Here’s a draft of the talk I’m giving at the National Council on Public History meeting at the end of March. It’s a piece of a longer work in progress on the history of the museum’s collections. This talk focuses on the the philosophical and bureaucratic contexts of the collecting at the museum. A second part, perhaps this summer, will look in detail at the changing nature of the objects collected.
Updated: shorter, snappier version uploaded March 8.
“An olla podrida of queer things pining away its sweetness in the desert air of the Brooklyn Navy Yard”
By popular demand, the full text of the article about the Brooklyn Naval Lyceum that appeared in the New York Times in 1852. It’s a very odd article. More about it, and the Naval Lyceum, in my article, brand new in Museum History Journal.
Here’s the paper I would have given at the American Historical Association conference, had it not been for about a foot of snow and a cancelled flight.
Some thoughts, kindly published by Oronte Churm at Inside Higher Education.
Here’s the talk presented at Bryant University’s Applied Analytics in Humanities and Social Sciences conference today. Paul Margrave, Nate Storring and I presented work done by the three of us, Allison Roberts, Mark Motte of Rhode Island College, and students in his GEOG339 class.
Two parts to the presentation. The first is a very general overview of some of the types of work that might be called humanities analytics: a lot of it is digital humanities, but it also includes other ways that humanists might try to quantify their work, from eye-tracking to economic analyses of art markets.
The second part considers public humanities analytics. It includes a quick overview of visitor tracking in museums, and a very preliminary analysis of some of the material we’ve been analyzing for Waterfire, Providence’s creative-placemaking extravaganza.
The most interesting questions we received at the conference were about the difference between public humanities analytics and market research. We discussed some possibilities: to what extent are we interested in artistic quality or public engagement?Is engagement in art — enjoyment, contemplation, learning — just another kind of brand loyalty? How does our work differ from tourism research?
We’ll be giving a fuller version of this talk next week, at Waterfire’s Art of Placemaking conference. Any advice on how to answer these questions appreciated!
Yesterday the MIT Museum and the Hagley Museum and Library ran a fascinating workshop on “Doing the History of Technology in the 21st Century.” The workshop, at the MIT Museum, brought together historians, museum curators, public humanists, and more to talk about how the history of technology is changing – and how it needs to change – to play the role it needs to play as our sources, audiences, media, and interests change. It was partly about the digital, but more general, too.
My talk addressed the question of how do we do our work in a way that makes us part of a larger conversation. It’s something I think is important, but with no easy answers. The ground rules are changing.
Here are slides from my talk.
And here’s a video of the presentation. Thanks to
Just back from my trip to the University of Glasgow. A delight to meet with faculty and students there and to learn more about their extensive community engagement programs. I gave a talk about public humanities programs in the United States, focusing on Brown’s program. Here’s the slides from my talk. When I have time to rewrite it, I’ll post the written-out version here. Any comments welcome.
Well, I enjoyed it.
The audience was mostly RISD Museum staff – not much of a surprise, given the topic. Interesting to them, less so to the general museum-visiting public.
My two hours was mostly conversation. I had imagined actually doing serious work on my visualizing project. Instead, it was more like showing colleagues a really neat new tool I was playing with that might be useful to them. That’s one of my favorite things, and I think that the RISD Museum folks enjoyed it.
Not only fun, but useful. The conversation with knowledgeable and interested colleagues offered an opportunity to think through my project, to explain why I thought it was worthwhile, to see where it needs work. They asked great questions and gave some excellent suggestions. (Museum web designers and visualizers: check out this NYT fashion visualization!)
And so: it did live up to the “office hours” idea, in the best way. Office hours as in the kind of great conversation that colleagues working on similar projects share in an office. Just that this office was a museum program, and museum visitors could wander in and join us. Which made it even better.
Perhaps the RISD Museum should make this permanent. “One Room” succeeds in its admirable goal of introducing “artists, designers, experts, and brainiacs” to each other and the general public. Now we just need a place to continue the conversation.
I’m about to start my gig at Office Hours, the RISD Museum program “where invited artists, designers, performers, and other community members creatively curate, teach, and experiment through a variety of participatory events.”
That’s the official description. In the publicity, it’s “artists, designers, experts, and brainiacs.”
I’m not sure what category I’m in: I guess safest to say “other community members.” I was flattered to be asked, of course, especially since a former student was running the program.
But what to do? “Office hours” has a technical meaning for professors. You sit in your office and you wait for students to come by with questions. I thought about doing just that – advertising my time at the museum as my office hours. That doesn’t seem fair to the students, though. They didn’t sign up to be public performers. And it’s pretty dull
Teaching could work. I could give a lecture. But no guarantee of an audience, and lectures aren’t very participatory. Giving a lecture doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of One Room.
I could simply use the two hours as a chance to do what I usually do: catch up on email, work on writing. But that’s not very performative.
And so I’ve settled on using the time to play with the early stages of a research project. I’m interested in digital tools for visualizing history, and that seems somehow fitting for a museum: it produces something visual that I can show on a screen, to attract an audience and to have something to discuss. It’s very interactive – the challenge is to discover the right visualization that helps explore the history. And my topic, the history of museum collecting, seems appropriate, too.
The downside is that I’m just learning how to do this. I’m not an expert. I can’t put on a polished performance. But sometimes the most engaging educational experience comes from watching a learner learn. I’m hoping that will be the case here. I just need to be willing to perform not as an expert, the role professors like, but as a student. The idea is appealing…in theory. We’ll see.