Step 1: Write a Place Profile

Place profiles are the most direct way to convey to others why your place matters.

A place profile is a document that:

  • Establishes basic facts about a place;
  • Presents a narrative (in the manner of a story) about why the place is important.

A place profile need not be lengthy, or cost a lot to put together. But you do need to write it down. Putting time into its preparation will pay off later, because you'll be ready to present your case as opportunities arise, such as:

  • Inquiries from the press about the place;
  • Offers to create an online resource such as a web page;
  • Requests for nominations of places for public recognition;
  • Publishing brochures, leaflets, posters, and other promotional materials;
  • Submitting it to a newsletter, magazine, or as a "letter to the editor."

Plus, the process of writing down what you know may lead you to discover new connections among events you hadn't recognized before, to understand where holes in the information demand new research, and to compare and consider different accounts.

Guidelines for Writing a Place Profile

A good place profile is a combination of the specific details that make your place interesting, and the larger historical themes that tie it to a particular place and time. If you're having trouble getting started, think about your place from a visitor's point of view.

What are the key things that everybody must know about this place? Also ask yourself how you can enrich the standard account, and what surprises you can offer.

There are particulars that you will want to be attentive to as you create and polish your place profile:

  1. Be accurate and specific, especially when including uncorroborated information.
    The place profile is the baseline for all your subsequent presentations. Errors made here are likely to be repeated. When you cannot verify accuracy but still want to include someone's statement or memory, attribute the statement to the source, presenting it as a personal memory rather than fact:
    YES: "Long-time resident Mary Sack remembers that 'when I first came here in 1937 there was a large brass clock tower."
    NO: "In 1937 there was a large brass clock tower."
     
  2. Connect the physical location to stories and themes that are either broadly interesting, or have a particular relevance to your audience. Convey your interest and excitement about your place by making clear how it figures into the larger themes you have identified.
     
  3. Engage the issues. It's tempting to avoid controversial issues by concentrating on the uncontestable facts about a place and skirting the intense emotion or political passion that may lie just under the surface. Think twice. Consider engaging the conflict directly, perhaps by presenting multiple viewpoints.
     
  4. Include contemporary and historical photographs with your narrative to help people visualize what they're reading.
     
  5. Keep track of your sources as you write. Most people quickly forget the sources they used while writing, but you must be able to easily verify your own work as you make the case for your place (although this information need not appear in the published profile). So, be sure to "footnote" as you write: carefully note the sources for all the information you use by noting titles and publication dates of books or articles and the page number(s) on which the cited information appears, as well as names of interviewees and the date of the interview that produced the cited information.

Resources

Examples of Place Profiles:  Kurdish Library & Museum, Mandolin Brothers, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation