Jim McGrath (Brown University) has posted an extended version of a talk he gave at the 2018 Digital Library Federation Forum to his website. The talk, entitled “Hyperlocal Histories and Digital Collections,” examines collecting, curating, and preserving local history in conjunction with digital projects.
McGrath opens by describing how he became attached to the term “hyperlocal” as a description for the community-based digital work done by Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive. That project’s focus on creating a “crowdsourced, polyvocal, varied archive” led to the team mantra “No Story Too Small”:
Narratives of community formation and solidification, of competing claims and tensions, of fact and fiction and everything in between and beyond this binary, all of it can and should coexist in our records of hyperlocal history. These varied perspectives are frequently entwined and made further complicated by a city’s unwillingness to be one thing and stay that way forever, or even for a little while.
Questions brought up by the labor-intensive work done by the project team include reminders to understand, engage, and collaborate with community members or organizations who are already conducting memory-work; examining what hyperlocal histories have been neglected or forgotten; what material already exists in cultural heritage collections; and how the proposed digital project would fit into communities’ perceived needs.
McGrath applied lessons learned from Our Marathon to new community work in Providence, Rhode Island, and he closes his post with describing these new hyperlocal projects and partnerships, including successes, challenges, and future work. The piece describes ways that hyperlocal histories do not fit neatly into existing workflows or funding structures, and McGrath’s treatment of the preservation and sustainability challenges facing iterative DH projects, as well as the time- and labor-intensive community collaborations involved, will ring true to the experience of many information professionals engaged in digital scholarship.