Have you ever watched a video of your local meteorologist giving a weather update? Or, have you watched a video of a news clip? What about a comedy monologue – have you ever watched any of those on YouTube? Or maybe, you’ve read a news article in your Facebook or Twitter feed? I know I have and I appreciate that I can.
Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to viewing and reading content for free when none of it is free to produce.
The same is true with local history and genealogy. We love locating free resources. But these free resources also have ‘production’ costs. My local historical society recently discussed whether to continue paying to have images and other information from their collection hosted online by Past Perfect.
As with most issues, there are pros and cons. In this case, the pro is the ability to connect with people outside of our hours, even outside of the county, while the con is the cost.
Unfortunately, the web presence is not generating much revenue, especially when compared to the cost. When the cost would cover about three months of electricity to keep the museum open, that is a difficult question.
Fortunately, my local society hasn’t had to make that choice. However, other societies have had to make similar choices. Some are closed in the winter, while some are facing permanent closure. Even my state archives has reduced hours for the winter.
As long as we as a society expect free access, we will continue to see smaller organizations, archives and societies reducing their hours or closing their doors.
So, what can we do? I don’t know about everyone else, but I wouldn’t be able to afford supporting the historical society in every county where my ancestors have lived. However, I can support my local historical society and a genealogical society thru my membership. I can volunteer at my local historical society to assist with research requests.
Is preserving the history of your community important? Do your neighbors feel it is important? Perhaps if we all contributed a little, our history could be preserved in archives and the doors of the archives and local museums could be open. Maybe we would even find those records showing up online.