Public invited to become part of city’s history at Mailbox

By on 18/04/2011 in News

18 April 2011: Visitors to the BBC Birmingham Public Space in The Mailbox over the Easter and May Bank Holiday period (April 18th- 2nd May 2011) can take part in a pilot of a new interactive historical resource, which if successful, could be an exciting new feature of the Library of Birmingham online.

Members of the public young and old are invited to contribute their local knowledge and personal recollections of Birmingham in days gone by at thepeoplesarchive.org, which makes available online for the first time one of the Library's most popular photographic collections, the Warwickshire Photographic Survey. This records in fascinating detail buildings, street scenes and events in the city between the 1880s and the late 20th century.

Around 300 images of the city centre are available on the pilot website for visitors to view using a map-based browser, which it is hoped will prompt memories and personal knowledge of people and places. The aim is for members of the public to help solve mysteries and provide missing details - for example by recognising a face in a photo or being able to confirm a date.

The aim of the project is to explore how citizens might add new layers of information to the city's collective memory, using a digital place for recording and sharing knowledge. If the pilot is successful, the aim is to develop the project further, providing an important digital resource offered by the new library, accessible to all, and for everyone, from local people curious about their city's past to serious researchers and students.

Developed as a collaboration between Birmingham City Council, Service Birmingham and Birmingham based digital company, In Cahoots, the project has the potential to grow into an online journey telling the story of the city's history, inviting input from the public, and heralding the Library of Birmingham's philosophy of providing a world class learning and leisure experience in a fully interactive environment.

 Brian Gambles, Assistant Director, Culture and Project Director for the Library of Birmingham said:

“The Library of Birmingham will enable us to open up access to the city's extensive and internationally important archive and heritage collections, both through greatly improved facilities in the new building and also online. This pilot is enabling us to look at how people might in the future explore and interact with the library's collections using new technology. I'd like to thank the BBC for supporting the project by enabling visitors over the holiday period to contribute their knowledge and share their memories, using computers in the BBC Birmingham's Public Space in the Mailbox to do so. If the pilot is successful, there is a real opportunity for the public to not only preserve the rich history of the city they love, but to shape its future too.”

-ENDS-

Media Enquiries
Simon Houltby, Birmingham City Council: 0121 303 3503

 The Library of Birmingham will be a major new cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries. It opens in 2013.
Designed by international architects Mecanoo, the Library of Birmingham will be located in the city's Centenary Square. The building will comprise a spacious entrance and foyer with mezzanine, lower ground level with indoor terraces, four further public levels and two outdoor garden terraces, a ‘golden box’ of secure archive storage occupying two levels, provision for staff offices and service plant on a further two levels and at the very top of the building a rotunda feature housing the Shakespeare Memorial Room. In all, the facilities are spread over 10 levels of varying size and usage.

The new library will be physically connected to Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) and the two organisations will work in partnership, bringing together the written and spoken word through drama, poetry and performance.

The Library of Birmingham will provide a showcase for the city's internationally important collections of archives, photography and rare books. New facilities including state-of-the-art gallery space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. It will also be home to a BFI Mediatheque, providing free access to the National Film Archive. Other facilities will include a new flexible studio theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre and other informal performance spaces, a recording studio, and dedicated spaces for children and teenagers. By harnessing new technology, everyone from Birmingham to Beijing, Bangalore and beyond will be able to access the Library of Birmingham's world-class resources. More than three million visitors are expected each year, and millions more online.

Described by its architect Francine Houben as a 'people's palace', the Library of Birmingham will be highly accessible and family-friendly. It will deliver excellent services through collaboration between the library, The REP, partners and communities. It will provide a dynamic mix of events, activities and performance together with outstanding resources, exhibitions and access to expert help for learning, information and culture. As a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, entrepreneurship, creative expression, health information and much more, the Library of Birmingham will change people's lives.

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