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We’ll always have THATCamp

2020 February 27
by Sheila

[On the sunsetting of THATCamp originally posted on THATCamp Retrospective]

Saying farewell to THATCamp is saying goodbye to an era. That era probably ended a few years ago, but it’s ethos and enthusiasm lives on in all of us campers.

I must admit, I never expected that THATCamp would become a thing when Dave and Jeremy imagined it in 2008.

It made sense that an idea like THATCamp originated at the Center Roy built. Like many Center projects, it started with a simple idea to address a real problem. The costs were low and the payout was huge. THATCamp democratized the DH conference by breaking it into an unconference designed for folks interested in solving problems, building some things, and working collaboratively with a schedule built on-the-fly. It certainly didn’t break academic structures, but TC’s created a space for trading in titles and hierarchy for a t-shirt and a bag lunch. Experimentation was encouraged. Content experts admitted they were tech novices. Attendees were encouraged to get up mid-session to try something else. The wifi wasn’t always strong, but it was always available.

I missed the first one, because I had something planned on that weekend– a wedding or some family gathering. When I returned to work that Monday, I heard how well it all went. The first one was a success, and then, it became a real thing.

Participating in, and later running, THATCamps built my confidence and helped me to feel comfortable teaching, demonstrating, and sharing my own technical and professional knowledge. I was a graduate student and a project manager who didn’t feel like I belonged in academia. I belonged at THATCamp. TCs were fun, and exhausting. I connected with future collaborators, learned to tinker with new things, and sometimes I sat and wrote Omeka documentation or Wikipedia entries.

THATCamp became a signature event, and later a major project for RRCHNM. It was an alt-conference organized by alt-acs and graduate students. We couldn’t afford to attend the expensive DH institutes or conferences in the summer, but we could host and run an unconference. And people kept coming & organizing.

I appreciated the optimism that everyone brought… before the exhaustion settled in.

Thanks, Amanda, Jeremy, Tom, Dan, and Dave. I will always look back fondly on the movement you created and fostered. It will remind me of good times with you & the RRCHNM family, and the greater community created.

We’ll always have THATCamp!

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