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Friday, November 6 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
Taking Citizen History Seriously

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Museums and archives have experimented with crowdsourcing and citizen history for almost a decade. While much creative and productive work has been accomplished, we ask - do these projects truly involve making meaning with people, collections, and information? Much of the focus of existing projects - including some of our work at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum - has been on the collections themselves. Our starting point has been: how do we better describe and make accessible these unique objects from our collections?

While better describing and making accessible artifacts is important and appropriate in an archival context, we hold museums have a greater charge to keep to their visitors. Museums are places about and for people, and exist for the shared experience of the audience with the content of the museum as well as with one another. At their best, citizen history projects unite museum staff and our audiences in a common goal of meaning-making by not only bringing them into direct contact with our collections but also by asking them to take part in conversation on the ideas and questions at the heart of our institutions.

But to live up to this potential is not easy. Institution-led citizen history projects that are authentic and meet the needs of their audiences demand the commitment of valuable resources and staff. To make our investment worthwhile, citizen history needs to be taken more seriously. The institution must place the value of working collaboratively with the public at the center of our mission - breaking down the walls between public and private, internal and external, staff and visitor. This move does not deny the museum staff their expertise but instead repositions the audience as an integral part of the meaning-making process.

As part of our endeavor to take citizen history seriously, staff at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has undertaken a new pilot process. During the last year, twelve staff members produced six crowdsourcing prototypes with zero budget as part of our effort to better understand the possibilities of citizen history. Through these prototypes and early pilot projects, we have improved staff understanding of the practical and conceptual practices of creating a citizen history project. But more importantly, we have begun to see how these activities can achieve our larger institutional goals around co-creation and meaning-making. What activities best lend themselves to true engagement not only with materials, but with one another? What goes into creating and co-creating an authentic experience? How do we create environments that move participants beyond interfacing with collections and into a sense of shared humanity?

While we don’t have all the answers to these questions, we seek to broaden our discussion with the Museum community by offering the results or our exploration.

avatar for Rosanna Flouty

Rosanna Flouty

Associate Professor, NYU

avatar for Elissa Frankle

Elissa Frankle

Senior UX Researcher, Ad Hoc LLC
Citizen history, online communities, making excellent experiences for visitors. Looking for fellow wayfinding and signage geeks who love the IA of places.
avatar for Michael Haley Goldman

Michael Haley Goldman

director of future projects, USHMM
Michael Haley Goldman is Director of the Future Projects at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Future Projects is a small innovation team designed to research, prototype, and explore emerging technologies that transform Holocaust memorialization and education. Mr. Haley... Read More →

Friday November 6, 2015 2:00pm - 2:30pm CST
Great Lakes A2 Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403

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