Can a little guy make a difference? The experience of PanamaTipico.com

Demonstration
Marino Jaén Espinosa, Panama

PanamaTipico.com is a grassroots, web-based, effort that pursues objectives such as researching, digitally preserving, publishing and teaching about Panama’s rich cultural heritage. Since its very humble beginnings out of a personal interest in 2001, the website has grown into the premier online resource for cultural heritage of Panama.

Despite the fact that its founder did not have any formal heritage training at the beginning of the project, PanamaTipico.com has been able to attract and successfully engage a large audience and has also received many contributions from Panamanian folklorists and social scientists who were seeking online spaces to publish their work. This has resulted on a crowdsourcing website that is well respected by Panamanian and foreign visitors, folklore practitioners and amateurs, social scientists and students from all levels up to Ph.D.

These achievements have taken place while working on a resource-depleted environment such as a developing country, which has made the operation of PanamaTipico.com a very challenging task. However, these challenges have been addressed with a mix of creativity, technology, innovation and community building.

This demonstration will focus on the key web resources offered by PanamaTipico.com such as frequently updated articles organized by thematic subdomains and sections, multimedia content, forums, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, opt-in mailing lists managed by MailChimp, online store and educational games. While most of these resources are not new by themselves, their tailored use for fitting a community with a very specific and defined profile has proved extremely successful.

The goal of this demostration is to provoke a discussion about the ways such small players with very limited resources could have a positive impact on the field of web technology applied to heritage and museums, and how established museums and heritage institutions and professionals in developing countries, or in temporarily cash-strapped developed economies, could benefit from following the lead of outsiders and grassroots communities.