A good first question when preparing historical material is "How shall we tell the story?" For us the answer varies a great deal depending on the project - a club, a corporation, a cemetery or a church all require different approaches.
A current project for the Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) has allowed us to use social media in a way we have not done before to tell an institution's history.
RCH has 150 years of stories about people, medical advances and innovation, hospital buildings and more.
We have used Twitter and Facebook for several years, but this year, in partnership with the RCH Foundation, we are also writing an increasingly popular blog that is updated at least weekly. We have featured RCH items in this column, but print media is very differ-ent from online media in which comments and feedback are immediate.
RCH's history is filled with many themes and topics, and we have to constantly select what to feature and what to leave out. So far the results are very satisfying from our perspective and, apparently, for people from around the world.
Who knew there were people in the Cayman Islands, Trinidad, Australia and India interested enough in the history of the Royal Columbian Hospital to check in week after week to see what new tidbits have been added?
We answered the "How shall we tell the story?" question for RCH by creating a virtual mosaic or a jigsaw puzzle. Each week readers get another story or piece of the puzzle, and by the end of the year those pieces, each of which is complete in itself, will all fit together to give an overall picture of 150 years of caring.
Viewers of the RCH150 blog have read about how the source of a local scarlet fever epidemic was discovered and a curious "measuring party" fundraising event held at the Briggs house (now Irving House). They have seen a set of rules for nurses from the 1860s and know why there was no similar list for doctors.
There have been stories (with more to come) of early nurses, including Lillian McAllister and Esther Paulson. Esther's own stories of being a nurse in the 1920s RCH and of the rules for early nursing students are wonderful pieces. A reader shared his family's multigenerational story and photo, which are fascinating and heartwarming.
The story of moving from the original 1862 hospital to the new 1889 building in Sapperton described patients and staff, on foot and in wagons, wending their way from Fourth Street at Agnes to East Columbia - quite a trek.
Find out more by reading the blog yourself at www.rch150.wordpress. com. Comment on what you read; suggest a story or share one of your own.
Be part of commemorating the first 150 years of the Royal Columbian Hospital as it stands at the threshold of a new and exciting future.