Ignacio Community Library has launched an improved version of its oral history curation project, Voices of Ignacio, with the goal of connecting the a wider community to its past.
Voices of Ignacio, originally started in January 2016, is a localized oral history website curated by the Ignacio Community Library and hosted by the Colorado State Library. Staff changeover stalled the project in early 2017, and last Monday the library announced it would bring it back. The new version will be more searchable, remain highly local and connect to the Digital Public Library of America – sharing Ignacio’s history with a wider audience.
“Localized history is important because it reminds us how much we share and the connections we all share, especially in a time where I feel like we’re a little more divided than normal,” said Andrew Hutchinson, adult services specialist and curator for the project.
The library informally launched the website this summer. Through September, the library will celebrate the relaunch by filling the building with posters featuring past participants and quotes from their interviews. Library staff will interview two participants this month and more in the future.
The library has four main goals for the project: unify the diverse community by sharing stories of Southern Ute, Hispanic and Anglo residents; create a comprehensive online archive; curate virtual exhibits; and promote relationships with local cultural institutions.
The library plans to continue the original project’s highly localized focus.
“If a town wants to know why it operates the way it does, it can look back to how it was founded and the people who have shaped it since,” Hutchinson said. “If they want to make beneficial changes in the future, they can look and see their history.”
The new website will feature a section where users can search for exhibits and topics. It will include transcribed interviews, photos, written testimonies and audio recordings. Staff members also hope to make the experience even more searchable by tagging topics.
The library partnered with Colorado Virtual Library, part of the Colorado State Library, and Plains to Peak Collective, the Colorado and Wyoming service hub of the Digital Public Library of America. Anyone with access to the Digital Public Library will have access to Ignacio’s history, Hutchinson said.
Shelby Tisdale, director of Center of Southwest Studies, where other oral history projects have been curated, said spoken stories from residents offer a more personalized record of a community than traditional document-based research.
“When individuals are telling the history of their community from their own perspective, I think it really personalizes it and brings information to light that a researcher or a scholar might not ask,” she said. “Collecting those stories so that they can be passed onto the next generation is going to be important.”
The library recorded 15 interviews and gathered hundreds of photos and documents before the project stalled. In the past, residents shared personal memories, the history of the reservation and Ignacio landscape or stories about the history of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. It served as a record to learn how people’s lives have changed over time.
The library wants to focus on “the changes in the community that they’ve seen over the years, but with a little stronger focus on the community’s intercultural interaction,” said Marcia Vining, library director.
“We value our history, and that includes the people who experienced it,” Vining said. “This is our way of kind of giving back to the community.”