LocalWiki makes it easy for anyone to learn about local history, gives everyone a chance to be a part of writing local history, places local history in context with information about what the community is currently like, and acts as a living archive that allows new histories to be written and connected with everything else that happens in a community.

So many books, magazines and zines on gentrification and real estate development, care of the Prelinger Library in San Francisco

Examples of LocalWiki being used for local history

Aroostook County, ME

The SAGE (Seniors Achieving Greater Education) at University of Maine Presque Isle is using LocalWiki to write biographies of people who lived in Aroostook County.

Davis, CA

The entire city's history is now collaboratively maintained on the Davis Wiki. The history includes a historical timeline, information about key historical figures, information about major political issues and their histories, and more.

Oakland, CA

Oakland Librarian Martha Bergmann shows the Sanborn Maps to participants ofOakland Wiki's first Local History EditathonGetting an orientation to the Oakland History Room from librarian Martha Bergmann at Oakland Wiki's first Local History Editathon.In Oakland, volunteers have collaborated with the library to host writeathons and also to work in special collections - holding writeathons in the archive room itself, doing original research, and publishing it directly to the wiki.

In early 2013, Oakland LocalWiki volunteers first began collaborating with Oakland Public Library librarians to organize a number of weekly writeathons at the Oakland History Room (the official archive of the city of Oakland). The library doesn't have an active digitization program and all of its materials are non-circulating (which is how the volunteers decided to try and meet in the History Room itself).

At the first writeathon, Oakland History Room librarians provided a tour of the History Room's archives and prepared handouts to help orient participants. Volunteers later added this information to the entry for the Oakland History Room for the benefit of future researchers. As a result of these events, a number of local history enthusiasts became aware of the wiki and ended up becoming regular contributors. As of late 2013, local history is one of the best-covered areas of the wiki.

Here are some statistics on history documentation on Oakland Wiki (as of Oct. 2013):

In March, 2014, the Oakland LocalWiki won the Oakland Heritage Alliance's  2013-2014 Partners in Preservation Award in the Education category for all of the amazing work that wiki contributors have done documenting Oakland history.

Saranac Lake, NY

Started in Residents in Saranac Lake, NY dedicate their entire LocalWiki project to local history with over 5,000 entries created about Saranac Lake historic figures, places, and life in the past. The project was started in 2008 by Historic Saranac Lake, a not-for-profit architectural preservation organization. Learn more about their project.

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz history is well-covered in the Santa Cruz LocalWiki with information about the town's founding, tourism history, key political issues, and major recent events.

Toronto, ON

Residents have documented a rich history of Toronto broken up by decade and year!

How you can use LocalWiki in your community to write and share local history

LocalWiki can be used by historical societies, museums, archives, libraries, community groups, schools, universities, and residents to share historic information on almost any topic in a community including:

Broadway, looking south, 1930s, in Saranac Lake, NY

  • Neighborhood histories

  • Histories of women, communities of color, immigrant communities, and more.

  • Family histories

  • Neighborhood histories

  • Histories of the activities of local community groups and activist movements

  • Oral histories and personal narratives

  • Local political history

  • Architectural history

  • Sports history

  • Food and drink histories

  • Music and art histories

  • Transportation histories

  • Economic, industrial, and labor histories

  • Historic mapping and geography

Benefits of using LocalWiki to share local history

  • Easy to use: LocalWiki sites are easy to edit with a wysiwyg editor that requires no special knowledge to use - the editing screen looks just like a simple word processor. You can see for yourself by clicking "edit" at the top of the screen on this page and typing something (you can always cancel out of the edit screen).

  • Flexible: While books can only be corrected with a new edition and websites can be difficult to update, it's incredibly easy to update, rearrange, reorganize, classify, and delete content on a LocalWiki. As new historic information becomes available, it's easy to update the wiki to reflect new findings.

  • Collaborative: Because anyone can participate, anyone can help contribute to the project of documenting local history. Time and again we see open questions posted directly on the wiki (e.g. "does anyone know when this happened?") and answered by other members in a community. The wiki is a collaborative writing and research publication platform that enables an entire community to write its history.

  • Grows over time: When describing their project, Historic Saranac Lake writes: 'What's great about wikis is that they are built a bit at a time— it is perfectly reasonable to start a wiki page with a single sentence (or even less), knowing that someone will come along and add to it later." The archive only becomes richer as more people contribute. It also means that documenting local history can be an ongoing process - it's not necessary to complete research on a particular topic before publication because publication can happen continuously and

  • Discoverable: It doesn't take long for people using LocalWiki to fulfill a natural curiosity about their neighborhoods to start to get fascinated by the history of their community. We've seen this kind of serendipitous discovery creating new local history fanatics out of people who never thought that they might be interested in the topic. LocalWiki can provide a broader audience for local historic information than a site that's specific to a single organization or topic (which a resident would have to know about to start learning about local history). Additionally, because LocalWiki is a global network, historic content added to LocalWiki is much more discoverable via search than it would be on many stand-alone sites.

  • Colloquial and informal knowledge is welcome: Many topics in local history are poorly documented or aren't documented at all and known only in stories exchanged between community members (we've all heard variations of "the gas station is over where the old mill used to be" and "this neighborhood is called Dogtown because back in the day there were so many dogs out on the street"). LocalWiki is a platform where this kind of information is not only welcome but very much encouraged!

  • In context with current issues: On LocalWiki, historic information lives in the greater context of a community and gets connected to current places and issues (like planned development, etc), in the process showing people that local history is accessible, fascinating, and relevant to their lives. Many local history enthusiasts see the importance of understanding why and how the places where we live came to be that way. LocalWiki helps people who may not yet be local history enthusiasts see how local history is relevant to their lives.   Here is a good example.

  • Adds a geographic dimension: Because every entry in LocalWiki can have a map associated with it, mapping historic places and events provides an added geographic dimension to historic information.

  • A living archive: LocalWiki is not limited to only documenting the past. It allows new histories to be written as time goes on and makes it easy to connect new events with everything else that happens in a community.