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Navigating DH for Cultural Heritage Professionals, 2012 edition

2012 August 15
by Sheila

One Twitter discussion motivated me to create my first post in January 2011, and this week, another motivated me to update it with additional resources.

Recently during the Digital Humanities 2012 conference, members of the Association for Computers and the Humanities voted to include in its organizational agenda a provision aimed at reaching out to museums and public history organizations: “to explore relationships w/ DH-sympathetic orgs operating beyond the academy (Museum Computer Network, Nat’l Council on Public History, etc)”. This is further evidence that digital humanities organizations (specifically) and centers are seeking to increase pblic engagement, which is wonderful and something that has been an integral part of our work at RRCHNM its earliest days.

This updated post is written for cultural heritage professionals seeking a quick-start guide for those interested in learning more about what the digital humanities are and what kinds of projects, tools, and possibilities are open and available. I also want to contribute to the current conversation (which you can join as well), that seeks to build bridges and forge ties among Digital Humanities (DH) folks and those working in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAMs). What follows is a good starting point and is in no way final, definitive, or proscriptive.

Flickr photo from user teachingsagittarian

You as readers can also suggest other resources and point others to this post.

What is Digital Humanities?

I really do not like getting involved in answering this question since it is actually contentious. But, here are a few articles that provide useful context about the history and development of what is now known as the digital humanities for those unfamiliar with the type of work that began as humanities computing in the 1960s and has continued to grow ever since.

Now that you have a general sense of the type of work pursued, type of methods engaged in by scholars trained in different humanities fields, below are some suggestions for ways to learn more, get involved, and start tinkering.

Find a THATCamp

The Humanities and Technology Camp is an unconference, meaning everyone who comes is expected to participate and work, on problems related to using technology to solve problems relating to work in the humanities. Many regional THATCamps are springing up all over the world attracting GLAM professionals, graduate students, tenure-track professors, and independent scholars. Find one near you. They are FREE, unlike many other cultural heritage technology conferences, and you will meet lots of cool folks who might want to collaborate with you on something.

Join a Museum Tech Association (even if “tech” isn’t in your job description”)

  • Museum Computer Network is a friendly association of GLAM and DH professionals. MCN sponsors a listserv, MCN-L, and its website provides a number of good resources available to anyone.
  • American Association of Museum’s Media and Technology standing professional committee: This SPG sponsors tech-related sessions at AAM and the MUSE awards that highlight exemplar uses of technology in museum galleries and in digital formats.
  • Visual Resource Association spans many disciplines, but is rooted in the art museum community and is concerned with cataloging, preserving, and making accessible digital visual objects in GLAM collections.

Attend technology-focused sessions at GLAM conferences

If you are not working in your institution’s tech department, you can still attend sessions at a GLAM conference. More tech-focused sessions are available at regional museum association meetings and professional conferences, and sometimes there are some strategy sessions that offer project management assistance or advise for choosing appropriate tools for specific projects.

  • Webwise is sponsored by the Institute for Museum and Library Services where representatives of museums, libraries, archives, systems science, education, and other fields interested in the future of online content for inquiry and learning. Conference is free.
  • Museum Computer Network and Museums and the Web: Not everyone can afford to attend both conferences, or you may feel that you are not tech-savvy enough to attend, but it is still worth attending. Alternatively, you can read most papers presented at the conferences online for free.
  • Digital-JumpStart sessions from NCPH and AAM 2010, offered opportunities for individuals to to benefit from the lessons learned by those more experienced in the field, and left a legacy with a wiki of resources on all kinds of GLAM-related topics.
  • For history professionals, the National Council on Public History conference has been offering many digital-focused sessions for and by cultural heritage professionals, including Digital Drop-ins, and working groups such as Graphs, Maps, and Trees, Imagining Public Interfaces of Cultural Heritage Collections.
  • Find a GLAM-WIKI event near you.

Review Award-winning Digital Humanities and Museum Media/Technology Projects

Subscribe to Blogs and Lists

There are too many good blogs for me to list here, but I will recommend a few that can help you get started.

  • Musematic: Written by members of AAM’s Media and Technology standing professional committee.
  • Technology in the Arts: Written by Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Arts Management and Technology.
  • Digital Humanities Now: Created at the Center for History and New Media, is a real-time, crowdsourced publication. If you don’t use Twitter, this helps pull out what people are talking about by taking the pulse of the digital humanities community and tries to discern what articles, blog posts, projects, tools, collections, and announcements are worthy of greater attention.
  • Keep an eye out for MuseTrain, a blog exploring meaning and the future of museums.

Participate on Twitter

Getting started on Twitter may seem overwhelming and may not be practical given your daily responsibilities at your institution. If you’re interested in following some folks before participating yourself, here are a few lists to get you going. (Not sure how to get started on Twitter?)

Participate in Online Forums

Most technology projects host forums for help questions (ie, Omeka), but there are also some general forums that can be very helpful too.

  • DH Answers is a collaborative project of the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker and is building a community-based Q&A board for digital humanities questions that need a longer answer than Twitter provides.

Experiment with Digital Tools

  • Bamboo-DiRT Digital Research Tools registry (formerly the DiRT wiki): DiRT is a good starting place for finding digital tools to serve a particular purpose. It also offers summaries and reviews of scores of digital tools for you to play with or think about trying for a new project.
  • Find useful tutorials and reviews of productivity tools and workflows from the ProfHacker blog.

Take a Webinar

Some webinars are free, others are not. They all offer training and varying levels of interaction that occur at your desktop and do not require travel.

  • OCLC TAI CHI series highlights innovative applications that libraries, museums and archives may find effective in their own environments, and teaches new technologies and skills.
  • AAM offers a variety of professional development through webinars.
  • IMLS’s Connecting to Collections initiative offers and records webinars on a range of topics, including crowdsourcing, oral history in the digital age, et al.

Register for an Advanced Seminar or Institute

These opportunities require at least a week of your time, which is often a difficult commitment to make as a GLAM professional. But, there may be a topic that is important for your job and you may get your institution to agree that it is a great professional development opportunity.

Find Collaborators/Partners

  • Search through the DH Commons and you may find a partner for a project or a way for your institution to participate in testing a new tool or collaborate on building a larger project.
  • Locate a DH Center Near You by searching through the list of affiliated DH Centers on the CenterNet site to find potential partners and collaborators.

Read More about Digital Humanities Research & Practice

  • Digital Humanities Zotero group, contains a library of resources for the reading.
  • Digital Humanities Quarterly online journal
  • First Monday online journal
  • HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) seeks to create collaborations across different disciplines fostered by creative use of technology. HASTAC also administers the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition.
  • Stay Up-to-Date on General Tech News, Reviews, Tips

  • Read the Lifehacker blog which offers great articles about general life and tech hacks, including fun things like how to bake a cake in the microwave.
  • Read A List Apart for all good things about building websites.
  • Read The Atlantic Techfor reviews on new tools and analysis of trends in how new technologies affect society and culture in the US.
  • Read Ars Technica for a more techy than humanist approach to new things, but still a good place to keep track of new products and trends if you are interested.

If you have other ideas for resources that I should add to the list, please leave me a comment below.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Ana permalink
    September 7, 2012

    Perhaps you can add Museum Next Conference and blog (http://www.museumnext.org/) and Museum Identity Ltd (http://www.museum-id.com/)

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