I think research repositories and local historical organizations can work to each other’s benefit much more than they traditionally have done, and that a little thinking upfront about differing missions and needs is important if this is to happen.
Local organizations often use their excellent contacts in the community to collect documentation that has research value. Repositories have the facilities and know-how to preserve that documentation and make it available to community members and others over the long future.
Here are what I think are important considerations:
For research repositories:
- Recognize that the primary purpose of local historical organizations is to help build and deepen community by giving local citizens a sense of their past.
- Be ready to stretch usual procedures to do what is possible to make documentation acquired from the local organizations easily accessible to them and their communities.
For local organizations:
- Recognize that the main purpose of repositories is to preserve materials that will be useful for research.
- Be ready to stretch to obtain the agreements and permissions from donors and informants that will make placement in repositories possible.
Two collections in the SHC resulting from collaborations like this are the Caswell County Historical Association Records (http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/c/Caswell_County_Historical_Association.html) and the Penn School Records (http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/p/Penn_School.html).
I’d be interested in others’ thoughts about this.