Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More fun to be had in the exhibit hall

I’m sure there were some great papers at the AASLH conference, but I spent my time in the exhibit hall. Most people wander through at some point, and I had the unexpected pleasure of meetings some old friends. 

So rather than talk about papers I’ll talk about neighbors! I’ve been following the work of Eduweb   for years and they’ve done some great stuff.  One of the great things they been doing is putting some resources into finding out what works. Check out the research papers at their site.

Opposite me was The Museum Bookmark Collection.  Their graphics and production quality were great. So good in fact that while I chatted across the room someone came up to my booth, ignored my material, and took the sample bookmarks I’d collected earlier!

Kapesni is on a mission to get mobile apps everywhere, and they have a very competitive pricing model. I think the current app is for iPhone with the Android app coming in a September.

Around the corner was Re:discovery  (where I worked for many years). Rediscovery is providing the back end of the upcoming NPS web catalog site which is getting some early testing. I’m very excited by the progress and early reactions. Plus they have an updated version of their archaeology module which is hierarchical, content rich and full of features.

Thanks to everyone that stopped by and chatted!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Putting the cart before the virtual horse

I’ll be attending the AASLH conference in Richmond this month. Many of our clients are in Virginia and I look forward to catching up, and meeting also new faces. 

The conference includes a focus on “Take(ing)  advantage of the constantly emerging technologies that have the potential to enable us to increase access to history experiences”

Stories Past has been working on interactive media for over ten years now. (btw check out Google’s page on browser development ). We’re now developing using AJAX, looking at HTML 5 and using Adobe Flash for some other applications. 

The danger with new and exciting technologies is that it’s sometimes possible to put the cart before the horse. The issue, I think, is less what can the new technologies offer, and more what do we want to do. We can now develop more quickly; we can incorporate databases, animations and media. But the start of a project is the public outreach/education that you want to achieve. Then we’ll find the best way of doing it. I believe the strength of Stories Past is in its empathy and understanding of history, archaeology and education. 

The good news is just virtually anything is possible.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"You've Got Mail"

I watched “You’ve got mail” last week. The movie came out in 1998 and the ironies were writ large when on Saturday I went to the Borders closing sale. We bought fourteen technologically redundant books for a little over a $100. The big box bookstores (like AOL itself) are now threatened into extinction by e-books and online retailers.

One of the books I purchased was Your Digital Afterlife – an examination of what happens to digital assets after death. I wonder if Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan archived their email romance, or if all those love letters were lost in the ether. Today they’d be on a dating site, or tweeting, and I suspect their electronic exchanges would be even more ephemeral.   When I was in college I got and sent letters from friends. These hand-written missives were much longer, and more considered, than the emails, or Facebook posts I get now. They’re in a box in a cupboard - not that paper is the perfect archival material. 

As a developer I’m both intrigued and worried by the pace of change. Now its mobile applications; clearly the predominant tool for the under 30’s. Are we reducing complexity, or are the small screens just another challenge. Social is the new Flash, and everyone is famous for 140 characters. We can say it, show it and play it, but we’re still working out exactly how we understand it all.

As we were leaving the bookstore Saturday we passed a sign. LP’s $1. I bought 7, all from bands in the 70’s and 80’s. Nice to hold an album, and be able to appreciate the cover art. Does anyone listen to albums anymore, or just downloadable “singles.” Now where can I buy a record player…

Friday, July 22, 2011

SHA 2012 part II

At the SHA meeting in Baltimore I’ll be hosting a round table session:
Web Based Public Archaeology
This roundtable discussion examines the different ways archaeologists are using websites and social media to promote archaeology. Please come with some great examples to share and discuss.
Some examples I've recently seen or been involved with:
Transitions in Virginia Slavery: part of the project funded by NEH and carried out by Dr. Barbara Heath of the University of Tennessee. We'll be adding some educational content to the web site soon.
Mount Vernon's Midden blog and Facebook presence have been well followed and full of good stuff with the new web site in progress.

Also I've also recently come across Close Encounters of the Colchester Kind...

Not just archeology, but the Park Service web catalog site is progressing. You can read about it at here.

Obviously there are many others. Please add some examples and comments below!

How effective are they? Is there a conflict between the blogger's voice and the institutional voice? Is the immediacy of blogging at odds with serious research? Is there a public audience for primary archaeological data?


Monday, July 11, 2011

SHA 2012

New NPS collections web site
The lack of blogging has been due to too much going on rather than too little! But I hope I can share projects and other news over the next few months.

July always seems early to be thinking about a January conference, but the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Baltimore had its deadline for submissions yesterday… . My topic will be “Online archaeology databases and the public” and I mean to talk about the new NPS website, as well as other online catalogs. The Mount Vernon site - 400 extremely well described objects, in a rich context – makes a great contrast. Which is more useful to the public?

There was a great technical leaflet in the AASLH publication” Designing Education Programs that Connect Students to Collections”. It focuses on planning educational content around objects, but I think much of it applies to online collections. The national educational curriculum is doing little to help the social sciences. And unless you want to appeal to a purely local audience the different state standards make creating lessons plans difficult. It is mentioned here - and I discovered this many years ago with the Jamestown modules - it useful to look at the English learning standards which are more focused on reading for understanding than the History ones which, at least in Virginia tend to be more fact based. 

I’d be interested in anyone has site or articles looking at using online collections.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mount Vernon's Midden

Launching a new web site is always fun.  www.mountvernonmidden.org is up and running, with much more content to come. Right now we just have a “construction” page, but we threw in a few teaser images.

The South Grove Midden (or trash pile) was excavated by archaeologists at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia plantation along the Potomac River. The catalog includes more than 50,000 artifacts including ceramic and glass vessels, animal bones and seeds. We’ll be matching the finds with a database built from documentary information of Washington’s invoices and purchases.

As the site develops we’ll add a object of the week so you can start to see the some of the collections. We’ll be adding a blog for the site and you can follow progress on their Facebook page Mount Vernon’s Mystery Midden.  
Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Promoting the NPS museum collections

The new web site for the national Park Service continues to progress, and we have a great online video to promote it.
You can follow the progress of the site on the new MuseumCollections blog  The new web site will be up at the end of the summer. It will feature thousands of new images, new parks and spotlights – collections of objects in simple web exhibits.

Next time you’re ready to visit a park check out what they’re holding!