exhibits.
Northwestern University’s Knight Lab provides free tools that can easily be used to create digital exhibits with digitized historical materials. TimelineJS allows users to create timelines with their own images and text, and StoryMapJS enables users to create historical narratives by displaying these types of materials on a geographic map.
The success of The Moth Radio Hour has done much to popularize storytelling in the United States in recent years. The Moth producers have developed an array of workshops and programs to teach story craft and performance skills and, in the process, foster connections among community members. Non-profit organizations can pay The Moth to offer workshops for their constituents or look for locally or regionally based programs that offer similar programs in their area.
Omeka, developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is an open-source platform that can be used to create digital exhibits. It can also be used as a repository for digital collections. A range of free and paid versions are available.
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific Experience in Seattle, Washington pioneered community-based exhibitions in the 1990s, and a growing number of institutions in the United States offer programs inspired by this model. The museum’s Community-Based Exhibition Model publication is available for purchase on the organization’s website.
An online media housed in cyberspace that presents and interprets content through contemplation, comprehension, discovery, and/or interaction. (Adapted from the American Perceptionalism blog.)
A combination of media, objects, and display tools housed in a physical space, such as a museum, that presents and interprets content through contemplation, comprehension, discovery, and/or hands-on interaction. (Adapted from the American Perceptionalism blog.)
A free or paid educational activity offered by a library, museum, historical society, or other cultural heritage organization for the visiting public, often as an enhancement to an exhibition or object on display. (Adapted from “Putting the ‘Public’ in Public Programs: An Inclusive Approach to Program Development in Museums.”)
A series of coordinated activities using a single or multiple social media platforms designed to reinforce information or achieve a specific goal over a set period of time. (Adapted from Hootsuite.)