Thoughts on engaging with a digital history audience

Now that the initial framework for the Latvian Baptists in America digital history project has been developed, I need to work at clarifying its intent and audience. An important consideration will be determining the degree of engagement necessary to allow the project to flourish.

At this point in its evolution, the project is centered on an Omeka-driven collection of various items related to the experiences of Latvian Baptist immigrants to the United States, mainly to Philadelphia. One item, a photographic postcard depicting a youth society’s membership in 1916, has provided a path into the history of the community.

The goal is to create a digital history project that will allow for greater exploration of the Latvian Baptists and their press, which has been an underlying focus of the research since the beginning. The emergence of the Baptist press in the U.S. is related directly to the Latvian Baptists of West Philadelphia, therefore having an understanding of that community will provide insight into the nature of their periodicals.

As a content management system tailored for digital humanities work, Omeka in its basic configuration allows the project to display items and exhibits. To engage the public, what is further needed is addition of contribution and commenting modules that will allow visitors to the site to upload their own stories and digital artifacts. In this way, the core audience — descendants of community members — will be able to help shape the project. However, before activating those modules, I need to provide instructions for how to properly scan photographs and other materials so that consistency can be assured.