Digital Project Proposal

A few weeks ago, Samir Meghelli, chief curator at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, told our practicum class that the wall of flyers and advertisements near the end of his exhibit was a last-minute decision made just days before the exhibit opened. Meghelli found hundreds of postings, flyers, papers, and advertisements while doing his research on DC neighborhoods for this exhibit. Instead of letting them go another fifty years without seeing day light, he quickly taped them to an empty wall near the end of the exhibit and created a huge collage. I propose to digitize this section from the Anacostia Community Museum’s “A Right to The City” exhibit to make it more accessible to the public and encourage public interpretation. I believe these should be made accessible to the public because it is, in fact, the public’s history. These signs were created and made by the people of DC, for the people of DC.

Audience

The audience for this digital project will be the Anacostia community, DC locals and natives, museum goers, and various online researchers.

Example Project

I would use Cornell University’s “Hip Hop Party and Event Flyers Collection” as a comparison project. Just like Meghelli’s collection, Cornell’s collection was created and collected entirely by hand. Their flyers preserve “raw data from the days when Hip Hop was primarily a live, performance-based culture” in the Bronx. They contain information about early “Hip Hop groups, individual MCs and DJs, promoters, venues, dress codes, admission prices, shout outs and more”. To make these important historical documents more accessible to students, researchers, and enthusiasts, Cornell University Library is in the process of making digitized versions of these flyers freely available to the public.

Why?

This project would be enhancing and adding to the Smithsonian’s online collections database. In addition to the digitizing of artifacts and archival accumulation, I propose that a public dialogue be open to the public to discuss and remember the events that the flyers pictured. This dialogue would be open to the public in the form of a blog, using WordPress. Here, guests would be invited to comment, ask questions, convey memories, and remember the stories behind these flyers. This blog will thus create a data resource for the public.

Outreach and Publicity

This digital project will practice outreach and obtain publicity through social media sites. By using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and even the Smithsonian websites, the newly digitized collection and associated public blog will be highly publicized. People love to remember features of their past, see long-forgotten artifacts, and revel in memories. Therefore, highly accessible resources, such as Facebook, are the perfect way to advertise this digital project and reach many people.

Evaluation

I will evaluate the project through the amount of activity the blog attracts. If the blog is not receiving many comments or views, I will know that the collection is not being publicized in the right context and that changes need to be made.

One Reply to “Digital Project Proposal”

  1. Great concept. I love how you are taking concepts from class and connecting them to interactions you are having with local DC experts you are connecting with in other classes.

    Digitizing the flyers and using them as the basis for a public history project is a great idea. Digitizing the posers doesn’t even need to be fancy. People just need to be able to see and read the posters, so if you even just did it with a smart phone that would probably be good enough. It would be great to connect with and get Samir’s buy in on the project. It would be great if he was game to help spread the word about the work you would do.

    I think this could make for a really interesting and engaging blog. Like put up a picture of a poster each week and then include some context on what you understand to be happening in the poster, and then open it up for comments from folks to share their experience and knowledge about it in the comments or something and then add a pin to a google map that links together all. The main thing I would stress about a blog is that the rhythm of a publishing cycle is critical. You want to get into a cadence of having regular content that comes out and then working to get that content shared out to the right places. So I would suggest trying to get the site together quick and then setting up a pace to have regular pieces go up based on a model so that you could then run the blog over the course of the rest of the semester.

    Along with that, you should think about how particular pieces of content might give you inroads into particular DC communicators. Have an event that happened at the Black Cat? Ping them about it on Twitter and see if they can retweet it. End up with a flyer about an event in Petworth? Try and see if the Prince of Petworth blog might tweet about it. If you have something about cycling you might be able to get WashCycle to tweet about it. You could probably set this up to go longer then the semester to really grow the potential reach and impact.

    If you did set up a fixed schedule for this kind of thing, and then worked to get them shared by various DC area twitter and facebook accounts, I think you could quickly build an engaged audience. The city is growing and changing and gentrification is working to erase its history.

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