Our award-winning Minerd.com website, social media properties and family research archive are nearing a crossroads to determine their future. Either these assets will be retired into oblivion when I can no longer maintain them or be kept intact and endure for future generations through a bold plan of action. After much thought and prayer, my choice is to pursue the bold plan. Maybe I’m just crazy.
Thus in 2022, I began a five-year process to identify what steps are needed to make this happen. It will take a combination of factors that must function together in harmony. The solution needs to include all aspects of keeping our website and social media assets online and up-to-date and a facility to house and curate the physical archives where people can gather and mine the material for new discoveries. The solution also will require funding to assure proper stewardship and a team who can expertly curate long-term upkeep and public-facing engagement.
At its best, Minerd.com is a doorway to insight and enrichment of the mind, creating awareness the cultural impact of our families across the centuries of Americana and beyond. Its nearly 2,000 biographies and hundreds of feature pages are intended to inspire wanderlust to educate and enlighten. The site’s intent is to appeal to like-minded cousins near and far, invite their participation through sharing and help us all feel more inter-connected.
The intellectual backbone of the website is the archive, comprised of hundreds of books, thousands of photographs and hundreds of thousands of documents, impossible to re-create. The benefit to the family at large is the permanent preservation of their family history documentation, accessible to all someday, in a way that will elude the ravages of time and disinterest. It may also heighten one’s sense of satisfaction at knowing that her or his family is worthy of having its own place/museum/library.
The first step I took last year was to begin to make sure the website is as complete as possible. In real terms, that meant identifying more than 200 biographies that were not current in chronicling the lives of descendants up to the present day. It involved an upgrade to software that dramatically has sped the editing process – the hard work of research to uncover the lives and stories of thousands of unknown cousins in the extended clan – and the writing and illustration to bring forgotten generations back to life. Out-of-date coding needed to be removed from the back end of several thousand existing pages, and each page given a proper title for optimal search engine optimization. Working nearly every day, I got about halfway through the biography updates, and am continuing full-speed now into the new year. It will take all of 2023 to get this done, if not longer.
We now live in a culture that values digital versus actual antiquities, especially true among our young people who are addicted to their smart phones but who are our future audience. Maybe three-dimensional books and manuscripts and photographs are passé – out of fashion in this era. But as many cousins have entrusted me to preserve their irreplaceable original treasures. My own life has been dedicated to accumulating the rare, otherwise unavailable research materials that provide unique content for our reunion and website. So I’ve made a commitment and it’s what I’m planning to do, with God’s help.
One of the most disheartening feelings is when a cousin says he or she is discarding paper research accumulations of many years’ work because their children don’t have an interest and no one else wants it. Sometimes they have entrusted the material to me. Sometimes they don’t, or it’s too late.
A burning and ongoing question is whether the traditional book, photo or document as a physical object will disappear in the future and that the 100-percent transition to electronic formats is inevitable. Google Books, for example, has scanned and posted more than 10 million old books online in searchable formats, but only if the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given permission. A burning and ongoing question is whether the traditional book, photo or document as a physical object will disappear in the future and that the 100-percent transition to electronic formats is inevitable. Google Books, for example, has scanned and posted more than 10 million old books online in searchable formats, if the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given permission, and not always including self-published books, small press runs or other more “epemeral” works of authorship.
I view our archive over a very long-term as a hedge against evolving technology, a hedge against a fragile electrical infrastructure and a hedge against copyright infringement issues. As well, I see it in terms of completeness, the tactile sensation with the patina of age and the importance of the quality of original visuals. One example is from several summers ago when I was researching in a county courthouse, I asked to see files from old lawsuits of the 1800s. I was shown digital versions on microfiche, scanned several decades ago, but was told that the originals were in cold storage and that the retrieval fee was pricey. The county’s budget would not allow re-scanning using the latest and greatest technology for better legibility. So I spent several hours squinting at fuzzy and small images and in many cases could not decipher the early 19th century handwriting. I came away dissatisfied and convinced that technology had failed me. For more, see my 2016 Minerd.com Blog post, “The BBC News Asks If There’s a Need to Collect Books.”