History 2.0: Remaking the Study and Preservation of History Using Collaborative Web-based Tools


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"History 2.0: Remaking the Study and Preservation of History Using Collaborative Web-based Tools." Presented at BarCamp Boston 5 on April 17, 2010.

This brief Ignite talk from April 5, 2012 discusses some of these same issues and contrasts the computer science versus library science approach to building platforms that provide access to content: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DnDFOcwVMo.

My current project is The History List (www.TheHistoryList.com).

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History 2.0: Remaking the Study and Preservation of History Using Collaborative Web-based Tools

  1. 1. History 2.0Remaking the Study and Preservation ofHistory Using Collaborative Web-based ToolsLee Wrightlee@leewright.net@leewrightPresented at BarCamp Boston 5 at MIT on April 17, 2010
  2. 2. Goals today• The problem• Current approaches and why they areinadequate• Requirements for a successful system• Creating a scalable, lasting solution
  3. 3. Q: Why can’t I addthis to the historicproperty report on ourhouse?[The invitation shown on the previous slide is to a barn warming party. Our house(c1780) was once part of a 100 acre farm and in 1918, due to an accident, thebarn and many of the out buildings burned down. The party celebrated the newbarn.]
  4. 4. [The entire official historic property survey write-up on our house is on the right.It’s two pages drafted in 1995. The items on the left are just a few of the manythat we would like to add, including a current photo and a photo from the early1900s, the article to the barn warming and the newspaper write-up afterword, andpicture of George Carpenter, who grew up in the house and who came byunexpectedly one day and gave us these and several other photos. Note that ourhouse isn’t special, just old, but this illustrates the gap between “official records”and the much richer local history that’s out there to be collected and shared.]
  5. 5. State• Maintain control• No motivation to evolve faster
  6. 6. Local• 1000 historical societies in New England• Most are all-volunteer• Very few resources• No tech resources• Core older volunteers are . . .
  7. 7. Major privateinstitutions• Collection-centric approach• Maintain control• Museum science/library scienceapproach• Control = status
  8. 8. Federal• Slow  No incentives• Few good models• Grants—behind the curve
  9. 9. Solutions?• Local: Antiquated software• Larger: Omeka collection-centric• Reinforce old models Dublin Core metadata  Nomenclature: “Buy the book” and “by the book”
  10. 10. Requirements• Open• Web-centric• Built with existing technologies,standards• No technical skills to use• Works with current staff (volunteer)and process model• No new hardware or software• Cheap—or free
  11. 11. Vision• Hosted platform for sharing and writingabout historical artifacts and local history• Anyone can add text or images,comments, links, tags• Taps into any existing databases• Serves as a collection managementsystem for institutions• A set of pages can be skinned to createan institution’s official document/site
  12. 12. Advantages• Every institution, individual can use• Crosses institutional and political(city/state/region) boundaries• Distributed scanning, uploading• Taps into global community to identify,provide context, contribute
  13. 13. Advantages• No longer have to surrender control ofan item to contribute it to local history• Provides a way for a community topreserve and keep current their history
  14. 14. The imperative• Items are turning to dust in boxes• Aged volunteers who are best able toprovide context are dying• Unlikely to reverse underlying trends• Unlikely to marshal sufficient resourcesfor traditional approach• New approach is unlikely to be createdfrom current industry players
  15. 15. Our choice• The perfect professional approach,which will only save a small fraction• Or, preservation using new technologiesand a new model in order to preservemuch more• If there are ever resources, betterscans and traditional metadata can beadded later
  16. 16. Contact• lee@leewright.net• @leewrightUpdated January 2012:New initiative: www.TheHistoryList.comPlatform for connecting people interested in history withhistory-related happenings in their communities andacross the country.