HOT—Help Make History!

hot banner for blog and webpage

Help us make history!

“Globally, we as a people need to learn acceptance and tolerance of one another. If we did, half of the crises that we are in now wouldn’t be in existence.”, Eugene Melvin, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
Picture by mericancheese

Grab your smartphone or tablet and help us build community pride and understanding by participating in Humans of Topeka, an Instagram storytelling project all about Topeka and the people who live here.

There’s no limit to how many stories we can tell.

This collaborative partnership between the Library and the Topeka Metro was inspired by Searching for the Seventies: The Documerica Photography Project’s “moving and textured portrait of America,” that captured, “a rapidly changing society,” and Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York”.

We’re officially launching May 25, 2015 on the Library’s Instagram page, but hope to continue interviewing Topeka’s humans indefinitely.

Questions? Email Heather Kearns, project coordinator.

Getting Started

  • Read Five Tips for Street-shot Success from HONY’s Brandon Stanton
  • For inspiration and backstory, check out Humans of New York — The Facebook page that started it all
  • Download the Instagram app onto your smartphone or tablet
  • Sign up for a free Instagram account (and friend the library! We’re
  • Suggestion: download a free voice memo app like Smart Voice Recorder (Android) or Voice Recorder (iPhone/iPad) — most mobile devices come with one of these, so check if you already have one (this can make your interview feel more conversational, captures the quote exactly, and leaves you free to engage and go deeper with follow-up questions if necessary.)

Hitting the Streets

HOT Dave

“I don’t speak any languages or make any really good food. I did go to England. There is that.”, Dave, Jerry’s Bike Shop
Picture by hollyjoe44

We’ll be checking Instagram daily for your Humans of Topeka posts. Your interviews might be featured on the Library’s blog!

  • Charge your phone or tablet — pack your charger just in case
  • Pack a notepad and pens/pencils
  • Find someone interesting to interview and approach them from the front (no surprises), explain the project to them, and ask if they would be interested in participating as your subject
  • Get your subject’s permission to take their picture and quote their story
  • Facial portraits are the best, but if your subject doesn’t wish to be identified by face, suggest taking a picture of them from the neck down, just their hands, from the back, just their shoes, something they are holding, etc.
  • Create your own question or use one of our starter questions below
  • Use the voice recorder to capture your interview
  • Find your favorite interview quote and quote it directly, word-for-word, as a photo caption (primary source information must remain in tact — not paraphrased)
  • Ask your subject how they wish to be identified (ex: first and last name, first name only, initials, or remain anonymous)
  • Upload the photo to your Instagram account and be sure to use these hashtags and shout-outs so everyone can see your work: #HumansOfTopeka, #HOT, @topekalibrary, @topekametro
  • Create your own hashtags that will help spread the word (ex: neighborhoods, landmarks, events, objects, local businesses, etc.)

Starter Questions

“I love to hunt and fish. I do win awards, all the time!”, Tiara, College Hill Pizza Pub
Picture by hollyjoe44

You’ll notice these are designed not only to get people talking, but to capture information that defines who we are at the moment of each interview. Got a great question we can all use? Leave it in the comments below.

  • How would you describe Topeka at the time of this interview?
  • What would people be surprised to learn about you?
  • What advice would you give?
  • How would you describe your neighborhood?
  • What does Topeka look like 100 years from now?
  • What are your plans for today?
  • How do you express yourself?
  • What is your style?


  1. Is there a limit to how many interviews I can do? No.
  2. When does this project end? Currently, never.

I've been the Sabatini Gallery's associate curator since 2004 and social media coordinator since 2008. My passion is helping people “get“ art, and by that I mean creating an environment both in-house and online which fosters a greater understanding, confidence, and sense of enjoyment from the art experience. Art should be easy to access and available to everyone. I take helping people very seriously.

2 thoughts on “HOT—Help Make History!

  1. This really is such a cool idea, to capture a moment in time in one place. It’s so ambitious, but I really love it. =)

  2. We’re so excited, too. But with the help of the community, it will be much easier than if we did it single-handedly, like Brandon Stanton does. Hope to see you participate!

Comments are closed.