AAM Session: Places and Stories

There still exists periodic skepticism regarding the benefits of attempting community online engagement. But PlaceMatters, an initiative started by City Lore in conjunction with the Municipal Art Society in New York, demonstrates how community can be built online with real-world effects.

PlaceMatters advocates for "places in New York City that preserve history and sustain culture." And we're not talking about the big names that all the tourists know about. We're talking about the triangle shirtwaist building fire, where the unions still meet annually on the anniversary of the triangle shirtwaist fire to acknowledge the importance of labor rights; or the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto in the Bronx that served as one family's personal sanctuary in the 1970s when the Bronx was almost literally a war zone; or the limestone frieze of Moses in a Brooklyn housing project that told a young African-American poet that "black is beautiful" long before that sentiment had risen to the collective consciousness.

The communities listed on the site are nominated by individuals in the community. But the involvement only begins there. When  PlaceMatters learned about the importance of the shirtwaist fire building to the local unions, PlaceMatters nominated the building to the Landmark Commission. It is now the first labor-related landmark in all of New York City. When PlaceMatters learned about the importance of Bohemian Hall, whose linden trees were dying and was falling into disrepair but was a vital location for the Czech community, PlaceMatters worked to get Bohemian Hall listed on the National Register and facilitated the saving of the trees.

So what does PlaceMatters actually entail? An online encyclopedia of community-nominated locations throughout all five boroughs; topic-based virtual tours of NYC based on the places listed on the site; opportunities to take action to save historically and culturally significant places; real-world events and programs, such as a public art project in the Lower East Side and video projects partnering with new immigrant communities.

What are some of the lessons learned from PlaceMatters?

  • When developing a site like this, keep some of the money for maintenance and upkeep later down the road. Also be sure to have a maintenance contract in place ahead of time with your website designer. Preferably at a reduced rate, if possible.
  • Working with open source software can be more difficult than at first suspected--make sure you have someone on board who really understands the programming language.

Technologies to be used in the new site:

EHA Foundation
(many more)

For more on this session, please see my post here.

Places and Stories That Matter: Digital Experiments and Community Involvement
Minda Borun, Director of Research and Evaluation, Franklin Institute
Joan Saverino, Assistant Director for Education, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Matthew Fisher, President, Night Kitchen
Marci Reaven, Managing Director, City Lore



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Just want to see if you are a robot.