Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Inspires Memory Lab in DC Public Library!

I knew Digital Diaspora was impacting individuals, families, communities and institutions through the work we’ve been doing and the feedback we’ve gotten but it wasn’t until we returned to DC for a mini DDFR Roadshow did I realize that our little project was now impacting a city through the launch of the Memory Lab at the DC Public Library! Check out the testimonials below from Digital Curation Librarian Lauren Algee and Archivist and National Digital Stewardship Resident Jamie Mears. Both were introduced to me through 
DC Public Library Special Collections Manager Kerrie Cotton Williams who participated in our very first DDFR Roadshow in Atlanta back in 2009 when she was curator at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, turning strangers into family and empowering communities to tell their stories!”- Thomas Allen Harris


(l. to r.) DCPL Digital Curation Librarian Lauren Algee with Archivist and National Digital Stewardship Resident Jamie Mears

“It was wonderful to see the DC Public Library’s Memory Lab finally come to fruition at a launch featuring a screening of Through A Lens Darkly and a mini-Digital Diaspora Family Reunion. Though Thomas did not realize it, his projects have been inspiring our work on the Memory Lab since last April, when project staff saw Don Perry(DDFR CEO) speak about DDFR at the 2015 Personal Digital Archiving Conference. The two projects have at their core the same goals: preservation of personal archives and histories for self-knowledge, the education of future generations, and creative reuse. The excitement of current and aspiring historians and genealogists at the launch event over the Memory Lab’s public tools and educational resources has been incredibly gratifying. We are excited to help Washingtonians discover and share their histories through the Lab and its programs and so appreciate the support that the screening and DDFR brought to the Memory Lab.” – Lauren Algee, DCPL Digital Curation Librarian



Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow was invited to celebrate the launch of the DC Public Library (DCPL) Memory Lab Saturday February 20, a Do It Yourself personal archiving space in the Digital Commons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. When filming your kid’s lip sync performance on a camcorder or putting all of your best high school essays on a floppy disk, you probably thought you were making memories that would last forever. Now, though, most computers hardly have a CD drive—let alone a place to insert a floppy disk. And good luck bringing up VHS or DV tapes to today’s youth. This is where the Memory Lab comes in. DCPL kicked off the program with a screening of our NAACP Image Award winning documentary, Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People.




Following the screening, Thomas Allen Harris spoke about the importance of personal archiving and his involvement in the transmedia project, Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, which collected 6000+ images from personal family archives in the US and various countries. From there we had multiple participants sharing their family history!


“I’ve been working over the last 8 months to build the Memory Lab, a public-facing personal archiving lab where patrons can digitize their home movies, floppies, and photographs at the DC Public Library. Sometimes when you’re working on a technical project like this, it’s easy to get lost in the machines and forget about the people you’re building them for. Screening Through a Lens and hearing attendees speak about their family histories helped us celebrate the higher purposes of the Lab at its inauguration. Although the preservation of personal archives had always been at the forefront of the project, working with DDFR helped me realize the creative possibilities that digitization can offer!” – Jamie Mears






Olubunmi Bakare, DC Public Library Associate, spoke about her personal experience with our Digital Diaspora Roadshow: “I am pleased by the work that Mr. Thomas Allen Harris is doing. I think that it is so important that people of African ancestry tell our stories and in so many ways photographs do just that. From a sly smile to a dignified stance pictures tell so much about the character of a person (or at least the one they’d like to project). Sharing with Mr. Harris renewed my vigor in finding out even more information about my family. It’s funny because just a few weeks prior to the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, I ran into my cousin who I hadn’t seen in awhile. When I told her about this event she was excited to attend. On the day of the event, she arrived with photos of family members that I had never seen before. Sharing photos and recounting stories about the life of my great-grandfather made me realize what a treasure trove of history we have in our family.  It truly was a (digital) family reunion.”

People can NOW start booking the space for three-hour sessions to scan photos and convert their family archives!

If you have a photo and a story you would like to share, Join our 1World1Family Community Facebook group!

photo combo forblog


To see more photos from the roadshow, visit our Flickr gallery.

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