Some of you may know that I an a Fellow at iCommons (basically, I do a bit of volunteer work for Heather and her team) and I was fortunate to be part of iHeritage on 23 September 2007 in the Rosebank Mall. If you are curious about what iHeritage is, take a look at the iHeritage page and also at my previous post about it. Be sure to check out Heather’s post on her blog too.
In a nutshell iHeritage was about collecting memories of where we came from as individuals and as a collective. We had a scanner (courtesy of Lawgistix) as well as an Internet connection (thanks to M&A Rosebank and Skyrove) and our plan was to scan people’s photos of their families and their homes, interview people about their lives and digitise whatever else we were given and then upload all of that either to Flickr or to Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
Included in our wonderful team were translators to help us capture the memories and thoughts of Zulu and Xhosa speaking contributors who spoke about the importance of their culture and what it is like to keep those practices alive in Johannesburg.
It struck me that we had some of our best contributions from people who were passionate about their history and their culture. Isaac and Mbongeni (pictured above) perform at the Rooftop Market and they shared their thoughts about how free they felt to practice some of their traditional practices like the preparation of traditional beer up here in Joburg. We also received some wonderful contributions from people whose families immigrated to South Africa. Hettie Dreyer, the iCommons’ bookkeeper, brought her family to iHeritage and gave us some wonderful photos of her family to scan, including this photo circa 1855 (this image is available on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license):
Being a bit of a geek one of my favourite aspects of the day was our Jaiku channel which we displayed on a big screen above the stage.
I was using the mobile application for Series 60 devices to post updates virtually in real time while other members of the team posted updates from their laptops on the channel page itself. The channel worked out really well as a back channel for the event and a way to share what was going on with people walking past. Although our event is over, iHeritage is just beginning and you can contribute to the project by doing two things. The first is to license your relevant content under a Creative Commons Attribution or Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license and the second thing you can do is tag your content with the tag “iheritage”. The channel has been set up with a variety of feeds so we should be able to keep the channel going with each new contribution to the project. Most of these feeds will pull in search results using the term “iheritage” and include those search results into the iHeritage collection.
iHeritage is going to go beyond South Africa too. We would love to see contributions from all over the world and one day look back on a collection of our memories and what made us who we are. If you are still a little unsure what is appropriate for iHeritage, think about your home and your family and how they helped you become who you are and are part of your heritage. Bear in mind that heritage isn’t just about the old photos in your family album, it is about what is happening to you now. It is all about our past, our present and even our future and the important thing is to preserve it for future generations who will be able to look back at where they came from and know who they are.