« Back to Civic & Community Engagement

Annual Pikes Peak Regional History Symposia

Pike's Peak Library District

Innovation Leader: Tim Blevins, Special Collections Manager, tblevins@ppld.org

Problem Statement

The record of our community’s history was at risk of stagnation due to diminishing new published local history resources, limited accessibility to unpublished resources, and inadequate incentives to encourage new historical research. Uncoordinated local history organizations appealed to small groups with periodic presentations and newsletters however, the larger regional community, with many new and short-time residents, was seldom engaged.

Innovation

An annual free public program focused on one history topic united disparate groups to craft a regional history symposium to appeal to a general audience. A national call for papers is issued and the day-long event occurs during early June. The event features professional and avocational historians presenting their unique research on the year’s topic.

Each Pikes Peak Regional History Symposium is a free, day-long event, with twelve presenters, and a Chautauqua performance. A light lunch and late-day book signing reception provide an opportunity for conversation.
The Pikes Peak Library District is fortunate to have a television studio and a cable TV channel. The symposia are broadcast live, as well as edited for rebroadcast and DVD availability. The audio of the symposia is available for download from the library’s eBranch and can be played on computer or portable device, and burned to CD.

The presented papers are edited by volunteers and the library’s Special Collections staff to publish an illustrated and indexed book. Previously published out-of-print books about the selected history topic are republished during the symposium year. Books are published in print and electronic form, for library circulation and purchase. A PlayAway audio book is in production for one reprinted title. Book release events draw large crowds to buy books and see a short performance featuring a character important to the region’s history, and the topic of the new book. These events are video recorded to provide additional cable channel programming.

Progress

Each symposium and book event continues to grow and attract new audiences (300 attend). The repackaging of the video, audio and text into diverse media products also brings the content to different groups interested in the region’s history, but perhaps are more inclined to listen to a CD of a symposium while commuting than to attend an actual live event. The published books are available from local book stores, the library’s eBranch, and online from AbeBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, Google.com, Scribd.com, and other etailers. An Amazon Kindle Book was released for one title last year, with plans for formatting the other books for the Kindle soon. Printed copies of the books are in constant circulation, with two titles in the book club collection. The Pikes Peak Community College has required four titles as the textbooks for the regional history class. PPLD has evolved into the role of content creator – a natural for local history.