January 2010

ArchivesNext has been diligently gathering information on the state of archives in Haiti after the earthquake, and just published a useful roundup.

AAM released a statement on the earthquake:

All of us have been deeply saddened by the enormous tragedy that is unfolding in Haiti in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake. We urge you to support those noble organizations at the vanguard of providing comfort and relief to Haiti’s suffering citizens. On top of the human tragedy, there has been damage inflicted on Haiti’s cultural treasures. Here is what we know so far about the efforts to protect and rescue this unique heritage:

The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) recognizes that the immediate priority is to help the injured and homeless. The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) is working with Haitian colleagues to gather information about damage to cultural treasures and the types of help needed. It is placing the expertise and network of its member organizations at the disposal of Haitian colleagues to support their work in assessing damage and the subsequent recovery, restoration and repair.

The ANCBS has launched an online registration form for volunteer archivists, restorers, curators, librarians, architects, and other experts. This registration will help ANCBS link official missions to Haiti with appropriate experts.

As information becomes available, the Blue Shield will publish a report on damage, needs and actions to facilitate coordination. In addition to the ICBS website, information is available on Facebook (Haiti 2010 Blue Shield Solidarity) and Twitter.

The ICBS member organizations are also posting reports of damage on their individual websites. The member organizations are: the International Council on Archives, the International Council of Museums, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations.

ICOM released a report on Haitian museums last week.  It’s a pdf so I’ll copy some relevant info:

Museums’ status
ICOM provides below a status on the museums that we could gather information about. Most of this data needs in situ cross-checking and should be considered cautiously. ICOM is still gathering and checking data on the remaining twelve Haitian museums.
a. Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien
Place des Héros de l’Indépendance, Port-au-Prince Ouest

Though we do not have eyewitness accounts to confirm this, analysis from satellite footage and from an architect familiar with the building leads us to believe that the mainly subterranean concrete structures should have resisted the earthquake.
b. Musée d’art haïtien
Champs de Mars, Angle Rues Légitime et Capois, Port-au-Prince

Michel-Philippe LEREBOURS General Curator and Vice–President of the College Saint Pierre Haitian museum of fine arts provides a direct account: “The Art Museum is still intact, but in a very fragile condition. The exhibition hall is still standing, but we do not dare to enter – but at least the ceiling seems to be stable. The back end of the building is in a better condition. The collections are preserved. Everything possible has to be done to consolidate the exhibition hall to a degree that allows entry in order to rescue the paintings and other objects. Above all, the museum has to be protected from any looting because it holds the most important collection of Haitian painting.”
c. [Musée Vaudou] Collection Marianne Lehmann
Pétion-Ville, abords de Port au Prince

The Lehmann Collection is the largest collection worldwide of Haitian Voodoo objects.
About 350 exhibits are safe because they are being displayed in a travelling exhibition. The majority of the collection (more than 2,000 objects) is still in Haiti, stored in a relatively safe place, though some objects fell and were broken. The building has been seen in an interview that Marianne Lehmann gave for Swiss TV on 17 January, 2010
d. Musée de Guahaba

No damage to this museum.
e. Parc historique de la Canne à sucre
Puerto Principe

Michaelle Saint-Natus, a member of this heritage institution, reports that “two chimneys collapsed, two roofs on dependency buildings collapsed and display cabinets, lockers and cultural objects have been damaged”

I’ll keep you updated on news on museums in Haiti and ways public history professionals can help with cultural disaster relief.


A few interesting (though short-term) jobs in the public history of science, technology and medicine:

Project Leader, Plastics Collection, Syracuse University

Syracuse University Library invites applications for the position of Plastics Collection Project Leader. This 18 month, benefits eligible position reports to the Director of Special Collections. The successful candidate will lead an ambitious effort to build the plastics history collection, which includes artifacts, printed materials, and archives, and oversee the ongoing development of the web portal plastics.syr.edu.

In 2008, Syracuse University Library took custody of a collection of thousands of artifacts, books, and archival collections documenting the history of the plastics industry. Most of these materials are housed in the library’s Special Collections Research Center (scrc.syr.edu) where interested patrons may consult them. This bold new collecting area requires a well-rounded and entrepreneurial leader to administer its continued growth.

Requirements (listed in order of priority):
Define collecting goals for library’s plastics collection.
Oversee the continued development of the web portal plastics.syr.edu.
Build relationships with industry leaders in order to attract donation of collection materials and cash gifts.
Suffuse plastics collection into Syracuse’s many academic teaching programs.
Convene plastics advisory board made up of interested plastics industry and academic parties.
Answer reference questions about the collection and arrange for patron use.

Master’s degree in the history of science, design, technology, or business (PhD preferred) OR master’s degree in library and information science or museum studies.
Work experience in academic libraries, archives, or museum.
General knowledge about the role of plastics in history and society.
Ability to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds, including academia, industry, and business.
Proven record of leadership in programming and outreach.

Salary and Benefits: 18-month, benefits-eligible position, full-time, 37.5 hours per week. Annual Salary: $50,000. Information regarding the University’s generous benefits package can be found on the Department of Human Resources website at http://humanresources.syr.edu/benefits/.

Contact: Syracuse University requires that you complete an online application. To complete an online application through the Internet, please go to http://www.sujobopps.com. Applicants should attach both a cover letter and resume with the application and include the names of three professional references.

Application deadline: Position will remain open until filled. Syracuse University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Curator, Koch Institute Public Gallery, MIT Museum

The MIT Museum and the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research seek to appoint a Curator, for a period of 15 months in the first instance, starting on or about January 15, 2010. The Curator of the Koch Institute Public Gallery will have direct responsibility for developing and delivering the first exhibitions that will be installed in the Koch Institute Public Gallery to coincide with the formal opening of the Koch Institute in 2011.

The new Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research will formally open in March 2011. The Institute will bring together cancer biologists and biological engineers in a pioneering “third revolution” initiative devoted to path-breaking research and training. A Public Gallery on the ground floor of the Koch Institute, in Kendall Square, Cambridge, will provide a suite of exhibitions about cancer-related and other bio-medical science and engineering at MIT. The Koch Institute is collaborating with the MIT Museum in the development, maintenance and renewal of these exhibitions as part of a larger Life Sciences and Technology Initiative at MIT.

The MIT Museum bridges between MIT and the wider community through galleries, exhibitions, educational and general visitor programs and the annual Cambridge Science Festival. The Museum holds major collections reflecting MIT’s accomplishments in research and innovation; and it continues to collect in key areas of current science and engineering.

The Curator will have direct responsibility to the MIT Museum Director for:

Exhibition-related research, including (but not confined to): Library and archive research on the history of MIT life sciences and technology; Interviews with key Koch Institute faculty, staff and students.

Development of detailed proposals for exhibition content, including: Research on candidate scientific, engineering and other elements; Research on the educational needs of key target audiences; Identification of appropriate objects, images, videos and other multi-media elements.

Drafting text (including exhibit labels).

Working with the Museum exhibition team and external consultants (exhibition designers, fabricators, etc.) to ensure the successful implementation of exhibit ideas and plans.

Supervising the installation of exhibits in the gallery, to ensure successful delivery on time and budget.

The Curator of the Koch Institute Public Gallery will report to the Director of the Museum, and work closely with Museum, Koch Institute and other MIT staff.

This is a 15-month term position that may be renewable, depending on the availability of funding. Applicants must apply online through MIT’s Human Resources Dept. at http://hrweb.mit.edu/, position #mit-00006745. Please note that the review and hiring process will proceed without delay, and the successful candidate will be expected to assume the position immediately.
Job Requirements

The successful candidate will bring: A close acquaintance with the recent history and contemporary practice of the life sciences and technology, and preferably in cancer research; Previous experience (a minimum of 2 years) of working in informal science education and public outreach, preferably in a museum environment; Ability to work in a multi-disciplinary team of content specialists, exhibition management specialists, designers, fabricators, etc; Academic training (preferably at the doctoral level) in an appropriate subject area (life sciences and technology, and/or the history of the life sciences and technology, and/or science communication).

Some happenings around the history and museum webs for your delectation:

This year’s Cliopatria Awards were announced at AHA this year–but not by a senior scholar at a banquet, but by a grad student, at a tweetup.  Nicely played, Cliopatricians.  Congrats to all the winners!  No public history bloggers won this year (in contrast to last year’s awesome victory for our own Larry Cebula) but let’s just consider blogging as a public history praxis, shall we?

An interesting article on infrastructure history in Toronto from the new site Active History, which seeks  “to help connect historians with the public, policy makers and the media.”  This dovetails nicely with NCPH’s increased emphasis on public history as “putting history to work in the world.”  I’ll keep my eye on Active History.

The Storefront Library in Boston, an experimental pop-up library as third space.  Inspiring and instructive for us in the LAMiverse thinking about hospitality and civic engagement.

A neat public conservation project.

Terrific post by Leslie M-B about museum membership and appealing to visitors who don’t mind the “cello side.”

Mark Sample is provocative about archiving and calls for a celebration or cataloguing (but not preserving) of “fugitive texts.”  We in the 3D museum world know that we can’t keep everything (for one, we don’t have space, or the resources to care for every thing in the world properly) but we do collect ephemeral artifacts, the one of a kind and “collectible” as well as the ordinary.  That we cannot be universal or even encyclopedic is not a cause for despair (we don’t want a museum the size of the world, like Borges’ map) but an opportunity for reflection and renewed focus on our public mission and responsibilities.  Also:  having seen the dilution of “curator”  as describing everyone engaged in an activity involving informed choices, I fear “archivist” being similarly taken up.

I’m having a terrible time deciding whether to go to AAM or Museums and the Web this year; what about you? Please help me figure out which to attend before registration gets too expensive for both.

Updates on Haiti cultural institutions from Kate via the Blue Shield, an international organization I’m please to know exists.  They’re the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, dedicated to preserving heritage materials in disasters and armed conflicts.  Information will be forthcoming about how cultural information folks can help out, in the meantime do help with other basic needs for relief after the earthquake; I donated to the Mennonite Central Committee.

Folks, please apply to this awesome unconference that I’m helping to organize–and of which archaeologist, serious games expert, and all around instigator Ethan Watrall is the mastermind.  Applications due 2/10!

Announcing Great Lakes THATCamp

Held on the campus of Michigan State University on March 20th and 21st, Great Lakes THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology Camp) is a user-generated “unconference” on digital humanities originally inspired by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University.

At THATCamp 2009, CHNM floated the idea of holding regional camps around the country, an idea that quickly took hold, leading to events in Austin, Texas (THATCamp Austin) Washington state (THATcamp Pacific Northwest), Columbus, OH (THATCamp Columbus) as well as planned events in California (THATCamp SoCal), and Paris (THATCamp Paris).

Who Should Attend?

Anyone interested in studying, supporting, teaching, researching, creating or otherwise shaping digital humanities, humanistic social sciences, information sciences, new media, and any other allied fields.
You can be an academic, a librarian, an archivist, a developer, a writer, a student (grad or undergrad), a curator, a designer, an educator, a public historian, an archaeologist, an independent scholar, or any combination thereof (as most of us are). You can be an expert or a newbie; as long as you have something to talk about and things you want to learn regarding the intersection and integration of the humanities and technology, this is the place to be. The list of “who should attend” is as broad as the field of “digital humanities” itself.

So, No Suits, No Papers…What Do You do?

Show, tell, collaborate, share, and walk away inspired. Sessions at Great Lakes THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants. The only real thing we don’t want to see is people standing up and reading a full blown paper, this isn’t your typical academic conference – we’re not here to read or be read to.

Submitting a Proposal

Submitting a proposal to Great Lakes THATCamp is easy. Just fill out the form on the website (http://greatlakesthatcamp.org). No formal (lengthy) proposal is required – just a brief description of what you would like to talk about. Unfortunately, we can only accept a max of 75 people, so we’re going to have to do some vetting. Deadline for submitting is February 10th, 2010.

Hacking Wearables and E-Textiles Workshop

In addition to sessions, Great Lakes THATCamp will be hosting a “Hacking Wearables & E-Textiles Workshop.” Organized by Bill Turkel and Beth Nowviskie, the workshop will allow participants will play with components like the Lilypad Arduino (http://web.media.mit.edu/~leah/LilyPad), a tiny computer that can be sewn into clothing, stuffed toys, textiles and other craft items to create soft, interactive devices that are ‘high-touch’ as well as high tech. The workshop is intended for people of all skill levels – so no prior experience is required.

The workshop will be limited to those who are attending Great Lakes THATCamp (and only 20 people max). So, if you are interested in participating, just fill out the relevant sections of the form when you submit your Great Lakes THATCamp application.

How Much Does Great Lakes THATCamp Cost?

THATCamp isn’t your average academic conference, so you aren’t going to have to pay an expensive conference registration fee. All we ask is that all attendees pay $25 to cover meals (attendees will be provided breakfast & lunch during the event), as well as a t-shirt to commemorate the event.

For more information on Great Lakes THATCamp, go to http://greatlakesthatcamp.org. Any questions can be sent directly to Ethan Watrall (watrall@msu.edu)