Lost Perth is my favourite local history site of the town I grew up in. If you have no connection with this town it probably won’t resonate the way it does with the thousands of followers, but it’s worth visiting it to try to find the key to promoting your own library’s local history collection which is full of rare and lost and long forgotten images of your local area.
Take, for example, the image above. To many of you it’s simply two crumpled paper shopping bags from a store that you have never heard of. But the thousands of others, myself included, it’s a link that unlocks stories and memories from our past.
When I saw this image I was taken back to Warick Shopping Centre (Perth’s northern suburbs) in the 80s before a/c malls and chain stores and skinny caps came into fashion. Charlie Carters was a locally owned supermarket chain with branches throughout Perth and for many of us it was perhaps our first job (my first job was as a checkout chick at Macs which was another independent chain).
From a simple image of a paper bag I am transported to Perth in the 80s, being in a parked car in a parking bay with a slight incline outside the Charlie Carters Warick store, the car rolling backwards because the handbrake came off (none of us kids ever have admitted to taking it off, we have blamed the parent of course), the hero barber from the store next door who races to the rescue and pulls the brake, and all’s well that ends well. I hadn’t thought about that in many years and I will probably not think about it again for a few decades after this but it was a good (well we thought it was funny anyway the parent probably did not) memory.
The conversations on Lost Perth are all very personal but they are all similar in many ways and are helping to connect lost communties. This is also the role of local history groups, of which libraries play a key role. But the question is how to hook the community into the conversation like what has happened here.