For Your Listening Pleasure: History Conversations

A few years back I had the bright idea to launch a second podcast (Digital Campus being the first). It languished. In fact, I only ever managed to record three episodes. The last one was recorded in February 2008.

It’s time to retire the website, but I don’t want to lose what I believe is some valuable content, especially the conversation I had with friends shortly after Roy’s death. So, here it is. The entire run of History Conversations, “an occasional dialogue with historians and history lovers about their interests, their ideas, and their lives in history,” in a single post.


Hello, World

In this pre-inaugural episode of History Conversations, Tom tests out his software and explains a little of the rationale behind the show. Join us in a couple weeks for our first conversation.

Running time: 4:41
Download the .mp3
[audio:http://foundhistory.org/audio/hc_0.mp3]


Episode 1 – Peter Liebhold

Tom kicks off the podcast with a conversation with Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator of the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Tom asks Peter about his daily work at the Museum, his straight and not-so-straight road into history, and the role of public history … and pledges not to go another four months between episodes.

Running time: 29:29
Download the .mp3
[audio:http://foundhistory.org/audio/hc_1.mp3]


Episode 2 – Roy Rosenzweig, In Memoriam

In Episode 2 we remember Roy Rosenzweig, friend, colleague and pioneer in all manner of public history. Guests Mike O’Malley (co-founder of the Center for History and New Media and Associate Professor of History at George Mason University), Steve Brier (Vice President for Information Technology and External Programs at the CUNY Graduate Center and co-founder the American Social History Project), and Josh Brown (Executive Director of the American Social History Project and Professor of History in the Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center) join Tom for a conversation about Roy’s life, work, and long commitment to democratizing history.

Running time: 32:22
Download the .mp3
[audio:http://foundhistory.org/audio/hc_2.mp3]


Episode 3 – A Look Back at Braddock

This month the volunteer historians of the Look Back at Braddock project join Tom for a conversation about the challenges and opportunities posed by local history. Located near the center of Fairfax County, Virginia, Braddock District has changed rapidly in the 20th century, and members of the community have taken it upon themselves to document the changes. Working largely without funding, John Browne, Mary Lipsey, Gil Donahue, and their colleagues have produced a rich oral history collection, a successful book, and a new website. What does it take for a group of committed amateurs to launch and sustain a multi-year history project and what keeps them going? Find out here in Episode 3 of History Conversations.

Running time: 31:42
Download the .mp3
[audio:http://foundhistory.org/audio/hc_3.mp3]

Briefly Noted: Surviving the Downturn; Help with Creative Commons; Yahoo Pipes

The American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) provides cultural heritage professionals with some relevant information on surviving the economic downturn.

JISC provides advice on choosing (or not choosing) a Creative Commons license.

Missed it at the launch? Didn’t see the point? Don’t know where to start? Ars Technica has a nice reintroduction and tutorial for Yahoo Pipes, a visual web content mashup editor. Here’s an example of the kind of thing you can do very easily (20 minutes in this case) with Pipes: an aggregated feed of CHNMers’ tweets displayed on a Dipity timeline.

Briefly Noted for March 9, 2009

This year CHNM and the American Historical Association will be pleased to award the first Rosenzweig Fellowship for Innovation in Digital History in memory of our late friend and inspiration, Roy Rosenzweig.

The American Association for State and Local History has launched a traveling exhibition directory for museums and other organizations looking to find and publicize traveling exhibitions.

Smithsonian Director of Web and New Media Strategy, Mike Edson, has posted his spot-on treatment of lingering concerns over social media and web technology among collections professionals and administrators. The presentation originally appeared at the recent WebWise conference in Washington, DC.

Briefly Noted for December 16, 2008

Jeremy finishes up his great how-to series on design process in the digital humanities.

Congratulations to Mark Tebeau and his colleagues at Cleveland State’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities on their very well designed new website. I especially like the “collaborate” tab in the main navigation.

Pastigo geolocates information about historical sites and provides historical travel planning tools.

Great Cereals of All Time. A Dipity timeline of all your breakfast favorites. Like Mikey, I’m a Life man myself.

Omeka at NYPL: Eminent Domain

ed-logo_800.jpg I’m pleased to announce the New York Public Library has released its first online exhibition using the Omeka platform. Eminent Domain is a photographic installation chronicling the changing nature of urban space in New York City today. NYPL Labs is planning a series of projects using Omeka and its developers have become very active on the Omeka forums and dev list. I think I can speak for the entire team and say we’re very grateful for their help and impressed with the results of their first foray with Omeka.

Briefly Noted for March 11, 2008

How to make a Leyden jar out of a two-liter Coke bottle, from MAKE Magazine.

Top Ten Moments in Sitcom History. I think you’d have to put Lucy and Ethel’s stint at the conveyor belt at the top of the table, but a good list nevertheless. (Thanks, Jerm.)

Prolific “junior ranger” Chance Finegan on the history of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Keeping with my management kick, here are 14lessons from 37signals for good digital project management and organizational development.

A Look Back at Braddock

Another episode of the History Conversations podcast has dropped. This time, the volunteer historians of the Look Back at Braddock project join me for a conversation about the challenges and opportunities posed by local history. Located near the center of Fairfax County, Virginia, Braddock District has changed rapidly in the 20th century, and members of the community have taken it upon themselves to document the changes. Working largely without funding, John Browne, Mary Lipsey, Gil Donahue, and their colleagues have produced a rich oral history collection, a successful book, and a new website. What does it take for a group of committed amateurs to launch and sustain a multi-year history project and what keeps them going? Find out in Episode 3 of History Conversations.

Finding History at Home

A couple months ago, my friend Rob sent me a link to a great piece in the Washington Post that I somehow forgot to post. “A Homer’s Odyssey” reports the efforts of Greenbelt, Maryland resident Mark Opasnick to preserve and extend local historical memory in the Washington, DC area. A Montgomery County Income Assistance Specialist (read “welfare officer”) by occupation, Opasnick is a collector of “miscellaneous and unknown” pieces of local history by preoccupation, especially moments of local color in pop culture history such as the story of Jim Morrison’s romantic escapades at Alexandria’s George Washington High School or that of the disturbed Cottage City boy who inspired The Exorcist books and movies. Described as an “archaeologist” of local history, Opasnick has a particular penchant for producing digests and catalogs, for example his Maryland Bigfoot Digest, an accounting of more than 300 reported Sasquatch sightings over Marlyand’s nearly 400 year history. But whether you call it “archaeology,” “collecting,” or something else, the Post article makes it clear that Opasnick’s work represents a tremendous amount of documentary research.

Many communities are fortunate to have local history enthusiasts like Mark Opasnick. I suspect the amount of research produced by these thousands of local historians vastly exceeds the amount of research done by professional historians, and though it certainly adheres to a different set of standards and asks and answers a different set of questions, it is regrettable for amateurs and professionals alike that this enormous body of work remains almost infinitely fragmented and almost totally inaccessible. I launched this blog in part to start some of the work of corralling this scattered corpus, but a couple of anecdotal and accidental posts a week won’t get us very far. Worse, my haphazard approach can only point to work that has already been exposed in one way or another: it can’t ferret out the research that’s sitting on kitchen tables and in home offices all around the world. We would all do well to devise some kind of mechanism, either social or technological (a Zotero hub?), to expose and circulate this untapped reservoir of amateur historical knowledge.

We pros would also do well simply to start talking to amateur local historians. As it stands, practitioners of “local” history in the academy are loath even to share a label with their amateur counterparts, preferring instead to call themselves “urban historians” or even “environmental historians.” In some ways, the American Association of State and Local History and its members occupy a middle ground between amateurs and academics, but they represent less a bridge between the other two than a third distinct community. This separation isn’t good for anyone. If we acknowledged our commonalities instead of highlighting our differences and came up with some way to communicate and share our results, we professionals could help amateurs ask and answer questions that are more, let’s say, productive. However, I’m not sure we really even know what questions amateurs ask. We suspect these questions to be narrow, self-serving, value-laden, etc., but surely in that vast body of research activity there exists some subtlety—probably some subtleties we haven’t even reached ourselves. These things are not unknowable, especially in this world of Web 2.0, and we should start seeking them out.

Yellow Arrow

Here’s another instance of amateurs beating professionals to the punch.

There has been a lot of talk lately among a certain set of public historians (lots of it at CHNM, in fact) about moving networked historical information off the desktop and into the historical landscape using new mobile communications technologies like GPS, podcasting, WAP, and SMS. Unfortunately, none of this has gone very far. The Virginia Department of Transportation, for example, recently declined funding for CHNM’s first foray into this arena, a project called History Here.

But as with web history, amateur historians seem to be getting on with getting on. While we have meetings, Yellow Arrow is coming to Washington with an SMS walking tour of D.C. punk history. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Thanks to Josh—my partner in pushing us into the mobile space—for the tip.