As most of you have inevitably noticed, Roots and Recall is going through many updates; offering a featured site, wonderful new articles, removal of advertising, an enhanced menu bar, easier navigation, new linking “Thread” options, allowing members to create a favorites list, mark pages to stay connected to, and most recently a new members forum – Southern Queries. Many of these changes have been made in response to your input and requests. Those of us who work on the website truly hope these improvements will be received enthusiastically. I for one really just hated the advertising and aesthetically it was such a bummer, so we removed it. And it goes without saying, we do always like to have your constructive input.
One of the most visible changes, the login requirement, has been met with trepidation as well as concrete rewards. Inevitably some potential users are reluctant to sign up, even though Roots and Recall remains a free community service. So as anticipated, overall usage is down. But on the flip-side, those who are using the website are far more engaged, interested in and enthusiastic about historic preservation, family history, and stories. It is you, the individuals who care enough to become members, that Roots and Recall was designed to interact with and engage. On the positive side we are now receiving far less spam, more constructive dialogue, and historian who never took the website seriously are now actively making updates and providing content. So, please continue sharing your stories and information one address at a time! One recent member did just that and I are pleased to share a little of her story.
This new participant didn’t email materials to R&R through the Share menu but rather mailed a package of outstanding family genealogy, personal data, homeplace images, and community memorabilia. Receiving these materials has thus far been R&R’s highlight of the past month or so. It is our understanding that these materials have been collected over decades but delivering them digitally to R&R, was a challenge for the owner who was not familiar with computers. The donor’s grandchildren came to the rescue and digitized the collection, recorded it on a CD and mailed it, along with written materials for preservation on Roots and Recall. The donor’s efforts resulted in R&R adding a large quantity of images and massive amounts of data to a rural S.C. town, which previously, offered little presence on the websites’ pages. We love receiving “shoe box histories” and suitcases, yes sometimes, full of interesting and informative materials which impact far more than just that one family’s history.
Have you ever asked if your grandparents or elderly relatives needed help in digitizing their “shoe box history”?
The newest update to the website is the Southern Queries – Forum. Of course, queries arrive as comments, emails, and texts on a routine basis. The number varies significantly from week to week but sometimes there are simply too many to adequately address. With considerable input and insights from researchers, we have therefore implemented a new feature, the Southern Queries section. This was mainly the brainchild of a professional S.C. researcher, who also wanted to have the names of historic researchers, listed on the website, offering research services for hire.
Southern Queries is first and foremost intended to act as a forum for members to post questions, receive answers from other members, interact with other historians, and R&R itself. It is broken down into categories so members can easily post and retrieve input. I for one, sincerely hope you will take time to visit the section and think of how it might help with your historical and genealogical searches. And for those who may need professional help, scroll down the queries page and a list of researchers for hire is also posted for your consideration. These individuals are widely respected for their knowledge and ability to locate and retrieve data which most of us know little or nothing. Sometimes it is worth spending a little to get a lot!
So, as you have time post a question or two and let’s see just how useful the forum can be for members. If you are having problems with using the website’s itself or search functions, post these questions as well. Remember to make it useful, you must us it regularly. We are counting on knowledgeable members helping address questions and engage in meaningful dialogue.
Besides the new queries program, we sincerely hope you have also been enjoying the new Feature Story section on the homepage. A few individuals have come forth wishing to be contributing authors. We are also looking for writers outside of just S.C., who can also inform our audience about preservation efforts across the region. If you know of someone who likes to write and might enjoy being a R&R contributing author, please share their contact information at email@example.com
The above-mentioned changes and technical improvements simply scratch the surface of the progress being made to engage and offer you meaningful content and new platforms for both preserving and sharing local history. Over the past two years, the TBHH program has been up and running in only a small geographic area. We have learned a great deal from our mistakes and experiences in creating this community tour program. We quickly recognized it needed a major overhaul. So, we look forward to the time, very soon I hope, when we can showcase R&R’s new version of the This Building Has History program for use in down towns and route tours. This new means of sharing local history digitally, is currently being reviewed by historians, tourism officials and downtown development entities. Thus far, it has been met with approval and applause, look for an announcement on this new digital history platform soon!
As always, those of us who work on Roots and Recall and bring you the weekly From the Porch blog, deeply appreciate your active participation in preservation, both digitally and in your own communities. FYI, remember historic material shared with R&R are only retained digitally. Shoe box history collections and misc. items which are “given” to R&R, are not retained but permanently distributed for preservation to our museum partners or accredited institutions. I hope you enjoy the evolving preservation website as much as we enjoy providing it.
Wade B. Fairey, Sr. – Founder, R&R