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People's Archive in the BBC Public Space

You can shape Birmingham's past with the Library of Birmingham at BBC in the Mailbox

Street Party VE Day 1945

Visitors to the BBC Birmingham Public Space in The Mailbox over the Easter and May Bank Holiday period ( 18 April - 2 May 2011) can take part in a pilot of a new interactive historical resource, which if successful, could be an exciting new feature of the Library of Birmingham online.

Members of the public, young and old, are invited to contribute their local knowledge and personal recollections of Birmingham in days gone by at www.thepeoplesarchive.org, which makes available online for the first time one of the Library’s most popular photographic collections, the Warwickshire Photographic Survey. This records in fascinating detail buildings, street scenes and events in the city between the 1880s and the late 20th century.

Around 300 images of the city centre are available on the pilot website for visitors to view using a map-based browser, which it is hoped will prompt memories and personal knowledge of people and places. The aim is for members of the public to help solve mysteries and provide missing details – for example by recognising a face in a photo or being able to confirm a date.

The aim of the project is to explore how citizens might add new layers of information to the city’s collective memory, using a digital place for recording and sharing knowledge. If the pilot is successful, the aim is to develop the project further, providing an important digital resource offered by the new library, accessible to all, and for everyone, from local people curious about their city’s past to serious researchers and students.

Developed as a collaboration between Birmingham City Council, Service Birmingham and Birmingham based digital company, In Cahoots, the project has the potential to grow into an online journey telling the story of the city’s history, inviting input from the public and heralding the Library of Birmingham’s philosophy of providing a world class learning and leisure experience in a fully interactive environment.

Brian Gambles, Assistant Director, Culture and Project Director for the Library of Birmingham said:

The Library of Birmingham will enable us to open up access to the city’s extensive and internationally important archive and heritage collections, both through greatly improved facilities in the new building and also online. This pilot is enabling us to look at how people might in the future explore and interact with the library’s collections using new technology. I’d like to thank the BBC for supporting the project by enabling visitors over the holiday period to contribute their knowledge and share their memories, using computers in the BBC Birmingham’s Public Space in the Mailbox to do so. If the pilot is successful, there is a real opportunity for the public to not only preserve the rich history of the city they love, but to shape its future too.”