Sharing the Collection
How can you make Contributors, scholars, and the public aware of the collection?

Steps to Success: After the Event

STEP 1

Implement the Publicity Plan when the collection is available.

As soon as the collection is available in the online digital repository, it is important to spread the word to the community, researchers, and the general public.

Consider these things:

Press Release

A press release is a short, compelling news story providing essential information about your collection. It serves as the basic tool for sharing a standard description of the collection with targeted members of the media and community organizations to spark their interest in writing their own stories about the collection. 

An informative collection press release includes: 

  • a summary of the event goals and purpose;
  • a general description of the collection and its theme(s); 
  • specific examples with images from the collection highlighting Contributors and their Items;
  • links to the online digital repository; 
  • the Project Team member organizations; 
  • the event sponsors; and
  • the contact person, phone, and email.

You can download an example press release here.

The Community Coordinator or the designated Outreach Specialist will send the completed press release to the same media outlets they contacted before the event, including:

  • Local newspapers;
  • Local radio stations;
  • Local cable TV stations;
  • Organizations with regular (monthly, weekly) newsletters and e-newsletters;
  • Local online blogs; 
  • Community calendars; and
  • Community listservs.

Blog Post or Newsletter Article

A blog post is a featured narrative article on a website that can be sent as part of an e-newsletter or email listserv. Project Team member organizations may have their own blogs as a part of their websites where you can post. 

An informative blog post or newsletter article is a great opportunity to feature images from your collection and live links to the online digital repository. Depending on the nature of the blog or newsletter, you may be able to take an informal, more personal approach to explaining the collection and feature a variety of voices and perspectives. An informative blog post or newsletter article will include:

  • a summary of the event goals and purpose;
  • a general description of the collection and its theme(s); 
  • specific examples with images from the collection highlighting Contributors and their Items;
  • live links to the online digital repository; 
  • the Project Team member organizations; 
  • the event sponsors; and
  • the contact person, phone, and email.

You can view an example blog post here.

Social Media Campaign

To spread the word about the new collection, your Project Team will need to launch a social media campaign to reach a broad public audience as well as your community. A social media campaign is the easiest and most effective way to inform large numbers of people about your digital collection. It has the potential to allow you to connect with people all around the world.

If your Project Team previously had a social media campaign, you can use this plan as a starting point. The same platforms can likely also be used to notify community members as well as members of the general public about the new collection. 

Regardless of your previous social media campaigns, your Project Team will need to explore platforms that can be used to feature photographs and other visual materials from the collection. Many platforms also provide opportunities to feature textual excerpts or quotations from Item descriptions. Be creative! Are there ways you can highlight themes that would spark a conversation? Postings can be a way for your Project Team members to share new insights about community history gained through the event and the collection.

Think broadly about who will be interested in the collection and choose different platforms that will allow you to reach different age or interest groups in your community and beyond. This social media campaign will try to reach as many people as possible--locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. 

The Social Media Specialist will consult with partner organizations about what platforms they have access to and which accounts will be used to promote the collection. Some organizations may have dedicated social media staffing who will be available to help. In some instances, they may have ideas about how to customize the information to fit their organization’s specific brand and tone. In this case, the Social Media Specialist will provide those staff members with detailed information about the collection and work with them to create content and establish a basic timeline of when posts should be uploaded. 

Alternatively, if your Project Team decided to create new, event-specific accounts and profiles to promote the event, then you can use these same accounts and profiles to publicize the collection.

Update the place on the internet

Before the event, your Project Team established a place online where community members could find information about what to expect from the event and how to participate. Now that the event is over and the collection is available, update this place on the internet to include a link to the new collection.

STEP 2

Host a Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting.

The Community Coordinator and Collection Coordinator will host and facilitate a meeting for the Project Team and community members to view a slideshow of the whole collection and discuss what types of exhibits, public programs, or other projects you would like to undertake to share and interpret the collection.

View and reflect on your collection.

The Collection Coordinator will create a slide deck, featuring one Item per slide with any accompanying information they feel is relevant. At the Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting, the group will view this slideshow and reflect upon the following questions in a discussion format:

  • Think back to the goals you set for the collection. Do you feel that the collection meets this goal? Why or why not?
  • Does the collection shed new light on the intended theme the Project Team set at the Collecting Stories Meeting? Do any sub-themes emerge
  • Does it highlight the importance of particular individuals, groups, events, places, or time periods?
  • Are there any surprises? 
  • What questions does the collection raise, and what would you like to know more about?
  • Are there specific or broad stories that seem compelling to share with the public?
  • Are there any Items or groups of Items you think should be featured in interpretive programming?

Start to develop an interpretive plan for your collection. 

After viewing the slideshow together, consider what the collection can teach the public about the theme or community. How can the collection be interpreted to foster or enhance public understanding? There could be a lot of different possibilities, depending on your Project Team’s resources. 

If after assessing your collection, your Project Team decides that the collection is not substantial enough to support an interpretive program or project on its own, consider hosting another participatory archiving event to expand the collection. You may also want to explore an interpretive project that combines Items from your new collection with other existing collections.  

Depending on which interpretive project you choose, you will need to identify Project Team members or recruit professional staffers who have experience in historical research, writing for public audiences, exhibit curation, and/or curriculum development. 

If your event was created with a specific interpretive project in mind, you can use the Collection Showcase and Interpretation Meeting as a kick off for the project.

If your Project Team is just getting started with interpreting the collection, you can consider these options:

Digital Exhibits

Choose web- and tech-savvy members of your Project Team to create an online exhibit. Many museums, historical societies, and libraries have resources and staff available to help create digital exhibits, including the ability to design custom websites in-house. Talk to members of your Project Team who are connected to these organizations and find out what platforms they use, what expertise they have, and how they can support you in creating a digital exhibit featuring the collection. 

There are a variety of platforms available, including Omeka, Wordpress, and AdobeSpark. If you chose to use Omeka as your online digital repository, then it will be relatively easy to use Omeka’s exhibit feature to create a digital exhibit with the Items in the collection. Wordpress or AdobeSpark can be used to create an independent website featuring images and text from collections from any type of digital repository. Each of these two platforms provide different design options and templates with different associated costs. AdobeSpark requires that you own Adobe’s standard Creative Cloud license. WordPress is available in a number of free and paid versions.

There are many free digital tools that can easily be used to create online maps or timelines. For example, the Knight Lab offers a StoryMap and Timeline that your team can use to create narratives by placing Items from your collection in geographic or chronological context.

Physical Exhibits

Many museums, historical societies, and libraries have gallery space and are often looking to develop new exhibit content of interest to community members. Talk to members of your Project Team who are connected to these organizations and find out whether they are interested in hosting an exhibit featuring the collection. Organization staff members are likely to have suggestions about who has the skills to develop, design, and produce an exhibit. 

Some of these organizations might even offer community-curated programs, inviting community members to participate in the exhibition process from beginning to end. Collections created at participatory archiving events are wonderful fits for these types of programs.

Publications

There are many different kinds of publications that you can create to highlight your collection. For example:

  • Assemble a group of volunteers to put together an annual monthly calendar featuring images and stories from the collection.
  • Identify an author and/or curator and designer, to write and produce a short brochure or small “coffee table” book of the images in the collection.
Public Programs

There are a wide range of public programs to consider, including:

  • Inviting community members and the general public to a collection open house. Use the Collection Showcase slide deck to present Items in a slideshow format and invite discussion.
  • Asking local historians to present lectures to help community members and the general public understand the collection in the context of the history of the community or collection theme.
  • Hosting storytelling programs featuring event Contributors as speakers. These Contributors can expand on their personal stories and the Items they shared on the event day. Presenting stories in person can be a great opportunity for audiences to ask questions, reflect, and share their own experiences. There may be storytelling organizations you can partner with in your community.
School Programs (K-12)

Work with teachers to identify connections to the curriculum that are supported by and can be explored through the collection. Create, pilot, and distribute lesson plans to grade level educator cohorts. It can be helpful to tie these lesson plans directly to your state’s local history standards.

STEP 3

Produce project(s) for interpreting and understanding the collection.

Once your Project Team has chosen an interpretive program or project, it’s time to get to work! 

Your Project Team may decide to form a dedicated working group of volunteers and hired professionals to produce the initiative. Some Project Team members might represent organizations that are already positioned to drive an interpretive plan forward. If no single organization is in a position to take this on, then your Project Team will need to determine how to collaborate to get the job done. 

You’ll need to create a schedule, budget, and publicity plan for the interpretive program or project as well as identify a funding source. Consider these sources of funding for your interpretive project or program:

  • In-kind donations (from Project Team organizations and/or local businesses)
  • Small grants from local banks and private foundations
  • State library association/library network/library hub
  • State humanities councils
  • State and local arts and cultural councils
  • Inclusion in annual budget plans of Project Team organization

Congratulations on using your unique collection to enhance public understanding of your community and its stories!