Briefly Noted for April 11, 2008

A few quick notes from the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Louisville, KY.

Bill Turkel has a terrific post on the nonlinear character of many academic careers, comparing planning our professional trajectories to solving nonlinear optimization problems in mathematics. “Nonlinear” definitely describes my own career path, and Bill provides his own poignant nonlinear story. Students, especially those interested in careers in digital history and humanities, should hear more of these stories.

The Powerhouse Museum joins the Library of Congress in Flickr Commons. Though not officially part of the Commons, the Boston Public Library also added its own photostream to the online image sharing site. Maybe this Flickr thing has legs. 😉

Jeremy Boggs is starting a much needed new series on the nuts and bolts of doing digital humanities work. I am first to plead guilty when I say that too much of the digital humanities blogosphere is taken up with reflections on the discipline, project announcements and press releases, and wishful speculations that will never bear fruit. Jeremy is boldly taking us down the path of real work, by explaining the basic methods, processes, and tools necessary to produce quality digital history and humanities projects.

Briefly Noted for April 8, 2008

Friend of CHNM, Stan Katz provides some perspective on The Emergence of the Digital Humanities in his excellent Chronicle of Higher Education “Brainstorm” column. presents 1000 years of British history through a series of film clips organized along three parallel and interlinked timelines, one each for social, political, and national (English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish) history. Very high quality content (originally filmed for the BBC) distributed in a very popular format (the timeline). And a pretty slick website to boot.

Open Source Decade. Ars Technica recalls Tim O’Reilly’s 1998 “Freeware Summit” where “open source” first emerged as a term of choice in the free, open, libre, etc. software movement.

Newton v. Einstein

Mike Ellis at Electronic Museum posted a terrific entry this weekend entitled Newton vs Einstein, providing some welcome physical grounding for CHNM’s longstanding motto, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Drawing inspiration from a recent BBC Radio 4 program on Newton’s three laws of motion and their displacement by Einstein’s theories of relativity, Mike writes:

Einstein’s brilliance – his “rightness” – matters a huge amount when we’re nearing the speed of light. But down here as we plod about our normal daily lives, we can cope with the innacuracies. Relativity matters not a jot; actions do have an equal and opposite reaction; gravity acts downwards and relativity is merely a philosophy … [The point] is this: just as we accept Newton over Einstein even though we know he is essentially “wrong,” if we (and by this I mean me, museums or anyone with ideas) want to shine, we too need to accept imperfection. In fact, I believe we need to learn to actively embrace it.

A slightly mangled translation of Voltaire‘s “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien,” “the perfect is the enemy of the good” has long summed up CHNM’s philosophy that it is better to do something well than nothing flawlessly. Other oft repeated phrases among CHNM staff include “release early and often” and “get over yourself.” They all boil down to this: Digital history is easily as much about doing as it is about thinking, and doing means getting dirty, making mistakes, and breaking proverbial eggs.

Omelets anyone?

Jobs at CHNM and Friends

Lots of work for digital humanists in the Washington DC area these days. The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) is looking for a postdoc to work on a major new text-mining study. We’re also looking for a new entry-level administrative assistant (a *fantastic* opportunity for a smart, enthusiastic, soon-to-be college grad). And our good friends at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) are looking for a programmer to work on their exciting new Shakespeare project.

Here are the ads:

The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University is seeking a postdoctoral fellow to work on a new text-mining initiative supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. ABD candidates are also strongly encouraged to apply. This is a grant-funded, two-year position that is particularly appropriate for someone with interests in computational linguistics, machine learning, or technology and the humanities and social sciences. Specific background and experience is less important than the ability to learn new technical skills quickly. Knowledge of some combination of the following would be particularly helpful: Java, JavaScript, MySQL, PHP, or object-oriented programming. Ability to work in a team is very important. Please send a cover letter and resume, including relevant programming projects and experience, to with subject line “Text Mining.” We will begin considering applications on 5/1/2008 and continue until the position is filled. Applications without a cover letter will not be considered.

The Center for History & New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University is hiring an Administrative Assistant to work closely with its directors in assisting general operations. We are seeking an energetic, well-organized person who takes initiative; can work in a team; and is comfortable performing a variety of office, administrative and research tasks. Responsibilities include tracking grant proposals, maintaining accounts, managing reimbursements, event planning, serving as liaison to other university offices, and publicizing and promoting CHNM’s work. This is an exciting opportunity that is particularly appropriate for someone with a combined interest in history and technology; familiarity with history and new media is preferred. Experience working in an office environment is also preferred. New or recent graduates are encouraged to apply. We will begin considering applications on April 1, 2008, and continue until the position is filled. Apply online (including resume, three references, a cover letter and a short writing sample) at for position number 10385z. Questions? Please contact with subject line “Administrative Assistant.”

The Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland in College Park is seeking a full time programmer for at least a year to work on the NEH/JISC funded Shakespeare’s Quartos project. This exciting digital humanities initiative, an international collaboration among MITH, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Oxford University, the British Library, the Huntington Library, and the Scottish National Library, aims to create a digital archive of all the extant quartos of Shakespeare’s plays beginning with Hamlet. The successful candidate will at the minimum have a bachelor’s degree and be an experienced web programmer familiar with PHP, JavaScript, MySQL, XML, and XSLT to develop both the user interface and the database back-end for this interactive archive. Ideally, the candidate will also have a background in textual criticism and/or Shakespearean scholarship. Located in McKeldin Library at the heart of the campus, MITH is the University of Maryland’s primary intellectual hub for scholars and practitioners of digital humanities, new media, and cyberculture, as well as the home of the Electronic Literature Organization, the most prominent international group devoted to the writing, publishing and reading of electronic literature. MITH’s house research includes projects in text mining, tool building, visualization, digital libraries, electronic publishing, and digital preservation. We collaborate actively with allied campus units, including the University Libraries, the College of Information Science, and the Human Computer Interaction Lab. Situated just outside of Washington DC, MITH also offers all of the opportunities that come from the libraries, museums, and cultural institutions of the area. Salary range, $50,000 – $55,000. To apply, please send a letter of application, CV, and contact information for three references. Best consideration by April 9, 2008. Application materials may be sent electronically to or to Neil Fraistat, Director, MITH, McKeldin Library, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. Consideration of applications to begin immediately. Applications from women and minorities are encouraged.

Omeka 0.9.1

Found History readers may be interested to know that Omeka version 0.9.1 has just been released. This is our first release since the initial public launch on February 20, 2008. It fixes more than 20 bugs, and our development team recommends that all users upgrade their existing Omeka installations. The API hasn’t changed since the 0.9.0 release, so existing themes and plugins should continue to work after the upgrade.

More on Omeka later in the month, in a special series about the aims, audiences, and thinking behind the software.