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Friday, November 6 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
Scaffolding User-Centered Digital Public History for Small Cultural Heritage Institutions

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The work of public history calls for taking good history scholarship into the world to meet the needs and interests of a non-academic audience. While much of that work has traditionally happened in face to face encounters and at physical sites, increasingly public historians are encountering their audiences through digital means, such as social media, blogs, exhibit sites, collection and archives sites, mobile applications, and digital simulations.

The possibilities for doing sophisticated digital public history work have expanded significantly since the first cultural heritage organizations began to create web presences in the mid-1990s. At the same time, the core elements and challenges of doing rigorous public history work have not changed all that much. As a result, the best digital public history work requires a blend of applied technical skills, targeted engagement strategies, disciplinary ways of knowing, and content knowledge.

Unfortunately much of the existing work on digital public history fails to take the necessary blend of concerns into consideration. A proliferation of work on digital humanities, and museum and archive computing issues have flooded the publishing landscape in recent years. By dwelling in necessarily interdisciplinary spaces, these collections cannot speak to the disciplinary distinctions that separate history from the other humanities, to say nothing of the ways that the work that takes place within public history institutions is different than that which occurs in art museums, children's museums, and science centers. This work mostly fails to provide the practitioner with a comprehensive overview of what is required to plan and execute rigorous digital public history work. Public historians in cultural heritage institutions need a practical introduction to doing digital public history that speaks to their theoretical and methodological commitments while offering clear guidance on preparing for, executing, and sustaining vibrant projects.

This presentation will offer a formulation of support structures, tools, and frameworks to support the creation of user-centered digital public history work in small organizations. Bringing together the core areas of expertise in applied technical skills, targeted engagement strategies, disciplinary-specific ways of knowing, and historical content knowledge, the presentation will introduce the concept of user-centered digital public history, and then offer an outline of support materials for planning (research, strategy, and infrastructure creation), executing (building digital collections, creating rich interpretive content, and creating engaged communities around that work), and sustaining (frequent evaluation, ongoing outreach campaigns, and attention to issues of digital preservation) digital public history projects.

avatar for Sharon Leon

Sharon Leon

Director of Public Projects, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Sharon M. Leon is the Director of Public Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and Associate Professor of History at George Mason University. Leon received her bachelors of arts degree in American Studies from Georgetown University in 1997, and her doctorate... Read More →

Friday November 6, 2015 2:30pm - 3:00pm CST
Great Lakes A2 Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403

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