During the Chattanooga Public Library’s strategic planning process, library staff and board members became aware of Singapore’s Memory Project, a national effort to capture its country’s history using a digital platform driven by the National (Public) Library of Singapore.
Launched in 2011, the project was designed “to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore's knowledge materials, so as to tell the Singapore Story.” Singapore has only been a sovereign nation since 1965, but the land and its residents have a long history the government wanted to conserve.
As the executive director of the Chattanooga Public Library, Corrine Hill was immediately intrigued and wanted to build a similar platform for the Scenic City.
“Much of our history is curated,” she said. “That certainly has its place, but it’s also important for every person in the city to feel like their own Chattanooga story is heard.”
In partnership with Pass It Down, who received this year’s Spirit of Innovation Award from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Library has built a platform to collect stories, photos, videos, oral histories and other memorabilia from local residents and organizations. The website, www.chattanoogamemory.com, will launch this holiday season and is open to everyone.
The vision of the Chattanooga Public Library is “an inspired, connected and engaged Chattanooga” with a population committed to lifelong learning, Ms. Hill noted. “The Chattanooga Memory Project fulfills that mission in a truly meaningful way.”
Pass It Down’s founder, Chris Cummings, understood how important it is to capture personal stories and memories while the opportunity exists. “I started Pass It Down after my mom, Barbara, was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 48,” he said. “I saw firsthand what it was like to see a family member’s memories slip away and the impact it had on my mom and our family.”
Mr. Cummings has encountered similar situations as he’s spoken with business leaders across Chattanooga. “There are so many important pieces of our city’s history that no longer exist,” he explained. “Everything from the famous Walter Cronkite news report about the city’s pollution levels to Luther Masingill's radio broadcasts — they’re all gone.”
“You assume that somebody, somewhere is archiving all of these things, but they aren’t,” he said.
That very sentiment is what motivated Ms. Hill to push for the Chattanooga Memory Project. “Capturing history is the perfect role for a community library,” she said. “And not just ancient history. What happens on Friday night is history by Saturday morning.”
The Chattanooga Memory Project will also contribute to citizens’ 21st century skills, especially their ability to create media products and to apply technology effectively. “Learning about other Chattanoogans’ personal histories will help community members develop social and cross-cultural skills, too,” Ms. Hill said. “It gives people the opportunity to experience their city through perspectives they may not have otherwise encountered.”
In addition to individuals, the Chattanooga Memory Project will also collect moments and memories from Chattanooga organizations, associations, companies and groups, establishing their place in the city’s history.
For more information, visit the site at www.chattanoogamemory.com.