This week I took a look at two tools — Museum on Main Street (MoMS) and The Will to Adorn — for collecting and preserving stories and cultural practices from people across the U.S. Both of these (MoMS’ “Stories from Main Street is not longer an app) are part of Smithsonian programming. Each facilitates co-facilitation by community members and has some ability to connect the stories that participants submit to place.
Museum on Main Street is a Smithsonian program that sends traveling exhibits into small, rural communities across the United States. The program has visited over 1,600 communities of 500 to 25,000 people since 1994. MoMS has a “Stories from Main Street” (SfMS) feature to “enable participatory collecting” of experiences of people who attended a traveling MoMS exhibit and beyond.
The SfMS is currently collecting stories from folks on three campaigns (see above). I thought that it was interesting that the project is aiming to include stories both from people who visited an exhibit and those who had not.
They also include guidance for stories, formats, and inspiration to those who wish to submit. To contribute, you first need to create an account, then the website walks you through the submission process. Notice that “location” is a feature of the submission form.
On the other end, there is a repository of stories which you can filter by topic or theme. You can also use the search function, but it malfunctioned a few times when I attempted to use it. One last feature I found interesting was that there are lesson plans and ways that teachers can have classes contribute or use stories collected as part of this project.
I also took a look at The Will to Adorn (which is still an app!) which is a product of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The project primarily consists of an app that allows cultural preservationists to share and explore “the diversity of African American identities as expressed through the cultural aesthetics and traditional arts of the body, dress, and adornment.” Unlike MoMS, the website for this was really buggy — it’s definitely all about the app. The website does contain a pretty comprehensive research guide that contains tons of helpful guidance about different methods of data collection. Here’s the link: https://willtoadorn.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/WTAResearchModulesResearchGuide_TheWillToAdorn.pdf I read in the research guide that the name of the project comes from a Zora Neale Hurston observation “that ‘the will to adorn’ is one of the primary characteristics of African American expression.”
The app is pretty simple – you first select whether you want to share a story or listen.
When I chose to listen, it started playing a random selection. By clicking “more” you can filter by question, region, gender, or age of the storyteller.
It’s pretty easy to share a story too. You decide which question to answer and include information about location, gender, and age. (I didn’t actually share one).
These are both really interesting examples of digital platforms for collaborative cultural preservation. I thought it was interesting that the Stories from Main Street grew out of physical traveling exhibits and The Will to Adorn website mentioned that traveling physical exhibits might be in the project’s future.
Do you know of any other apps or platforms that cultural heritage organizations use to co-collaborate? Questions about how this works? Do you think you would use either of these for leisure? Would these be useful for researchers?