I am a recent graduate of the public history graduate program at Rutgers University. I currently serve as the digital media coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, where I wrangle bloggers and tackle our social media platforms.
In the last two years I've created an oral history database using StoriesMatter for the Salem County Historical Society, collected data on school group attendance for the education department at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I've digitized the Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I volunteer at the Alice Paul Institute in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey and the Digital Center at HSP.
In my spare time I am often silly and irreverent.
At some point, I really must stop working for free. After six whirlwind weeks in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve started another internship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. There isn’t much to say at this point except that I’m hard at work in the Digital Center, scanning images and taking names. Or more properly, scanning images and making digital records. I’ve only spent a few hours behind the wheel (so to speak), and quite a bit of that was spent in training mode. I also have to wait for the back-end information to update on the front-end. After one full day at HSP exactly ONE of my scans showed up on the digital site.
I am overjoyed. It is there. I did that.
In other not entirely unrelated news, THATCamp Philly looms on the horizon. Last year I had to bail early and I still learned a lot, so this year, I expect to be woozy from the learning.
Never been to a THATCamp? Why not? You do not have to be a digital humanities whiz, you just have to be passionate about the humanities and interested in working with digital whizzes (that’s unfortunate terminology right there) to get the meat of public humanities out into the public. It is about collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Also, there are snacks.
Alright. This is basically my first foray into the digital humanities and my very first “unconference.”
“ThatCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) is a free, open interdisciplinary “unconference” where humanists and technologists meet to work together for the common good.” <- okay, this is really an awesome mission statement. We’re all in this together. We want to do good stuff. We aren’t going to charge you to come along for the ride!
ThatCamp Philly is “roughing” it at the Chemical Heritage Foundation on Chestnut Street. Honestly, that place is blowing my mind, and I’ve only made it into their conference rooms and bathrooms. It is so pretty.
Today was the bootcamp, the sort of nuts-and-bolts, learn-how-to-do-stuff day. The first session, Data Manipulation for Non-programmers, blew my mind. I understood maybe three or four seconds of everything that was happening. I am a true non-programmer. All I managed to retain was Google Refine is awesome if you have messy data you need to fix up. Google will help you attain “mischief managed” status. I’m holding onto that. I have no doubt that at some point in my life this knowledge will come in handy. Even if I’m not the one who uses it.
I went next to Charlie Hardy’s session, How to Get What You Want Out of Oral Histories. Based on the project I did on Salem County’s project, and my internship, this was actually really comforting. I recognized the scholars/historians he was talking about, the lessons were clear and sensical and there were some great questions from the other campers. He put forward the idea that oral historians need to use the different mediums (audio, visual, text) to the medium’s best purposes. They need to consider how the mediums can work together, how they compliment one another to really make a project fantastic. Hardy was insistent that oral histories should evoke real feelings, they should not be punishments. Not every person can know how to do everything, so collaboration becomes really important.
One of the other campers asked about putting interviews up on the internet, and how to address fears that these interviews could be picked apart, or taken out of context. While there was no real answer for that, Hardy did say that he felt we should/are (?) moving toward more openness. ”The best protection of free speech is more free speech.”
The third session was, Herding Cats: Project Management for Collaborative Work. There were no cats, but some great suggestions for light project management. Google Docs, Agile/Scrum and give Microsoft Project Manager a pass. Delphine Khanna from Temple University shared some really great techniques for keeping a group of strangers with vision (but maybe not a unified vision) on track and basically happy. I’m still digesting, but for me, right now I’m focused on this:
Make reasonable decisions don’t aim for perfection.
I am not working on an awesome digital humanities project. I am not a project manager. I am however a human being. This is epically good advice for a human being.
I realize this is not a detailed account of my first ThatCamp. Just know that I am loving it, even the stuff I don’t completely understand.