Ourchives : A Curated Collection of Cultural Memory

The mission of Ourchives is to inspire individuals, families, communities and organizations to preserve their cultural heritage through the active documentation and preservation of personal histories, oral histories and multimedia genealogies by offering services and outreach to archive stories and their supporting materials.

Photographs, negatives, film and video represent a form of material culture that we cannot replace. They are emblems of moments and meanings that engage us with the past, tell us a story and represent reality in a way that nothing else can. They speak to our cultural heritage, our identities and values and our sense of place.

The digital age has brought a new era of media culture, where our memories are preserved in new ways on servers and tucked away in hard drives. Physical photographs have become antiquated.  Once digitized, these memories can be duplicated, shared and preserved on the cloud.

In a city prone to hurricanes and flooding, there or countless instances of entire photographic histories, and the unique stories they tell, being completely destroyed. The advantages of digital imagery cannot be disputed or undervalued. The ability to preserve and restore photographs in a cost-effective and efficient manner is undeniable.

Our family history is intimately tied into the social, political, economic and cultural environments, effecting beliefs, values, experiences and choices. We find meaning in the stories, employment histories, places our ancestors lived, medical records, honors and achievements, battles, and even literal voices. Recorded personal, family, and cultural histories offer current and future generations an understanding of their past and strengthen family and community ties. 

The telling, sharing and preservation of our histories is perhaps one of the most important things we as humans can do. Yet, a life’s or even community’s story is volatile and vulnerable to becoming lost, to the passing of time and the deterioration of the materials that help tell them, and to those lacking the proper methods to document and preserve them. 

Services offered through this business would include documentation and preservation of histories, memories, images, voices and life stories in a multimedia narrative format.

 

Through this venture, I intend to:

·     Give an opportunity to tell unique stories and to preserve them in a compelling, stylized way for future generations.

·     Encourage understanding of the significant experiences and events that have shaped our lives and the lives of our ancestors.

·      Promote the active preservation of personal histories.

·      Make historical research accessible.

·     Connect future generations with the past and give current generations a sense of self and a sense of place.

·      Energetically promote and market the concept of personal history and family biography. Make stories accessible to the public.

 

Despite the invaluable personal and culture nature of the information stored on film, negative, slides and photographs, media are not being properly preserved. Climate and weather events further jeopardize historical documents and relics.

Without digitization and/or warehousing in controlled environments, images and heirlooms are deteriorating every day. Without proper control over these conditions, media lose color, contrast and become brittle. 

Not all of us have the expertise, time or creativity to put together a personal history, a family biography, or to properly scan and digitize our photographic archives. Most people do not often feel equipped to piece together their story or their history into a cohesive, tangible narrative. Many people do not have the resources to digitize these images or preserve them with the proper quality and attention they deserve.    

 Other barriers to preservation include:

·      The current format for and concept of researching and preserving personal and cultural history lacks hipness/style/creative              vision and public appeal.

·      Weather events such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Isaac (and future events) have resulted in scattering and relocating          family members.

·      The fast paced digital culture does not promote nostalgia for the past.

·       Lack of personal resources to effectively preserve media.

·      Lack of affordable services to digitize material culture; lack of time/incentive to research/document ones’ life.

·      Insufficient interest or lack of understanding of the importance of family cultural history/genealogy.

·      Lack of programs or initiatives to promote services.


In order to address the persistent loss of family and cultural history, this venture will provide the following services:

           ·       Digitization Services – create digital files of negatives, slides, film, video, and historical documents

·       Personal History – Edit audio interviews by personal historian

·       Personal History – Record audio personal history in document form

·        Interviews with personal historian illustrated, narrative form

·        Audio/Video: Personal History – Edit audio/video interviews in digital video files

·        Full length documentary style film of personal history

·       Genealogy/Family Tree – Graphically displayed map of ancestry

·       Multimedia Genealogy/Family Tree – Design and curate website navigating personal histories and ancestries with audio and             video interviews, photographs, film and historical ethnography.

 

In contrast to other businesses offering preservation services, one of the goals of this venture is generate a freshness to the process of media preservation and to enhance the infrastructure of existing archival projects and services. 

An unfortunate result of the transition into the digital age and online shopping has meant that camera stores, many of which offer archival services, have become obsolete retail locations, only of interest to specialized professionals and a small niche market. The outcome is that archival services have become inaccessible and perceived as a dreary, uninteresting process.  Within each one of these locations, archiving services are an additional service and not an obvious consumer option. Through strategic marketing, outreach and an appealing design, it is my intention to begin to re-popularize these services into new edited and stylized formats, offering a new way to approach preservation through video editing software, modern designed websites, and smart, interesting products. The intention is to get these services out of their outmoded locations and into an accessible new light with a new look and to create a new attitude around the process of preservation.
 

I have been laying the groundwork for this project since graduate school in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2009. My background in cultural anthropology coupled with my extended experience conducting ethnographic fieldwork has prepared me for a venture such as this and continually inspires me to seek out and engage with my cultural surroundings with both methodological and artistically inspired techniques.  I feel truly blessed as in individual to have been able to locate my true passions and genuine talents as an individual, human culture and media production. To feel inspired to design a project that incorporates ethnography, cultural narrative, and the design elements of popular culture is in many ways the culmination of my own story until this point.  In addition, I have an innate inclination towards documentation and preservation.  For over a decade, I have worked tirelessly to maintain integrity of my own family media and biography.  It is in my nature to seek out the ephemeral and to safe guard it, often in the form of stories.  In my mind, the strength of this venture is in my drive to see it through, to create its success and build upon it into new areas of outreach and preservation.  Regardless of the resources that become available, I will see this business model to fruition.  

My employment experience at Indiana University’s SAVAIL (Sound and Video Analysis and Instruction Laboratory) equipped me with the skills and knowledge to transfer a variety of conventional and unconventional media formats into digital form and to successfully collaborate with customers on unique project designs and editing needs.  As a visual artist my entire life, I possess a matured, unique creative vision to implement design strategies and successfully blend aesthetics and method.  As a trained ethnographer I possess the skills to simplify and deepen the interview process, through comprehensive and collaborative methods.  The ethnographic method has prepared to act as a medium to the voice of others and to interpret and tell their tell story.  In addition to my interests, passions and skills it remains important to have the proper equipment to compliment the quality of the content. I currently have the primary equipment to conduct these services but require additional technology to become fully operational.  

I have a passion to preserve the cultural heritage of the community as a whole. This encompasses those individuals and families with funds to pay for archiving services and those without. Their heritage is equally important to the community at large. This venture seeks to address all customers while maintaining financial viability.