Archiving History

There is a vast amount of literature available regarding digital storytelling for purposes of activism and education, especially practical guides for creating digital storytelling projects.  Less literature is available about digital storytelling’s role in archiving history and most of it is understandably theoretical.  Joseph (2006: n.p.) mentions that stories can leave a “legacy of cultural heritage.” Marrion (2010) similarly describes a digital storytelling festival in Norfolk, Virginia, which was used for educational purposes as well as a vehicle to archive local history.  The California of the Past Digital Storytelling Project similarly focuses on creating a statewide history resource on life in California, specifically promoting intergenerational sharing of California stories.  Baby boomers are encouraged to tell their stories so that the history can be documented, and immigrants are encouraged to tell their memories of California as experienced when they first arrived (California State Library, 2010).  North Carolina’s Levine Museum of the New South experimented with the idea of archiving user experiences with a museum exhibition by creating a video story kiosk within the exhibition (Czarnecki, 2010, ch. 3).  There are many opportunities to create stories for purposes of logging and archiving local history.

Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library, a city library in Los Angeles County, participated in the California of the Past Digital Storytelling Project from 2010-2011 with the intention of creating digital stories documenting the history of Monterey Park.  As of April 29, 2011, fourteen digital stories from local community members have been recorded, edited and made available on (  These stories document experiences of artists and authors in Monterey Park, the emergence of a theatre community within the city, experiences of immigrants coming to America and to California, the history of local colleges, local ethnic groups, parade experiences among other topics.  Other channels from other cities can be viewed on Media Arts’ California of the Past Digital Story Station website (


If you intend to create a digital storytelling project with the goal of archiving history, selection of storytellers is of great importance.  Choosing community leaders is one way to spread the word about the project, however many others in the community might have interesting and informative stories to tell.  Don’t limit yourself to the first people you think of, rather publicize and take recommendations from the community to determine stories that may be poignant or important for documenting your local history.

If you are creating a digital storytelling project for the purposes of archiving history, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How important is the quality of production when compared to enhanced community learning skills?  It is possible to choose between teaching community members digital storytelling skills or deciding to use those with some background or experience in film or similar technologies.
  2. What technology would you like to use?  Depending on the primary goal of your project, choices for technology may vary as ease of use vs. quality may be very different across technologies. Establishing technical requirements for your project are addressed in this section.
  3. How would you like to archive the stories?  If the purpose is to track history, you may need to take some digital preservation issues into consideration beyond the creation (and thereby digitization) of the stories.

For more information on digital storytelling for purposes of archiving history, please see some of the following resources:

California State Library.  (2010).  California of the Past: Digital Storytelling Grant Program Guidelines.Retrieved on April 29, 2011, from

Czarnecki, Kelly.  (2010). Digital Storytelling in Practice. Chicago: ALA TechSource.

Joseph, L. C. (2006). Digital Storytelling. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 13(4), 13-16.

Kaare, Birgit Hertzberg and Lundby, Knut. (2009).  Mediatized lives: Autobiography and assumed authenticity in digital storytelling.  In Knut Lundby (Ed.), Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in new media (pp. 123-144).  New York: P. Lang.

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