Library’s Collective Memory Project Preserves Watertown’s Past and Present

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Courtesy of the Watertown Library

The following piece was provided by the Watertown Free Public Library:

In the fall of 2021, Watertown Free Public Library staff began asking community members to go through their albums, scroll through their phones, and share three personal photographs that represent “you, your family, or your connection to Watertown.” Each photograph was added to the Library’s online local history collection, preserved as a record of the community’s past and present.

As of this month, the Watertown Collective Memory Project digital collection is now live on the Library’s website. The collection of 300+ photos and interviews represents two years of community submissions which document the people, events, and culture of Watertown in the last 80 years.

“It’s my job to collect, preserve, and provide access to materials reflecting the history of Watertown.” says Watertown’s local history librarian, Caroline Littlewood. “But I can’t do it alone. With this project, we made it a mission to gather personal photos from people who have contributed to our community in all sorts of ways, big and small, past and present.”

Littlewood conceived of the Watertown Collective Memory Project as a crowdsourced snapshot of Watertown, documenting “who we are and what’s important to us.” In an era when so many personal photos languish in computer drives and on distant cloud servers, the archival effort also gave community members a new way to commemorate and save precious memories that might otherwise be lost, forgotten, or deleted.

Watertown community member Esther Kim first noticed the Library’s call for photos on social media. “The project piqued my interest due to my background in family oral history work, mental health and school counseling,” writes Kim. “It’s important that future generations can learn about the lived experiences of people whose voices are oftentimes left out of school curricula and textbooks.”

Littlewood agrees. “The story of Watertown lives in its people, and everyone can contribute,” she adds. “Your memories and your experiences count as local history.”

Want to see what your neighbors have shared with the Library so far? Browse the Watertown Collective Memory collection at Photos are now on display in the T. Ross Kelly Art Gallery, through September 30, 2023. If you would like to donate photos to the collection or nominate someone you know for a recorded interview, call the library at 617-972-6436 or visit

The Watertown Collective Memory Project was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

About WFPL

The Watertown Free Public Library provides access to a wide variety of popular materials, resources, services, and programs that fulfill the informational, cultural, and recreational needs of Watertown and surrounding communities. Our Library works to create an environment that attracts and welcomes users of all ages and abilities.

2 thoughts on “Library’s Collective Memory Project Preserves Watertown’s Past and Present

  1. Hi Camille,
    It’s not too late to add your photos to the collection! The gallery exhibit is only up for the month of September, but the Watertown Collective Memory Project will continue into the fall. You can add your photos by bringing them to the library (if they’re physical prints we can scan) or uploading them online (if they were taken with a phone or digital camera). The link to the upload form and more information is on our webpage: Thanks for your interest in contributing!

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