The collective "shoebox": JWA joins Flickr Commons
Last week JWA became the 29th organization to join Flickr Commons, a project to increase access to public photo collections and to provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge to the historical record.
Many of the "Jewish American Women and WWII" images come from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford's digital collection. The others were contributed online by individuals responding to the Jewish Women's Archive call in 2008 for oral histories, letters, photographs, and other objects that document American Jewish women's experiences during WWII. If you want to add an image to the ones you see on Flickr Commons, conduct an interview with a woman who remembers WW II, or share a scanned photo or other document or a digital audio or video recording, we’d like to hear from you.
The significance of JWA's WWII project and the greater significance of Flickr Commons hits me on two levels. First, it reminds us that "living history" is more than just a catch-phrase. This is such an exciting use of technology to capitalize on public knowledge. This kind of collaboration is transforming the way we collect, share, and interact with history.
This project also touches me on a personal level. After having lost my paternal grandmother in 2007 and my maternal grandmother this year, I feel as though I missed many opportunities to hear their stories in their own words. The unfortunate reality is that with each passing year, more first-hand accounts and stories from the "Greatest Generation" are lost.
It is so important to capture these stories in the words of the women who lived them. It is also important to recognize their mementos as artifacts -- to collect and identify them, and add them to the historical record.
Flickr Commons has created a collective shoebox for the world's photos and documents. As we sift through them individually and recognize people and places, we can each contribute our knowledge -- just like my grandmother did when she wrote notes on the back of her photos in calligraphy pen.
Head over to Flickr Commons and take a few mintues to look through our shoebox. If you recognize any locations, people, or stories, we invite you to contribute your knowledge by adding a tag or comment. If you would like to document and share your own family's stories and artifacts, visit jwa.org for tools and guidance.
Projects like Flickr Commons provide a truly unique way to create a collective, inclusive history. No longer will history be, as journalist/personality Jim Goad so eloquently puts it, "like the missionary position ... an act executed from the top looking down." With tools like Flickr Commons and the ones available at jwa.org, we have the tools and the power to produce and share our own, inclusive history.