Opening the Windows

By Tricia Vita Premium

Hollis, NH (population 7,015 and growing), is winning praise for Windows on Hollis Past, an innovative Web site that uses high-tech tools to preserve the town’s rural heritage. The site, at <>, features interactive maps created with GPS (global positioning system), digitized photos of hundreds of properties and written and oral histories, seasoned with Yankee wit and wisdom. “The idea was to document and inventory what is fast disappearing,” says Van Eresian, project coordinator. “This is really an educational endeavor. We were hoping to capture the interest of students in history.”

Funding for the pilot project came from a three-year Certified Local Government (CLG) matching grant of $55,000 from tile National Park Service (NPS), through the New Hampshire Division of Historical Services. For every grant dollar received, Hollis residents provided a matching $1.20 to cover service and staffing costs. More than 175 volunteers of all ages and expertise collected and organized material for the Web site.

Among the places you can view through the town’s online “windows” are homes and streetscapes in the Hollis Village Historic District — former taverns and school houses, barns converted into residences, abandoned dairy farms and long-vanished mills. Artifacts range from planes — not airplanes but the tools used by coopers to shape the tops of barrels — to Ellen, a doll made more than 100 years ago by the great-grandfather of two Hollis sisters. “She is in good shape, but at her age she mostly sits and tells stories of old Hollis,” the Web site’s virtual storyteller explains.

Since the Web site went live last September, some residents say it has opened their eyes to the beauty and history of a town they’ve lived in most of their lives. “We also received many e-mail requests for information on how to build a similar site, which is what we were hoping would happen,” says Eresian. Windows on Hollis Past is featured on the NPS Web site <> under the CLG section. For information on preserving your community’s history with the CLG program, visit <>.

From the June 2003 Family Tree Magazine