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The Digital Museum: Bringing the Experience to Life

Last week, Sarah Robbins and I were in Rochester, NY, for the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) 2008 annual conference. We presented a 1/2 day workshop on Web 2.0 and how museums, historical societies, and other historical organizations can leverage social media.  Here are the slides:


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I love history and preparing for the conference made me realize how much more alive history can be with digital and social media.  Knowing how much our past drives our present, the human race can gain much from understanding it better.  With the digital and social media tools at our disposal today, anyone with Internet access can experience the past better and derive more insight from it.

As we got into the second half of our workshop, we switched to the user-generated content (UGC) approach to generate examples of the principles we were teaching.  We had 28 people in the workshop representing 20 different organizations.  Here are some of the cool examples that came out of our joint explorations:

Brooklyn Museum - I found this blog post about the great use of fundamental Web 2.0 tools.  Check out the how they used YouTube for a promotional video contest and Flickr to show the results of a graffiti installation (using old school UGC).

Illinois Summer Scholars - Jan Grines shared this gem with us from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  Each year, high school students from across the state gather for a special program on history.  This year, students were charged with creating a digital magazine about the Springfield Race Riots of 1908.  It really brought this dark moment to life for me.

Philadelphia Historical Photos - Are all those photos in your archive going unused?  Blow off their dust, scan them, and launch an online store for purchasing prints.  It’s free to search through the archives and has reasonable prices for prints of your favorites.  Philadelphians like it – it was voted the best local website in 2007.

Learning All About Genghis Kahn - I shared my own blog post from a couple months ago detailing my digital search for all things Genghis Kahn.  My favorite item is the Google Map overlay of the Mongol Empire.  

Widgets - With the trend towards breaking websites into bite-size pieces that can be taken to other websites, we explored the world of widgets.  A basic overview of new widgets from TechCrunch helped frame conversation, plus demonstrating the cool ways National Geographic is using widgets brought the topic home for many.

Coming Soon – Travis Boley from the Oregon-California Trails Association just finished traveling the route of the Oregon and California Trails documenting various points of interest with digital photography and capturing mapping coordinates that will all be pulled together into their Google Map overlay.  You can follow along on their blog.  I’m eager to see the final product.  While we wait, we can all dust off the classic video game, Oregon Trail.

To close out the whole day, we watched the recently release Rhett and Link video of their new song, Internet Overdose.

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