Clearly the scope and content of digital collections are taking advantage of the boundless space of the Internet, removed from the physicality of archival storage and public display. Projects that we have look at recently, such as the September 11th digital archive, “Our Marathon”, and American Memory, all display enormous collections available to explore and easily search (as long as you have a computer and internet). With this great degree of accessibility however, a great potential for utility is contingent upon the greater public to have a reason to engage in these collections. For events like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, this engagement is a direct part of community building and healing. But as absolutely wonderful as it is to have these material gathered in one place, what else can be done with them? Even though Internet connectivity facilitates the actual collecting phase of a digital collection (and in many cases is the source of much primary material), and makes available digital/digitized materials to geographically disparate locations, these vast stores also have much more potential due to vastly expanded nature of interaction on the Internet.
Digital collections that also move beyond just the “collecting” phase more fully utilize their accessibility and potential for community engagement. Consider this example of a digital collection of stories from New York City’s past. This City Lore project, City of Memory, is both a “repository for all of New York’s stories and experiences” and a curated exhibition of unique experiences particular to the city and its history. These two perspectives are combined into one project, one collection of stories, at once expansively inclusive and editorially selective. The fusion of these two perspectives is uniquely accomplished through its digital medium, both through the visualization of all the stories, uploaded and curated, on a single map, and through the opportunity viewers have to customize their experience. They can either be guided through the “tours” of the city that link stories together, or create their own experience using their own interest in a specific area or person. The creative interactions possible using digital collections (whether one is using Omeka, or has much more programming knowledge) then expands engagement with materials.