Public history round-up

I just wanted to share a few (admittedly disconnected) bits of public history I’ve stumbled across around the web:

Remember the Triangle Fire may not in itself be a particularly stunning or easy to navigate website, but it offers a wealth of links to organizations marking the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy. (The factory burned 100 years ago this Friday, March 25.) Women’s historians, fire safety organizations, and labor unions are but a few of the groups marking the event in their own ways. It makes for a nice case study in the ways the public and the academy shape and participate in public history.

Here’s something to brighten your day (as seen at Retroist):

You can read a brief history of the Oregon Trail game–it started out as a board game 40 years ago and has sold over 65 million copies. (It’s still a fun game, but some days I can’t get the mobile version’s damn soundtrack out of my head.)

Scripto allows members of the public to volunteer as transcribers of analog documents. It’s an interesting crowdsourcing model. (And–surprise!–it’s a project of the Center for History and New Media.)

Place Matters offers a toolkit to help the public “identify, promote, and protect” places people care about.

What public history resources or projects have you discovered lately?

Boise Wiki quirks

I just wanted to point out a couple of things that have made me laugh as I’ve watched you all develop the Boise Wiki.

1. The first three people profiled on the wiki are an assassinated governor (or, rather, his statue), Shawn the Baptist, and Todd Shallat.  What a crew!

2. The most active page right now is about Canada Geese.  (Bob Barker makes a cameo appearance.)

That is all.  Keep up the good work!

Just because

As long as you have permission to post it, you should feel free to share images related to public history on this blog.  It doesn’t matter if it’s poignant, puzzling, or fun.  Not sure if you have permission?  Just share a link.

Here’s my latest favorite:

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you’ll see his gun is labeled “The Emancipator.”

You can see more Lincoln art at deviantART.

Some resources

Photo shared by Okinawa Soba, and used under a Creative Commons license

Here are some resources I mentioned in class, as well as some others on the interpretation of African-American history at museums and cultural sites.  (Note: I have almost all of these print resources and would be happy to share them with you if you stop by my office.)

Slave Cabin Sleepovers: Honoring the African Holocaust and Our Ancestors or Trivializing their Memory?

Larry Cebula’s Open Letter to Curators of the “Baron Von Munchausen” Historic Home . . .and the home manager’s response–definitely worth a read!

Eric Gable, “How We Study History Museums: Or Cultural Studies at Monticello” in New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction. Ed. Janet Marstine. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006. pp. 109-128.

Jennifer Eichstedt, “Museums and (In)Justice” in Museum Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Hugh Genoways. Lanham, MD: Altamira, 2006. pp. 127-37

Christy S. Coleman, “African American Museums in the Twenty-first Century” in Museum Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Hugh Genoways. Lanham, MD: Altamira, 2006. pp. 151-160.

Lisa G. Corrin, “Mining the Museum: An Installation Confronting History” in Reinventing the Museum: History and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift. Ed. Gail Anderson. Landham, MD: Altamira, 2004. pp. 248-256

James W. Loewen, “Exhibiting Sundown Towns.”  Museums and Social Issues 2, No. 1 (Spring 2007): pp. 57-76.

Dolores Hayden, “Rediscovering an African American Homestead” in her book The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995. pp. 168-87

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia; definitely check out the curator’s message, “The Garbage Man: Why I Collect Racist Objects.”


How to Edit the Boise Wiki

Kudos to those of you who have been brave enough to jump in and edit the Boise Wiki.  Pass the awesomesauce!

I just wanted to share a few tips on editing the wiki.  You can view more detailed instructions at the wiki’s own Quick Start Guide.

Topics Pages, and Creating New Pages

If you’re editing a topics page (see the “Parks” page for instance), it’s probably best to not describe the parks in detail on that page–because it will eventually be a long one–and instead link to a new page.  To create a new page, simply click “edit” on the topics page and then type this:

[“Julia Davis Park”] (or whatever you want your new page to be named)

Click “Save Changes,” and you’ll be directed back to the topics page you’ve just edited.  From there you can click on the link to your new page.  Once you’re on the new page, simply click “edit” at the top of the page and add your text there.

So, for example, I took the liberty (wiki liberty!) of editing Ellen’s page on Julia Davis Park in this manner–I moved it to its own page and then added a photo and attribution for the photo.

To see how I performed this magic (wiki magic!), simply go to and click “Edit.”  You’ll be able to see the code I used to add a photo and links to websites outside the wiki.

Using Images

To upload a photo or image, take these steps:

1. While you’re in page-editing mode, click the “Upload Files” button in the light blue box below the text.  Remember your photo’s name, as you’ll need it to get the photo to appear.

2. Add to the text of your page this notation:


3. Preview.  Always preview.

4. Add photo attribution.  Again, look at the Julia Davis Park page to see how I did this.

Finding photos to use

My favorite place to find photos of Boise is Flickr.  Simply go to and follow these steps:

1. Do a search for a place (e.g. Julia Davis Park)

2. When the results appear, click on the tiny “Advanced Search” link to the right of the text box with your search term in it.

3. Scroll down to the bottom of the Advanced Search page and check the box next to “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.”

4. Since Boise Wiki is a noncommercial site, and since you’ll be using the photos as-is, it should be fine to use any of the photos that show up in the search results.  Remember to attribute them to their photographers–you can see a model of how to do this on the Julia Davis Park page.  (If you do want to alter a photo before posting it, be sure it’s licensed for such use.  To discover its license, either click on the Creative Commons icons under “License” in the right-hand sidebar of the photo’s page, or perform a new advanced search–only this time check both the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” page and the ” Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” boxes.

Any questions?  Send ’em my way, either by e-mail or in the comments here.

Happy wiki-ing!

More inspiration

Image by Mike Licht, and used under a Creative Commons license

I’ve stumbled across some more potential sources of inspiration for your public history projects, papers, and careers.  Here are my latest finds:

Civil War Memory is sort of meta, in that its author (Kevin Levin, a Civil War historian and high school history teacher) comments frequently on the public engagement with Civil War history. In that sense it’s just as much about public history as it is creating it. Anyway, lots of interesting stuff there, especially since the Civil War sesquicentennial celebrations are kicking off this year. I like this bit Levin penned for a blog post at the NY Times site:

The ease with which we can access and contribute to the Web makes it possible for everyone to be his or her own historian, which is both a blessing and a curse. The Internet is both a goldmine of information as well as a minefield of misinformation and distortion.

An interview with Jane McGonigal, game designer, at the NY Times. I love how McGonigal thinks about the utility of games, particularly real-world scenario games like World Without Oil. Here’s McGonigal’s recent appearance on The Colbert Report, in which she argues that playing video games may be, as far as the future of humanity is concerned, the best use of our time:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jane McGonigal
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Seb Chan reports that China Heart, a new web site and free iPhone app, recently launched. Here’s the description from the iTunes store:

China Heart is an interactive love story and mystery that uses GPS technology, art installation and performance to explore Sydney’s Chinatown. During Chinese New Year 2011, participants unravel a mystery, solving video and real life clues while following a walking tour guided by the app’s GPS technology. Starting at the Powerhouse Museum and culminating at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, they will visit significant locations in Sydney’s Chinatown and learn about history of Chinese Australians from the 19th century to now along the way.

You might find this book useful–and you can read it for free online: Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training.

Participants in The 1861 Project are writing original songs that imagine the human (versus the mythic and epic) experience of the Civil War. Eventually the project will provide space for people to discuss their own connections with the Civil War.

Here’s a post about 5 apps that encourage kids to become citizen scientists. Can you imagine an app that encourages kids (and others!) to become citizen historians? What might that look like?

Some inspiration

My mind, like many of yours, is dizzy with the possibilities engendered by the intersection of local history, public history practice, and digital tools like the iPod Touch.  I wanted to share a few potential sources of inspiration that I’ve found in my sojourns around the web.

I’m not much of a gamer, but I do enjoy a good narrative game.  I’ve been playing Echo Bazaar for at least a year now, and I recommend you check it out.  You’ll need a Facebook or Twitter account to play.  It’s set in a fictional world, but the in-game world of “Fallen London” has a rich history and cast of characters.  I don’t by any means expect you all to build anything as near elaborate as this lovely game, but it is an interesting model for those of you interested in storytelling, especially of the Choose Your Own Adventure variety.

There’s an entire wiki dedicated to the use of mobile devices in museums.

There’s a newish site called Digital Humanities Questions & Answers, and it may prove exceptionally useful to you as you formulate your project plan and implement it.  The people who participate in that forum are very generous with their time and expertise, so don’t be shy about asking questions.

Tours of London, led by the city’s homeless: an interesting approach to introducing people to the city.

What Was There is similar to HistoryPin, and it’s desperately in need of some Boise content.  Ditto Sepiatown.  And LookBackMaps.

Someone has provided a round-up of various projects that document Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  Maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your own project?  (It’s flashier than anything we might build in a semester, but I’m especially fond of Curating the City.)

SCVNGR lets you build mobile scavenger hunts.

Hypercities is doing some cool stuff, especially around the recent Egyptian protests.  Its developers describe Hypercities thus:

Built on the idea that every past is a place, HyperCities is a digital research and educational platform for exploring, learning about, and interacting with the layered histories of city and global spaces.  Developed though collaboration between UCLA and USC, the fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories.  Using Google Maps and Google Earth, HyperCities essentially allows users to go back in time to create and explore the historical layers of city spaces in an interactive, hypermedia environment.

Cliocaching looks to be fun.

Definitely check out the Flickr pool Looking into the Past.  (No one has yet contributed any Boise images.)

What have you found this week?