Library > News > Newsletter > 2015 > January 2015 > Bringing History to Life – Crowdsourcing Ephemera at the National Library

Bringing History to Life – Crowdsourcing Ephemera at the National Library

As part of its mission to serve as the national memory of the State of Israel, the Library has launched a new initiative to crowdsource its recently formed ephemera collection in order to better understand some of the fascinating, yet less well-documented, aspects of Israeli history. The crowdsourcing campaign - If Memory Serves - is an outgrowth of the National Library's Time Travel Project, developed in conjunction with UCLA and the Arcadia Fund. The Time Travel Project entailed collecting, scanning and making digitally accessible 150,000 ephemera items (objects such as posters, broadsides, and tickets that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles) from the Library's collections and from private archives and collections throughout Israel.

To enhance the 'slice of life' each ephemera piece represents and give it historical and communal context, the Library launched If Memory Serves, which enables anyone from anywhere in the world to go online and help the Library tell the stories behind some of the items in its extensive collection of ephemera dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The designated website, launched in July 2014, allows anyone with Internet access to receive a "task" and help better identify, describe, attribute or categorize a particular item. According to Maayan Almagor, the project coordinator, "The project's purpose is to preserve the Israeli culture of yesteryear for future generations to enjoy and explore, while its novel use of crowdsourcing technology enables us to do so in a much more efficient manner than would otherwise be possible." Almagor notes that through the initiative, they plan on adding information for 40,000 items in the coming year alone.
Visitors to the If Memory Serves website are provided with easy instructions for participating in the project. By comparing users' responses, the project is able to control the quality and reliability of the information received, with all information ultimately overseen by the project's staff. The items in the collection truly reflect Israel's diverse character, appearing in languages ranging from German to Estonian, Judeo-Persian and Arabic.  The website content is currently available in Hebrew, with plans for English in the works. To learn more about the project and to join in, please visit: