We had a fun, thought-provoking THATcamp unconference today in conjunction with the NCPH annual meeting here in surprisingly beautiful and charming Pensacola.  It was less technical perhaps than some other THATcamps, but it was great to be rooted in public history mindsets and methodologies, and to meet some passionate colleagues.

A few standout sessions and moments:  To start off the morning, I went to a session addressing the tensions around crowds, experts and shared authority.  We had a great discussion about setting up frameworks for participation in UGC and crowdsourcing projects, as well as training.  Mark Tebeau (a colleague I was delighted to meet IRL) talked about how a user in his 70s became a prolific blogger for a local history project.  Anne Whisnant was insightful about crowd/expert issues in her project as well.  I also found myself invoking Nina’s ideas about participatory projects many times over the course of the day.

After attending sessions on maps, building public history community online and oral history, we ended the day with a discussion on “Digital Public History–what is it?”  This is the kind of definitional discussion I usually have limited patience for, but we had an interesting, wide-ranging discussion on DH, public history, and where we fit as a field.  Serge Noiret made a case for why definitions could be useful, especially in European public history contexts:

@sergenoiret:  @publichistorian @amwhisnantdefinition needed because positioning yourself vis-a-vis peers academy historical science #thatcamp #ncph2011
But of course we don’t have a definition for public history, and we don’t have a definition for digital history. (And we spent some time on the equally unanswerable tangent:  is all digital history public history?)  And we don’t need one, I think.  We don’t have a checklist of characteristics that make a history project “public history.” We’re drawn together, instead, by resonances between our institutional missions; our shared values bring us together.  The values of DH are not necessarily the same as those of public history, but they certainly overlap. NCPH’s code of ethics is a good articulation of public history values.
Many thanks to all who attended and who tweeted from afar, and to the NCPH and CHNM folks who helped make it happen.