MemoryWiki offers the online community a space in which they can record their memories. Because of the site's open-ended and nearly unrestricted nature, the topics which people have chosen to chronicle are of a wide variety. As the project conitnues to grow, it presents a historical resource of great potential. By creating a repository which is open both to creators and researchers alike, the possibilities for historical documentation and production seem limited only by the willingness of people to share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Utilizing the great breadth and volume the World Wide Web makes available, MemoryWiki describes itself as “a place for you, or anyone, to store your memories and share them with others.” Taking off on the successes of Wikipedia, MemoryWiki employs the willingness and enthusiasm of the online community to share and create documents for use in the public sphere.
MemoryWiki was launched in the fall of 2005 and quickly gathered more than 400 memoirs in its first three months. Topics of the recollections range from historically memorable events (the Oklahoma City bombing or the Tet offensive), to general cultural nostalgia (childhood memories from the 1960s or tales from the disco floor), to the arcane (a hatred for peaches or having wisdom teeth removed). The memoirs are currently indexed into six general categories: life; events; people; places; things; and years, with entries accessible through some or all of these headings. Users may also perform keyword searches, browse all of the entries alphabetically, or be taken to a random page.
MemoryWiki allows authors to submit a memoir that is then proofread for errors (not content) by the site's editors and published in a wiki format. Unlike a traditional wiki, other users may not edit submissions, although the authors themselves can submit revisions to their memoirs at a later date. The format and ease of use will be familiar to users of other wikis, and should encourage participation. The greater permanence of entries, compared to the fluidity of Wikipedia's articles, may even appeal to a wider audience which may be unwilling to maintain articles or resistant to the idea of others editing their work. MemoryWiki seems to more closely resemble a site like History Lived than Wikipedia, for it offers the opportunity to document their memories and responses of memorable events. History Lived, however, seeks to publish stories only about American events and memories, and editors choose which memoirs will and will not be published.
Alternatively, the minimal constraints employed by MemoryWiki poises it to become a truly unique and valuable resource for cultural and historical research. By creating a repository which is open both to creators and researchers alike, the possibilities for historical documentation and production seem limited only by the willingness of people to share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. These primary accounts of both the extraordinary and the mundane should allow historians to more fully develop the stories they seek to tell and engage voices often missing from the record. If MemoryWiki can succeed in garnering wider attention, people will continue to accept the offer of MemoryWiki's slogan, “Everyone has a Story. Make Yours History,” and in so doing, create a valuable tool for historians.
Center for History and New Media
January 23, 2006