Each week during the academic year, the DSG hosts a “Digital Humanities Open Office Hours,” where beginning and experienced researchers share knowledge about how to use different tools, or discuss turning an idea into a solid project. We also share current and completed projects, as well as our experiences with many different facets of the DH world. March and April hosted some very exciting sessions. If you did not get the chance to attend, check out reflections on the sessions below.
March 13: Doing Public History and Evaluating Public History
Public Historians have many roles throughout the field. There are professionals who do public history and those who evaluate public history. Even within the public history program and the certificate in digital humanities at Northeastern, there are students who fall into these roles.
As a student doing public history, Lauren Bergnes presented on her DH Certificate project DEV 3D: Revolutionizing Your Historic Space. In an increasingly digital world, many smaller historic and cultural sites are finding themselves falling behind or failing to meet their constituents with the digital language and experiences they’ve come to expect. For these cultural spaces, budgeting and small staff size often leave them without access or knowledge of the digital tools that can enhance the extent of their exhibits and interpreters. To explore this issue, Lauren used an 18th-Century vaulted tomb from the crypt at Kings Chapel, Boston’s first Anglican church, as a case study. From this, she developed a toolkit for cultural heritage sites to cheaply and easily produce 3D Models and Virtual Reality applications using step-by-step tutorials.
As a student evaluating public history, Megan Barney presented on her DH Certificate project History Needs New Heroes. According to the National University Library System, 85% of the K-12 textbook industry in the United States is dominated by Pearson Education, Inc., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill Education. What narratives do these textbooks present, or forget? Megan talked through her exploration of this question with her evaluation of people who are mentioned, and forgotten, in recently published high-school history textbooks. Through data collection and reading, Megan presents multiple visualizations that indicate that history only tells the story of white men in positions of power. She uses these findings as a reason to write about history’s forgotten heroes and advocate for a more inclusive teaching of the past.
March 20: Debates in Digital Preservation
In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, archivists and librarians are tasked with the issue of digital preservation. Sarah Sweeney, the Digital Repository Manager, and Kim Kennedy, the Digital Production Coordinator joined us to answer the many questions associated with digital preservation.
What is digital preservation?
Digital preservation is the activities necessary to make digital files usable in the future. It requires up-to-date technology, organization, and resources.
Why do we need digital preservation?
All digital files become inaccessible over time due to several factors including neglect, new operating systems, proprietary systems, and bit rot.
What are some of the systems or approaches to digital preservation?
There are many approaches to digital preservation. Some of the most models that institutions look at include the Open Archival Information Systems model approach or the Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification. Both models are very robust, and there are very few institutions that have the time and resources to achieve them in full. Most institutions take a more scaled approach following the National Digital Stewardship Alliance or a more flexible approach following Digital POWRR. There are also All-In-One tools which include Archivematica, Preservica, and Libsafe. While all these methods are great resources, they all have one thing in common: the obstacle of time, resources, and cost.
What are the big challenges in digital preservation?
Other than the various resources needed for digital preservation, there are also many challenges facing the field. First there are the ethical concerns of digital preservation. This includes the ever present question in the field as a whole: what should be collected and preserved? There are also legal ethics involved in digital preservation including the European movement of “Right to be removed,” where individuals can request to have their personal data erased from the internet. The other challenge facing digital preservation is the practical issue of the scale of digital things that can be collected.
This session was great in allowing attendees to get a broad understanding of what digital preservation is (and what it’s not). Attendees were left with this question to consider: How do you advocate for digital preservation at your institution?
April 10: Public Historians as DHers
From March 27 to March 30, eight public history students from Northeastern had the opportunity to attend the National Council on Public History Annual Meeting in Harford, CT. The theme this year was “Repair Work” which offered students and emerging professionals the opportunity to have difficult conversations and learn what is going on in the field. As public history students involved with the digital humanities, Megan Barney, Megan Woods, Katie Woods, Lauren Bergnes, and Mahala Nyberg, navigated the conference with their digital skills and goals in mind. There were many sessions that talked about the presence of digital projects, but the presenters spoke primarily about the “Digital Documentation and Mass Gun Violence Hackathon” and the “Digital Public History Lab.”
In today’s world, tragedies of mass gun violence have become all too common, and the reality for public historians is their responsibility to respond to these events. What responsibilities do public historians have to respond to violence? Megan Barney spoke about the Digital Hackathon on Mass Gun Violence Archives. The hackathon brought over fifteen public historians together to develop a digital platform that offers public historians resources for grappling with tragedies of mass violence. Titled After the Shots, this project provides public historians with resources on ways to respond, historical interpretation, datasets, web projects, educational materials, support for trauma, and self-care. Megan worked on the ways to respond and found the event valuable as a way to think about mass gun violence both thoroughly and sensitively.
Megan Woods, Katie Woods, Lauren Bergnes, and Mahala Nyberg spoke about the “Digital Public History Lab,” an afternoon workshop of both organized sessions and unconference sessions.
- -Megan spoke about a session on digital public history pedagogy, aimed at providing educators with the resources and tips for using digital tools in the classroom. Megan talked about tips such as productive failure and making objectives clear for students. She also mentioned the need for sustainability and using the tools that one’s respective institution provides.
- -Mahala discussed a session on Story-Mapping and Leaflet. The pros of using these mapping tools is the power of collaboration and shared data. These mapping tools do, however, require certain technical skills that come with a large learning curve for some users.
- -Katie talked about using Adobe Scan to conduct OCR on textual data. It is a cheap and easy way to make documents machine readable.
- -At an unconference session on Omeka, Lauren had the opportunity to teach a room of professionals about the widely-used digital tool based on her experience learning and using Omeka Classic and Omeka S at Northeastern. She worked with another graduate student to teach users how Omeka functions and about the value in using it as a teaching tool for the next generation of public historians.
Overall, the presenters noted the conference as being a great addition to their professional development. As students involved in the digital humanities, they greatly valued the conversations had a the conference and the better understanding they gained about what is going on in the field.
April 17: The Art of Podcasting
Chuck Clough has been a musician all of his life and he has brought his passion for music into his podcast Above the Basement. Why the title? Above the Basement is for people who are jamming out in their basement but have the courage and boldness to come out to show their talent to the world. To date, Chuck and his co-host Ronnie have published 134 episodes that have reached people around the world. Above the Basement features casual and candid discussions with musicians, artist, producers, and others from Boston and beyond. They will talk with anyone who is interested, but they must have an attachment to Boston in some way. Chuck also emphasized the importance of being inclusive in the genres they represent and more importantly the people they talk to.
From a podcaster who has built a podcast from the ground up, Chuck offered some advice on the art of podcasting.
- -Podcasting is a great way to get connected to people, events, and places.
- -Do not worry about things that are already done because everyone is different and will be interpreting things differently.
- -Podcasting can be done cheaply simply from a laptop, but spending money on good mics is worth it. The better the mic, the better the podcast sounds.
- -For those who really get into the art of podcasting, resources such as ProTools and Libson allow the podcaster to edit episodes and disseminate the podcast itself.
To learn more about Above the Basement or to subscribe to their show, visit https://abovethebasement.com/.
Are you interested in learning more about podcasting or getting started at Northeastern? The Snell Library Recording Studios offers resources and space to explore podcasting. To reserve a space or to learn more, see here.
This year’s DH Open Office Hours have come to a close. Thank you to all of the presenters and attendees for your continued support and for making this a successful year! Stay tuned for next years line-up of DH Open Office Hours and keep up to date on DSG events with the full schedule here.