Exploration of local resources – Collection and exploration of documents on local knowledge and local history


Collection and exploration of documents on local knowledge, research on community memories, the totality of information on a specific place and of the related documents. It may be a community activity or a professional one performed in libraries, museums and archives, looking for, collecting, systematising, exploring, conveying and publishing information and documents.

Purpose of the activity

To preserve local cultural values, to consciously strengthen the local identity in a globalised world with the help of tools offered by libraries and museums. To collect information on a specific place and all the relevant documents, to preserve, systematise, explore, convey and publish the collected material, preferably with the help of professionals working for public collections.

Key terms

local knowledge, local history, tradition, cultural and natural heritage, local identity – national identity – group identity


  • personal: professionals at public collections, community developer, local researchers
  • material: a public collection or community space
  • financial: equipment for document storage (shelves, special containers, microfilm, data storage media), IT equipment for exploration and publication

Substantive components

The term has three interpretations in Hungarian: in everyday use it means a topographical skill (good knowledge of an area, village, district, etc.); in scholarly language it means an area of interdisciplinary research, denoting the comprehensive examination of a place, while in the terminology of libraries it refers to a service branch. Local knowledge information is a comprehensive and complex concept: there are no chronological and thematic boundaries. It also refers to knowledge and data about the past, present and future (development plans and forecasts) of a certain place; the date when the documents containing the information were generated is irrelevant.
Local knowledge encompasses a variety of disciplines, collecting any and all sorts of information on the entirety and parts of the given place, its historical past, natural conditions, economy, social structure, political organizations, public administrations, technical creations, education, arts, lifestyle, religion, etc., as well as their changes and their relations to other places.

Within the concept of local knowledge, any object (including computer data storage devices) carrying or containing any kind of information pertaining to the place in question can be considered a document. There are three main categories: documents containing local information/locally made artifacts, local publications and works of local authors.

  • Locally made artifacts/artifacts of local relevance (e.g. objects belonging to celebrities born in the community, artifacts made locally by locals, archaeological findings).
  • Documents containing local information include printings, manuscripts and other forms of records, which offer information about the place. In this respect, the place of their publication (be it abroad), the author and the publisher are irrelevant.
  • The term ‘local publication’ is not entirely accurate, as we are actually dealing with a broader concept. It refers to any document published and produced in any manner by publishers, institutions, bodies or persons operating at the given place, which contain non-local information. They may include presentations and performances at local conferences, concerts and other events, their material published in books, on sound tapes and CD’s.
  • Any writings, pictures and sound recordings (presentations, reproductions, biographies) presenting or analysing any work of a local author will by all means be registered among documents containing local information. Collection and bibliographical registration of local authors containing non-local information and produced non-locally are even more controversial than that of local publications. The problem is made worse by the fact that local ties may be diverse, as was explained concerning local personalities; as a result, who counts as a local author and who does not will often be decided in a chance manner, based on likes and dislikes.

Related terms

local history, homeland studies, landscape research and regional science

The concept of homeland studies and local history are often used together with that of local knowledge and, incorrectly, sometimes no distinction is made. These three, and the more rarely mentioned landscape research and regional science are related to one another, but it is incorrect to consider them synonymous or to assume only slight differences between them, as the different linguistic forms should make it perfectly clear that the three (or five) terms do not refer to the same concept and do not denote identical forms of activity.

The first three concepts are closely related, with a number of common properties. For all three of them, the subject and motivation of interest and activity is the micro-world. They look at the micro-world in its entirety, with different methods. As a common feature, they also place local characteristics in the general process of national development. There are large overlapping areas in terms of content, the information is largely the same. Their pedagogical functions are also similar: raising awareness to the ideas of local and national patriotism. They are related in that both local knowledge (and homeland studies) display scientific elements: a scientific approach to knowledge, scientific foundations of their methods, and local historical and regional research conducted on the resource treasures hidden in libraries. Although they overlap at several points and there is no sharp dividing line between the two, both disciplines have their own specific subject areas, forms of activities and functions. The basis for their separation is the differences appearing in social practice: local history, landscape research and regional science have an explicitly scientific and creative character, while homeland studies has a public educational and campaigning function, and local knowledge is more of a collective-informative service activity. A number of study branches and scientific disciplines are concerned with information on local knowledge. Since local knowledge is a comprehensive – in other words, interdisciplinary – area, their practice, system of institutions and the information they rely on may be considered bordering areas of local knowledge.

Applied tools and methods

  • enrichment: finding the sources of information and documents on local knowledge and obtaining them
  • management: registration, storage and protection, etc., of documents
  • exploration: cataloguing, indexing, evaluating, etc.
  • conveying: forwarding information and documents to users
  • promotion, marketing: events, posters, verbal propaganda, library website, etc.
  • delivery, publication: creation and publication of materials and communications with local knowledge content.

Results, expected outcome

  • objectification, collections, exhibitions, printed publications
  • support for local events
  • communication of the results of local knowledge and local history research
  • public utility or general information services.


Bényei, M.: Helyismereti tevékenység a könyvtárakban. [Local knowledge activities in the library]. 1994, Nyíregyháza, Bessenyei György K, p. 232.
Bényei, M.: A helyismereti munka alapjai. [Fundamentals of local knowledge] Booklets for out-of-school library training. 2002, Budapest, Library Institute
Mihalik, L.: Virtuális valóság, könyvtár, helyismeret. [Virtual reality, library, local knowledge] In: Könyv, Könyvtár, Könyvtáros. [Book, Library, Librarian] 2008, 4.sz. p.12-17.
Szántó, I.: A helytörténeti kutatások elméleti és módszertani kérdései. [Theory and methodology of research on local history]. 1992, Budapest, Tankönyvkiadó Vállalat

This article based on the following document: Community development methodological guide