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In the project ‘Westhoek imag(in)es’ or ‘Westhoek verbeeldt’ in Dutch, volunteers play a very important role. Locals of a pronounced rural area search for pictures, postcards, posters and stories that have a public significance within their villages. They digitize the material independently and save it to a central data base. Most of this material becomes accessible immediately via www.westhoekverbeeldt.be. This idea of providing volunteers with the technical tools to digitize their own cultural heritage turned out to be a great success. The main focus on images owned by private persons or organisations and the enhanced organisation which allows volunteers to deal with all aspects of the workflow, is what makes this project unique.
Volunteers and professionals work together sharing one common interest and goal. Not only do they value the old images and the stories they illustrate, they also want to preserve them as part of the history of their village, for everyone to enjoy in the future. Moreover, they forge a tighter link between the people and their own pictures, as well as among the (migrated) villagers themselves. By participating in the project the volunteers show a strong commitment to their local community.
The commitment and motivation of both volunteers and professionals is the foundation of ‘Westhoek imag(in)es’ and also the starting point for this presentation. They help illustrate the developed methodology. It is made to the measure of the people, the villages and the entire regions.