Since one of our goals is to build a robust digital archive that balances democratizing access to historical data with the privacy and safety of the community itself, the digital outcomes of this project are two-fold.
Firstly, the Remembering YoU mobile app (this differs from the event app): This GIS-based application will allow visitors to U Street to be immersed in the history of the neighborhood. Anybody with a location-enabled smartphone can access geo-tagged material related to any location in the neighborhood from the archive’s holdings that the community decides to share. This tool will not only allow the community itself to shape the narrative around and perception of the neighborhood but will also force visitors and newcomers to the neighborhood to confront the history — and historical erasures — within the neighborhood. While this app is still in development, attendees can try scanning some of the QR codes that will be posted at certain venues during the two-day archiving event to try out a “beta” version.
Secondly, we will build the Remembering YoU digital archive; currently, we are beginning to work with computer scientists to think about how to create the kind of data architecture required to retain data rights within communities and balance access with privacy. This is a difficult research problem at the intersection of computer science, history, archival, and library information science, and we envision that it will take 3-5 years to build such an archive.
It is imperative that we begin to preserve this fast-vanishing historical data, particularly the oral histories of community elders. In order to do this, we intend to embed the archive-building process in a public history program, where we impart skills to local school and university students as well as community members so that they can document and preserve historical data themselves. Our community launch, to be held on November 8-9th, 2019, will kickstart this process, which we will maintain through regular town halls and other community-based public history and pedagogical programming.