Archiving Local History Online

VISTA Name: 
Nora Lollar
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

The broad goal of Nora’s VISTA assignment was to develop local historical content for our online community history archive “Inland Northwest Memories” (, to link the Memories project to other TINCAN community efforts, and to create a base of volunteers to collect information and maintain the site. Nora has taken a somewhat moribund project, where the site/database had been created but content was not being entered, and created a vibrant resource that captures local history.

Project Outcome: 

The first focus for the site was to capture the history of World War II veterans because they are subject of a great deal of local interest and are quickly passing away. TINCAN is a contributing member of the Library of Congress Veterans’ History project. Nora’s accomplishments on the veteran’s aspect of the project include:

• Collecting, transcribing, and uploading (with volunteer assistance) 25 WWII veterans’ and civilians’ oral histories. Several WWI veterans have been identified as well.
• Scanning hundreds of photos from WWII, often from veterans’ scrapbooks, and photographing memorabilia, including medals and souvenirs brought back from the various locations in which the veterans were stationed.
• Reorganizing the handful of veteran’s histories and photos that were online, which included creating consistent archiving processes for the materials, correcting annotations, and in some cases, re-contacting the veteran or civilian to check data.
• Developing a cadre of 30 volunteers, primarily from Gonzaga University, to carry out interviews and scan photos.
• Putting on events to bring attention to veterans’ history. Perhaps the most memorable was a gathering on Veteran’s Day at a neighborhood coffee house, where veterans of all wars were invited to come, bring materials to be scanned, and make appointments for oral histories. The café owner loaned the back room to set up computers and scanners, and a local grocery store provided a large cake decorated like an American flag.

The next focus of the project was to engage local historical organizations in uploading historical materials to the Memories site. Nora’s accomplishments to date are:

• Identifying local museums and historical associations in the Inland Northwest. Four organizations are now actively working with the project.
• Working with the Valley Museum, a small community museum, that is planning to upload documents and photographs to the site. Working with a local school, they will develop an exhibit on the founders of the Valley community, and upload the materials to the site as well as having an exhibit.
• Working with the Hillyard Museum, which does not yet have a physical location, to explore putting materials online as a means of raising interest in the development of their neighborhood museum.
• Working with the local Railroad Society to consider putting their extensive collection of materials online. We will also look for a means of collecting railroad-related oral histories, since the railroads were pivotal in Spokane’s settlement and development.
• Scanning and documenting materials for the Masonic Temple, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
• Helping to develop a rationale for organizations to put their materials online. For example, since every item in the Memories archive contains the URL of the contributing organization (if available), viewers of online materials may select the contributor’s web site for further information, and perhaps donations.
• Beginning to develop formal training materials for volunteers to put materials online. Formal training procedures for uploading and using the archiving tool will greatly streamline the process, and take the burden off staff trying to develop a full and interesting site. The project also has goals that include working with K-12 schools and TINCAN’s other projects to make use of the Memories site. Accomplishments to date include:
• Assisting teachers who took prior oral history workshops in uploading student interviews and other veteran’s memorabilia.
• Developing a project with a local K-8 school to work with the Valley museum on an exhibit.
• Planning a summer teacher workshop for summer 2005.
• Developing a proposal with the Garland neighborhood to engage at risk teens in TINCAN’s Virtual Online Teen Center in a project that will use oral histories to create the basis for business district murals and a video project.

Transmission Project