Thursday 28 June 2012

Releasing our Past and Sharing the Story

This time last year Mosman Faces had just been launched. Once again Mosman’s stories were out there but this time on screen, online and interactive for all the world to share.

Since then I presented Mosman Faces at last year’s SWITCH conference ably helped by the experts at the ALIA workshop and despite being second last on a full three day agenda managed a full house.

However Mosman Library’s search for a good story knows no bounds. Who wouldn’t be curious about an area of Sydney that can boast excavated Aboriginal sites from 3,750 years ago and brushes with First Fleet fame? And that’s just the really early stuff.

We’ve fast forwarded a little with our already existing online history projects. Mosman Memories, a place for past and present residents of Mosman to share memories of their street, Mosman Voices, which provides access to our oral history collection and of course Mosman Faces which is being edited as we speak to add some lively additions.

Still our curiosity does not stop there, the more stories the more insatiable our appetite and it is the sharing that brings the spirit of the story to life.
In light of this, Mosman Library once again applied for a Library Council of NSW Development Grant late last year and in May 2012 our latest online history project, the Mosman Great War project was successful!

Doing our bit, Mosman 1914-1918, the brainchild of Bernard, Mosman Council’s Internet Coordinator extraordinaire, will use linked open data to tell the stories of local service people. Who were they? What did they look like? Where did they go?

The aim of the project is to Connect  by linking and sharing information across archives, registers, libraries and museums, to Collect information by working with Mosman and the wider community to build and enhance the linked collections with stories, photographs and ephemera and to Compile a ‘living history’ of men and women with a connection to Mosman who served during World War I.

We are privileged to have Dr Tim Sherratt a.k.a. @wragge, inspirational historian and pioneer in the digital humanities, leading the project team. He was part of the wonderful Mapping Our Anzacs site.

To start the ball rolling we are having a Build-a-thon at Mosman Library on Saturday 11 August. Programmers, local historians, enthusiasts and willing volunteers are invited to come together to design and build the site, gather data and chart the way forward.

We’re looking forward to learning about linked open data, and how it can be applied in practice. You might like to come too. A key part of the project is sharing the work done behind the scenes. We want others to be able to use the tools and processes developed in this project for their own resources.
While essentially an online project, we also have workshops planned with genealogist and author Kerry Farmer and historian Dr Kirsty Harris and we hope those involved in the project will talk about their findings and experience later in the year too.

In November we’ll hold an Open Day and Scan-a-thon – a project get-together and ‘family history roadshow’ in one. It’s a great opportunity for people to come into the library and have their photos and ephemera professionally scanned and added to the site.

As I said earlier sharing brings the story to life and with the First World War centenary just two years away, more and more archives are digitising their Great War collections to preserve and to share. Whatever content we collect will be available to everyone. The content is from Mosman but the mechanics of  can be taken back to your own community. (The website, by the way, will be active from July/August. Sign up to our email newsletter for updates.)

We believe our project is something bold something new something different and everyone should know about it so what better place to start than the ALIA blogspot!

Berrol Lazar Mendelsohn
Berrol Lazar Mendelsohn of 67 Raglan Street, Mosman, who was killed in action at Fromelles in 1916. He was one of the lost Diggers who were positively identified using DNA in 2010 and re-interred at the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.

Mary Lou Byrne’s work is mainly in Mosman Library’s ever vibrant Local Studies chasing stories from people pictures and place but also does her time in Reference and Circulation too.

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