Notes from “Brainstorming the Public History Commons” session

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Google Doc for Grounding History as a Community Value

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Session webdesign play session

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“WordPress as a Public History Platform” session notes

Here are the notes from this afternoon’s session on using WordPress in public history settings.

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Google Doc for Integrating Digital History/Public History Skills/Training

Notes from this session are located here.


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Pop Up Museum

This is a Play/Make session themed around the idea of a Pop Up Museum created from digital content.

Some museums/galleries have been digitally scanning parts of their collections to generate 3D models of those objects, while others have invited individuals to create models of objects on display using their cell phone cameras.

These initiatives rely on recent technological developments in 3D scanning and printing. As more cultural and heritage resources are digitized in this way, what can we do with that content? How can it be made accessible? In what form(s) could it take, and where?

Pop Up events are temporary, ad hoc installations, often in unconventional places. With the availability and portability of digital content, what would Pop Up Museums utilizing this content look like?

I’m bringing some of these 3D technologies with me to NCPH for a session on Saturday, but I’m proposing to set it up at THATCamp NCPH for people there to try out. I’ll have RGB depth cameras (like Microsoft’s Kinect) that can be used for scanning objects or for interaction — such devices basically allow a computer to see. Try creating your own digital models with one of these sensors, or using your own digital camera with free photogrammetry software to digitize the world around you.

There will also be a 3D printer there if you’d like to explore that technology — maybe your Pop Up Museum would have replicas of things printed out for people to handle or involve the realization of a mashup of various objects to make a particular statement. You can try it out, and we can explore options to make things with the printer.

Some peripherals to try to make custom interfaces for interacting with a computer will also be available. These might be needed to control and direct software involved, or to add more interaction to your Pop Up Museum.

This would be a hands-on session — you can try out some of the technologies to get some experience with them, or you could use them to work on elements of a Pop Up Museum.


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Added Value

Hi folks,
I’m very excited to participate in my first THATCamp this week. I’m really impressed and interested in the topics that have been posted so far and I think they should make for some excellent discussion. I’ll throw one discussion in the hat:

What I would like to discuss is examples of added value online. It’s nice to make pictures, documents, primary sources, or historical work available online. But how do we package that and make it something that the public or consumers are actually interested in? How do we make it a package that is attractive and interesting compared with what is available through traditional media (i.e. Newspapers) or new media (i.e Wikipedia).

Looking forward to meeting everyone in Ottawa. Cheers, Joel.

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A Digitally Enabled Museum Studies Curriculum?

Among the various hats I wear, I’m the chair of the host department for UMW’s museum studies minor (started 3 years ago) and a founding member of UMW’s digital studies minor (starting this fall).   Both of these undergraduate minors are interdisciplinary and public facing in approach, courses, and content.  As an affiliated faculty member in both, recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about the ways that these two programs are informing each other and how we might think of a curriculum that combined the two.

Would people be interested in conversation(s) about the impact of digital tools and resources on the teaching/curriculum for Museum Studies or Public History at the undergraduate or graduate level, about the lessons to be learned about program development by newer fields such as Digital Studies from more established curricula in Museum Studies and Public History, or about a glorious mash-up of all of the above?  What do students entering Public History or Museum Studies programs need to know about digital tools and resources?

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Reconstructing a Minneapolis neighborhood online

I’m super excited to experience a THAT camp.

Here’s what I would like to explore. I have started a new public history initiative in Minneapolis, the Historyapolis Project, which seeks to make the history of the city as accessible as possible, in order to spark discussions about some of the most challenging aspects of the city’s past. One of the ultimate goals of this project is to produce a traditional book. But I want to work my way to the book by doing projects that engage a broader audience.
To launch the Historyapolis Project, I would like to reconstruct online the historic heart of the city, which was demolished by an ambitious urban renewal project from 1958 to 1963. The Gateway district of Minneapolis became synonymous with dispossession during the Great Depression, when o000000">ne-time lumberjacks, gandy dancers and farm hands found themselves marooned in the city, left high and dry in the Gateway by agricultural mechanization, the contraction of the railroad industry and the environmental devastation wrought by clear-cutting. This economic seachange solidified the Gateway’s identity as the region’s largest skid row, a refuge for the unemployed and the desperate. Migrant workers became permanent residents, their perambulations circumscribed by changing economics and advancing age. Subsisting on pensions and fixed incomes, the largely male population of the Gateway circulated within a tight circle of bars, liquor stores, flop houses and missions. The community became a magnet for political radicals and evangelicals hoping to win the hearts and minds of the dispossessed. It drew journalists, academics and WPA photographers who sought to document the human and political drama of the economic crisis. City leaders hated this area. In the 1950s they managed to secure federal funding to undertake the largest urban redevelopment project in the nation’s history. The city flattened 40 percent of its downtown–25 blocks, total. The downtown has never really recovered from this trauma. The center of the city still has a hole, which is covered by surface parking lots.
In order to secure federal redevelopment funding, the city had to document the “blight” of this district. On the eve of the neighborhood’s demise, commercial photographers carefully documented every building and business to be demolished.  The result is an astonishing photographic record of a place foreign to most Minneapolitans. The photographs show bars, diners, liquor stores, missions, flophouses, secondhand stores and myriad other businesses that enjoyed cheap rent in this deteriorating part of town. These photographs–about 2,000 in all–have been buried in the city archives, moldering and uncatalogued in chaotic cardboard boxes. I have spent the winter digitizing these photos and want to use them to reconstruct the Gateway in some kind of online project. I culled through the boxes and only chose to digitize about 850 of the most interesting items. I would say that 100 of them are spectacular photo documents of this lost world. For a sample, see the FB page I have started:  
I have some ideas about how to approach such a project. But I would love some advice on what is involved in such a project and some of the best ways to approach making accessible such a large visual record, which could be supplemented by lots of additional material–sound records, home movies, newspaper articles, all kinds of goodies.
Thanks for any help that you can provide. Looking forward to seeing you in Ottawa.
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