This year’s poster for California Archives Month presents an interesting thought; the ability of archives to build bridges to the past. The beautiful images provided by three archives for this poster remind us of bridges built, whether as large structures destined to become icons for a city, or as smaller structures, more focused on function. Bridges connect people over geographical space, allowing objects, people, and ideas to spread quickly and easily.
Archives can connect people with the past in great ways. From broader connections such as discovering a city’s hidden stories, to more intimate connections, like providing individuals with links to their own genealogical history.
Technology is also helping archives build more bridges, allowing archives to reach a greater audience and also to help archives connect with other institutions. This library and archive takes advantage of the Internet and social media websites to share our collection with anyone who is interested in seeing it. Many archives now utilize technology as part of their outreach programs.
The LACMTA library and archive uses Historypin to superimpose photographs on top of modern day scenes, Flickr to host images for blog posts written by the digital resources librarian that provide context to archival material and make non-current sources relevant to the current time, YouTube to share videos about transportation history in Los Angeles, and sites like Facebook and Twitter to consolidate that information and keep the public updated.
Technology also helps this library and archive communicate with other archives that are spread throughout the city, such as fellow L.A. as Subject members. Or using the Online Archive of California to help researchers find related material held by other institutions.
History can help us make better decisions by learning from past successes and mistakes, it can also give us a better sense of identity or community. To preserve the past as accurately as possible is an important task. To connect the past with the present, to provide information to those who want it when they want it is critical. Archives not only build bridges to the past, they invite and encourage every individual to cross those bridges and give the past a place in their everyday lives.