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January 17, 2006

Old Campus Photos

Content for your website that creates a sense of nostalgia.

Are you looking for ways to bring your alumni back to your website more frequently? 

One of the toughest jobs in maintaining your online directory and community is finding new content that will keep alumni interested and coming back to your website.  You can only write so many stories and announce so many events.

Georgia Tech has found a way to repurpose old content on their website.  They went back into their archives and found lots of photos that were taken by various campus photographers over the decades.   They identified each photograph with the following:

• Titles
• Date
• Photographer
• Location
• Description
• File Size

scanned it and positioned it in on their website.

Having spent years in the photo industry, I’ve always been fascinated at looking at the B&W photographs that lined the halls of administration buildings at college campuses around the country.  As Rod Stewarts song “Every Picture Tells a Story” suggests, while viewing the photographs, my mind wondered what paths the young students I was viewing in a 1933 photograph took.  By the time I viewed the photographs, the students I was looking at had graduated, got married, had babies, fought in wars, got jobs, lived through good and bad times, got old and died. 

Photographs capture a story that carries into future generations. They also link the generations as the viewer gains an understanding that while times have changed, little has really changed about the college experience for students.

College alumni associations are well served by the power of photographs. Photographs not only tell a story, but create a powerful nostalgic feeling in those who have walked the same path, entered the same building, sat in the same place or participated in the same event.

If you are looking for a way to put content on your website, that requires little work on your part, have your communication department scan in old photographs.  There are a number of ways you could organize the photographs to keep your alumni coming back to your website.

Show now and then

While looking at the photographs at Virginia Tech, I noticed a common event that seemed to happen throughout the years.  One photo showed students in the early 1920’s involved in the “Cakewalk” event.   Another photo later in the archives showed students in the late 60’s - girls with Jane Fonda, “boots made for walking” and boys hair length reaching their collar.   While styles changed, the “Cakewalk” event provided common memories among alumni.

Create photo albums by years or decades

While you are at it, consider repositioning all of the photos so alumni can quickly look at the photos by decade. Some may not be interested in seeing those who attended either before or after, just want to get right to the times while they were on campus. 

Give alumni the ability to add to the collection

Consider also adding a feature where your alumni can post their own photographs along with descriptive information AND allow your alumni to post comments to their photographs.

Catalog the photographs

Give your viewers the ability to view photographs by events, activities and locations.  Events and activities your students participated in provide powerful connections with your institution. Help bring back those memories by creating search tools that will enable them to locate these.

While it will take some work in organizing and creating your alumni photo archive, it will provide decades of fun, entertainment and at the same time engage and involve your alumni.  A small investment today, will ensure you will have powerful content your alumni will spend time connecting with.

What do you think?  How can we improve on this idea?  Want to talk one on one, email me directly at don@iaccorp.com

Posted by Don Philabaum on January 17, 2006 at 09:45 AM | Permalink

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