About the Working Group
With the help of the web, our cultural institutions have grown adept at “getting the word out.” Institutional and exhibition websites, blogs, and social media campaigns have given the public new ways to access our collections and expertise. Despite these welcome changes, in too many instances, old hierarchies and one-way information streams have endured. Even with “Web 2.0″ innovations, true dialogue and collaboration has proven elusive. This working group will discuss how we can build more democratic and sustainable cultural institutions using digital technology and the web.
As the questions above suggest, this working group welcomes a wide range of participants and projects. Participants should prepare case studies that describe attempts to foster real sharing and collaboration in a digital environment. We hope group members will be candid about both their successes and their failures. Case studies should consider both the technical and the institutional challenges that these digital projects present. We hope this session will be an opportunity for learning and discussion, and that it will spark larger conversations about how we can pursue public history in more meaningful ways online.
- How do we create spaces where visitors can freely share their knowledge, their objects, and their opinions?
- How do we create opportunities for the public to work collaboratively with traditional experts?
- If we can create these spaces and opportunities, how do we convince the public to invest their time and energy with us, and not someone else?
- Why should public historians use the web to engage their various publics? How is the web uniquely suited to moving exhibition/collections development, visitor outreach, collaborative research, and other practices forward? What are the benefits and pitfalls of conducting public history online?
- How do we transform websites from digital repositories to meaningful community resources? How is this both a technological or institutional problem?
- How can public historians motivate different community members to become involved in their digital projects? What work needs to be done offline in conjunction with online activities?
- In what ways can digital humanists flatten the learning curve between themselves and local historians/employees working at cultural heritage sites who are less inclined to use the web?
- What steps must be taken to create an online community of scholars and local participants, from planning to design to usage?
- What happens when project development ends? How do we motivate communities and individuals to stay involved with a digital project?
- Where do undergraduate and graduate students fit into the development of digital public history resources? How are educators balancing practical and academic training? Does working on a digital project in school pay-off when it comes to finding a job after graduation?
- How can public historians and museum professionals do a better job of engaging global communities through the digital resources they create? What are public historians eager to unite disparate groups doing to address issues of shared authority in the virtual realm?