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#DayofDH Post: Productively Helpful

2014 April 9
by Sheila

This morning, after I triaged my email, I heard a story on Marketplace Morning Edition on how helping others can drive our success. There is a new book analyzing how people react in the workplace and in their daily lives that challenges the notion that only the selfish “takers” succeed. I haven’t read the book, but in listening to the story it sounded like the most successful people are those who are “productively helpful”–balancing out individual needs with the needs of others, in mutually beneficial ways.

I think the term “productively helpful” is a useful way to think about the work that I do, together with my colleagues, everyday at RRCHNM. Whether it is development and outreach for our Omeka family of products; engaging citizens in doing history; or making scholarship and sources more accessible and understandable to broad audiences through digital methods and design, we are helping someone who will help/teach someone else. My colleague, Patrick Murray-John said that well last night:

Me, too!

Today, actually represented a good slice of my DH life, because I worked on many projects throughout the day.
Here was my #DayofDH:

    • Email triage and a quick check of the Twitters from home:
    • Got to work, and discovered doughnuts!

      Was lucky to have some time to chat with my colleagues Faolan Cheslack-Postava, Joan Troyano, Lisa Rhody, Stephanie Westcott, while eating portions of doughnuts and drinking coffee. Even though we all work together, we have all been so busy that impromptu conversations have been fewer and farther between than we’d like.

    • While sitting at the table, I was able to catch up with Roberto Sanchez, our Omeka.net system administrator, to discuss a few issues concerning the 2.0 upgrade process for .Net. We are in the testing phases and are finding some interesting kinks that are particular to .Net. Later, I met with grad research assistant, Jeri Weiringa, about some of the testing she is doing for the Net upgrade, and identifying true issues from expected behaviors. I then did some additional .Net administrative work by invoicing a university for an annual plan.
    • I spent some time reviewing the applications to our two Doing DH summer institutes, that I’m co-directing with Sharon Leon. We have a large talented group of scholars, and selecting the participants is going to be difficult.
    • Lunch was eaten at my desk:

      Because I had a meeting at 1pm.

    • Sharon and I met with Adrian Grant who is visiting town from the University of Ulster. Adrian and his colleagues are creating a website to share and interpret oral histories of personal accounts of the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. He is very interested in using Omeka and had some questions about project planning, data sharing, and public outreach strategies.
    • We have partnered with the University of Wisconsin on a new NSF-funded commodities history project focusing on rubber production that will represent multiple perspectives of the Firestone expedition and establishment of a rubber plant in Liberia. The team is working closely with Liberians and with librarians in the US who care for records and motion pictures related to the establishment of the rubber industry in Liberia.

      I’m less familiar with this content than I am with other history projects, but I’m sketching out the structure of this site and will learn more as we go. I also needed to check on some budget-related issues with this grant.

    • To help publicize our recently-launched Histories of the National Mall public history site, I spoke with a representative from GMU’s media center who will be doing a short article on the project. If you’re interested in a quick rundown of that project’s development, check out this post: A Brief History of @MallHistories
    • Before leaving the office, I responded to bunch of email hanging out awaiting my response.
    • Then, I left Mason for the day:

      And, realized this:

    Made it home in time to run a few miles, shove some leftovers in my mouth, help Ian with some new map templates, and to go to my favorite yoga class. Back home again for the night, and I’m sitting with my laptop open, writing this Day of DH post, watching my two favorite women’s college basketball teams (UConn and Notre Dame) battle it out for the National Championship.

    Before bed, I may work a little on my own digital project, Stamping American Memory, where I’m wrapping up chapter 5 and ready to conclude the whole thing. Ian has gone to bed already, because he wakes up at 4:45 to ride his bike 13 miles into work.

    Nearing the end of this day, I’m pretty confident that I was “productively helpful” and that makes it all worth it.
    And the UConn women look like they will win, and that makes me happy too.

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