07 February 2023
Narvik Museum’s digital encyclopedia celebrates its 15th anniversary. Gamlenarvik.no was established as a knowledge bank for local history where the public was invited to help collect history.
The website contains information about the Ofotbanen, locomotives, family history, narvik city, and much more. The initiators behind it were then Department Director Lars Slettjord and the museum’s computer expert (plus much more) Terje Storjord.
A knowledge bank
-There was an opportunity when we came across Wikipedia’s software that was available for free. We had the opportunity to create a cheap, simple solution that could in an engaging way get the city’s population to add knowledge to the site. Now we could gather knowledge and, not least, be present online with knowledge. Information that you previously had to physically go to the museum to access. We also had fotosamlinga.no, as the only one in Museum Nord we posted pictures from the photo collection online. A kind of precursor to what museums do on digitaltmuseum.no today,” says Terje Storjord.
-gamlenarvik.no became a kind of work tool for collecting and sorting information, especially in connection with the establishment of the photo collection. Information that came, for example, from the village book, to the Ofoten books of Magnus Pettersen, court records that we had digitized, we could collect on the website. We also received a great deal of information from Bjørn Waldenstrøm about Grängesberg,” says Lars Slettjord.
The museum has added most of the data itself. How did asking your audience to add stories and facts work?
“It didn’t work well to get the audience to add stories and facts because we didn’t have an active recruitment or editorial team. In addition, the user interface itself was difficult,” says Terje Storjord. – To format text, you had to add tags and there was a separate process with images. We underestimated the need for an active editorial team, which decided what to write about and focus on. So that articles will be long and good enough.
What technical challenges have you encountered?
-The very act of posting articles, searchability and such was curative. Challenges are the backend where it needs to be updated with new versions. Running the site has been challenging because we didn’t have computer expertise in php and database, and underestimated what we needed in terms of in-house technical expertise.
The idea of collecting and storing stories digitally is today largely an established working methodology for museums, and there are several platform solutions. For example, local history wiki, or minner.no developed by KulturIT. In Museum Nord, the GaiaVesterålen project has developed a data platform with the purpose of collecting local history from Vesterålen as part of the research project. In addition, we have skrei.net with stories related to skrei and the Lofoten fishery.
Terje and Lars are both enjoying retirement now, but are still associated with the museum as resource persons on a voluntary basis. Among other things, through The Friends of the Photo Collection, maintenance of gamlenarvik.no, and inspection of the museum’s model train track.
How do the developers of gamlenarvik.no think the platform stands today?
“It stands in the sense that it’s only where you find that information collected, organized and searchable. Railway history, property history, farms and genera. Important and good information Most of the articles are only half-finished, where we deviate from wikipedia. But gamlenarvik.no still has great potential,” says Terje Storjord.
“gamlenarvik.no works, but needs modernisation. We also need to update information, for example, there are several time periods we do not cover today,” concludes Lars Slettjord.
For Museum Nord, this website (i.e. museumnord.no) is the main place where we offer digital communication and storytelling. Those who have taken a deep dive into Narvik Museum’s stories here will find that several of them have sprung from gamlenarvik.no.
– As an immigrant to Ofoten and the need to find historical information to do my job, gamlenarvik.no has really functioned as an encyclopedia and encyclopedia for me, says museum consultant in the Ofoten department, Kjersti Robertsen.
-We see from the visitor statistics of gamlenarvik.no that the site is still popular. Although museumnord.no will be the main channel for digital dissemination, there will still be room and need for gamlenarvik.no as a digital encyclopedia, says Ida Fossli, head of communication and web editor at Museum Nord.
In 2022, nearly 30,000 unique users visited gamlenarvik.no. In comparison, 70,000 people visited museumnord.no.