MUSKEGON — A Web site designed to showcase technology and document the town’s history in photos has provided small businesses an opportunity to access images of Muskegon-area landmarks for use in promotional and marketing materials.
Chris Van Oosterhout of www.imagemuskegon.com hopes to eventually have thousands of images online, creating a digital library of new construction, landmarks, community events, acts of nature, and businesses throughout the area.
To draw attention to the site and its database integration technology, Van Oosterhout is allowing business and religious and nonprofit organizations to download images royalty free for their own use. Doing so, he said, is “one small way” to help small businesses that often can’t afford to purchase a portfolio of images to use for promotional and marketing tools.
“There are some things out there but they are expensive. We wanted to provide something just as a give back to the community,” said Van Oosterhout, director of the Internet division at Torrensen Marine Inc. and owner of a small communications consulting business.
The give-back program is just one part of a three-pronged reason why Van Oosterhout created imagemuskegon.com.
The site uses software that allows for the easy integration of online and offline databases. The primary goal of the Web site is to showcase the technology.
From a nostalgic perspective, Van Oosterhout wanted to create a digital history of local business landmarks and icons. He recalls the large golden arches of McDonald’s restaurants or the wrap-around neon sign at Holiday Inn hotels of years past when he was growing up.
“I have a nostalgia that carries over me as I drive over the road,” Van Oosterhout said. “Things are really disappearing from the landscape and it’s happening here in Muskegon.”
Images representing Muskegon’s history, both good and bad, deserve preservation, he said. He cites as examples the former headquarters of SPX Corp., which moved a year ago to North Carolina, and the defunct Muskegon Mall that is slated for redevelopment.
“In a couple of years we’re going to be able to remember it, but we’re not going to be able to picture it,” he said of the mall site.
Visual images can help to preserve the stories of the businesses depicted in the photos and “provoke a lot of thought in our minds,” he said.
Imagemusekgon.com presently provides free images that come from Van Oosterhout or any individual or organization that wishes to upload an image to the site. Van Oosterhout plans to eventually have features that will allow commercial photographers to upload their images and sell them via the site.