My L.A – Day 4

27 January 2014 – Day 4 of our series of blog posts following Sally’s experiences taking the Memory Box to the USA thanks to a Cultural Exchange funded by the British Council and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

Tuesday 17th September

No two days here are the same. This morning I woke up to a thick blanket of smog, blurring the tops of the surrounding skyscrapers. The local Angelino’s have many different names for the smog, depending on what month you’re in, including ‘June Gloom’ or ‘May Grey’, but whatever the month you’re in, the general consensus is that the smog ain’t good. I imagine these few hours of smog would be a happy trade-off for many a person in Newcastle right now.

My Los Angeles

Today was the first delivery session of the Memory Box project ‘My Los Angeles’. It’s a great group, a real mix of people, with varying ages, genders and ethnicities, who have lived in different areas of Los Angeles for varying lengths of time. Everyone had a story to tell, and everyone felt passionate about the City. The group are mainly staff members and volunteers who were interested in the project and keen to learn new skills that could be replicated in their branch libraries. Everyone had brought their own iPad or laptop and were keen to get going.

The session went so well. Today was really about introducing the project and getting to know the group, so that they’d feel comfortable and confident about sharing stories with me and each other. It really is amazing how storytelling can bring a group of strangers together in such a brief amount of time. Session two starts tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to hearing the stories that they have chosen to capture.

Between the morning workshop and my evening lecture, I was inducted into the ways of the digitisation team. They’ve currently digitised 80,000 images out of 3 million. Talking to Maria, the Digitisation Librarian, it is clear that this is a project of passion rather than a simple process. She’s passionate about the collection and passionate about every part of the digitisation and documentation process. The detail and lengths she goes to, ensuring the content is as actuate and descriptive as possible really is very commendable. She obviously values the worth and historic value of each photograph.

After my brief tour (of which I’ll get the full version tomorrow), Ani insisted on treating me to ‘Happy Hour’ at McCormick & Schmicks Seafood Restaurant, and after a selection of dishes AND a Cosmopolitan, the jetlag has kicked in again and I’m about ready for bed.  BUT, we persevered and managed to make it back to the Library in time to sit in on Robert Hernandez’s evening workshop on augmented reality (AR).

USC Annenberg

Robert Hernandez works for USC Annenberg and is also Director of Development at The Seattle Times. Coincidentally, he contacted the library not long before my visit to ask if LAPL would be interested in teaming up with a number of grad students to work on a project that would integrate an element of AR within the library with the view to increase and diversify engagement with the library’s archive through digital means. Part of this AR process would focus on capturing and sharing digital stories. Kim very kindly put me in touch with Robert before my trip so that I could introduce myself and my work, and also organise to sit in on a couple of his workshop sessions.

The grad group itself was made up of a range of undergrads and masters students, all of whom have different takes on how this project should be approached. Through a process of human centred design and with the support of app developers, Neon Roots the group used the workshop session to begin to shape what approach they might take. I actively participated within the session, which must have truly engaged me, as I’d managed by this stage to shake off my jetlag. The session runs again next week, but this time from USC. I’m really looking forwards to seeing how the project has advanced.

The level of participation between the library and the University was clearly very high and very open, such a great way for the libraries team to get expertise though the door (in the shape of Robert, Neon Roots), without the attached price tag.


Ani not only took me out for ‘Happy hour’ food and cocktails, she also loaned me a teapot for the duration of my visit :)


Enjoyed this post? Start at Day 1 of Sally’s adventures taking Memory Box to Los Angeles. Or you can carry on to Day 5.