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Many Orlando residents are transplants from other areas of the country, thinking that there is no history before Walt Disney ”discovered” Orlando. We wanted to explore and honor the rich and unique history of the area and also provide our community with a vehicle to bind it together. OCLS thought that a shared history could help develop a more cohesive sense of community. Orlando Memory collects those snippets of personal history and puts them into a virtual scrapbook that residents can peruse and jog their own memories of Orlando as they experienced it. Orlando Memory avoids the copyright problem of so many digitization sites by going directly to the owners of the documents who can scan their contributions and still keep their own precious originals. Some of the challenges the Orlando Memory project faced included marketing such an innovative project to the community and generating enough interest that community members would contribute their special memories. Additionally, OCLS had to develop a level of trust with the contributors, so they would be comfortable with the collection process and teach staff how to be sensitive in handling cherished memorabilia. Ongoing challenges are keeping the momentum going, and racing against time to capture the community’s history before it is lost, whether through families leaving the area or participants passing away.
OCLS is the first library in the US to use open source KETE software to create a digitally based project. In other libraries projects, the library controls the content, whereas we ask the community to share their memories and content, thereby gathering and preserving primary sources. This project is not limited to a certain specific group of people or a specific time frame.
Orlando Memory has rapidly grown to contain a wide variety of community submissions: 1496 photos/images; 10 videos; 32 documents; 96 audio files; 273 topics; 42 weblinks; 57 discussions; and 385 registered users. OCLS has been working with prominent community members to capture their memories on videotape or digital audio. More community members and groups are contributing content. The project continues to receive attention from the community, through newspaper articles and word of mouth. Diverse community members join in on discussions of shared experiences. Orlando Memory is accessed by people all over the US, and a number of residents of the UK, who have roots here. Genealogists are posting obituaries of Orlando residents, and the families are adding photos and comments. The site is getting approximately 1,000 hits per month. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response, OCLS is continuing to develop and refine Orlando Memory. Future plans include more interactive aspects, extensive video and audio content, and a redesign of the product to make it more appealing and easier to browse and use.