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.

Or, you know, two.  In April.  That I’m attending.

Yes, indeed, the beloved unconferences on technology and the humanities are proliferating pleasantly, and I’m pleased to be going to two in the near future. Please try to come to one or both of these below:

First off:  Great Lakes THATCamp was so great last year we’re doing it again.  Same time, same place.  Michigan State, April 30th/May 1st. Please apply by March 11th!  Much respect to our organizational genius Ethan Wattrall.

Also:  at NCPH this year we’ll be having a THATCamp on Wednesday before the conference starts, down in Pensacola on April 6.  You can register for it when you register for NCPH in general (you’re going, right?) and the deadline is March 15.

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 ( 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 (, 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 Any questions can be sent directly to Ethan Watrall (

Over the last few months, the museum blogosphere has been talking about conferences.  Are conferences broken?  Yes.  (Particularly in environmental terms.)  Do we still need f2f conferences? Yes! Folks have been discussing other models, like virtual conferences, conferences as discrete points in ongoing conversations, Maker Faire (or skillshares in general?)  and camp.

I’m happy to say that I’m going to camp,  THATcamp, this weekend at CHNM.  There will be a bit of a mw2009 reunion there, it looks like (a conference that is not broken), and many of my favorite digital historians will be there, including many internet friends whom I’ve met and many I’ve yet to meet.  I expect that this will be an extremely well-tweeted conference, and also watch the THATcamp blog for ideas both already presented and emerging.

I see my role at THATcamp as mostly jumping up and down to say “What about museums?  What about material culture?”  That was basically my proposal:  “I’d like to talk about how to make museum collections, particularly three dimensional artifacts of material culture, part of ongoing digital humanities work. What are the challenges involved in 3D imaging, providing access, building ways for visitors and scholars to interact and engage with non-scanner-ready historical collections?”  Luckily, it looks like other campers are thinking about these issues too!  I’ll keep you posted on our discussions.