The Concept of the Repository

OK, here’s the terse, perhaps slightly flippant, one sentence statement:

The Repository is a variegated virtual library of items felt to be significant by individuals who participated in some way, shape or fashion in the remarkable community that--among other things--gave birth to these items.

A somewhat more verbose—perhaps more serious—statement:

This Repository stands in a long line of wisdom gathering and sharing ventures in the history of our community. Many of us recall from the early days such things as the Briefcase Library, the Microfiche Reader and the Corporate Research Reading Project. More recently, we have the great collection of materials on the Golden Pathways CD and books of our stories (The Circle of Life) and of JWM's talks (Bending History), to mention but two. We have vast archival holdings in the US and substantial others in places like Australia. We have years of information sharing stored on our various listservs, to say nothing of important current materials on various national and international ICA websites. Finally, we have our individually preserved boxes and file cabinets of materials that we have faithfully protected and moved—often multiple times—over the years.

This venture is kin to all of these and yet distinct from any of them. Perhaps the best way to describe our concept of this site is to talk about some of its distinguishing characteristics, along with some of the things that it’s not. All our ventures have used the best technology available to them at the time, and the Repository in its turn puts some distinctly new (one might even say revolutionary) technology at our disposal.

  • It’s dynamic, not static. This is not really a product, much less a finished product. It is far more a process—or a product undergoing continual modification. If the Repository is to have any value, it will need to continually expand and evolve—probably in unforeseen ways. What’s here, in a sense, is just a teaser the demo, the beta, the starter kit assembled by its creators simply as a pointer to what it could become over time.

  • It’s participatory. We certainly want you to come and browse, but we hope for more from many of you than observer status. This is set up to receive your treasures, elicit your wisdom, engage your spirit. Look, by all means—then jump in.

  • It’s designed to keep materials placed here available and accessible to all of us, now and into the future. They won’t get lost or buried under new stuff every day or be removed and replaced by other items every fortnight, like museum displays.

  • It’s not in competition with or a replacement for any of the existing tools or modes we’ve created for gathering and making available the resources of our community. It’s just a new member of that family. If people find it of value, it may thrive and grow; if not, it ought to pass from the scene and become itself an item in the great archival collection.

  • It’s intentionally selective, with no desire or claim to be exhaustive. This isn’t the place for you to dump every last scrap of notes that you’ve saved over the years in those bulging boxes and files. Pick out the things from them that still resonate for you and that you think others might appreciate seeing, learning about or being reminded of.

  • It’s open to everyone who has ever been a part of this community, wherever and for whatever period of time. No current affiliations or letters attesting to your being in good standing are required. As the first words on the opening page indicate, this is not in any sense an “official” site.

  • It’s our intention to keep it as simple as possible. You won’t find many fancy bells and whistles on this website, no animated cartoons or blinking text, no grand assortment of fonts or spellbinding graphics. In the wiki world, the emphasis is on making it as easy as possible for ordinary people to actually do things with a site. Wiki has a surprising number of neat tools available, if you want them, and we’ll look at some of these down the road. The good news for most of us, however, is that working on the site doesn’t require that we learn and use any of these. The pages we create can be relatively simple to do and still look good.

  • It's our intention that it be inclusive and multicultural. This community's members and activities span the globe. Its beginnings lie in the Western world, but those who participated profoundly in it and made it what it became are from all the major cultures, ethnicities, religions, demographics and linguistic communities of our world. We need to hear these diverse voices on this site.

  • It's collaborative--and therefore, based on trust. The whole idea behind the wiki software is to foster community. Hence, every page in the Repository is editable by you. It's somewhat like our old corporate writing. When you make a website this open, it's obvious that things can go wrong, and the system can be abused. We're taking some risks, and we know it. We just think they're worth it. (If you'd like to learn more about the history and underlying philosophy of Wiki, see

  • It’s archaic and futuric—or so we hope. What transforms this from being mere nostalgia and simply our version of an antique road show into something highly relevant to today and tomorrow is our capacity to relate to these materials out of the deeps of our own lives and the claims we experience upon us today. It’s our capacity to see beneath the surface of what’s otherwise just our memorabilia and to articulate where and how these things not only had value for those who cared in our past, but have value as well for those who will care in the future. We hope you’ll put things up here that you feel are historically significant and have made a difference in your life. We hope you’ll also explore how they may make a difference in the lives of future generations.

  • It’s intended to be both serious and fun. Humor is as appropriate here as sobriety, playfulness as welcome as profundity. For those of us who have worked on this, there is an underlying seriousness to this project, but it was never the case that we couldn’t smile or laugh or dance in the midst of the mission.

  • It’s free for you to use. At least for now, there isn’t any user expense for you to be part of this. No purchase price, no monthly charges, no membership dues, no access fee. That may have to change down the road, if this really gets going to the point that the current support system can’t carry it, but for now, that's the reality.

-- GordonHarper - 05 Jun 2006
Topic revision: r10 - 13 Jun 2006, GordonHarper
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