About philkatz

I am assistant director for research at the American Association of Museums. One of my jobs there is to track and analyze trends for the Center for the Future of Museums. I'm a historian by training (original area of focus: Civil War and Reconstruction, with a special interest in trans-Atlantic interactions during the era), but have spent most of my career as an administrator and researcher for public humanities and higher ed organizations.

Digital Humanities and Museums

The inaugural issue of the online Journal of Digital Humanities should be of interest to everyone here. It just came to my attention, and much of the content previously appeared elsewhere on the web, so apologies if this is already old news. I see lots of articles with intriguing titles, including Trevor Owens on “Defining Data for Humanists: Text, Artifact, Information or Evidence?” and Marc Downie and Paul Kaiser on “Spatializing Photographic Archives.” But I am especially interested in the pair of video presentations by Nik Honeysett of the Getty and Michael Edson of the Smithsonian called “Philosophical Leadership Needed for the Future: Digital Humanities Scholars in Museums.” They try to tackle the question of how museums can move beyond the power and limits of “physicality” (i.e., direct confrontation with the real thing).

How many types of visualizations?

I spend a lot of time reading blogs about data visualization (probably too much, which is why I haven’t been contributing any longer posts to this blog!). My favorite is Nathan Yau’s FlowingData. A few days ago he published a link to an article from ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery — a wonderfully anachronistic handle) called Interactive Dynamics for Visual Analysis. The authors write, “The goal of this article is to assist designers, researchers, professional analysts, procurement officers, educators, and students in evaluating and creating visual analysis tools. We present a taxonomy of interactive dynamics that contribute to successful analytic dialogues.” I don’t understand all of the technical details, but the taxonomy is certainly relevant to our discussion about visualizing the past. Plus, I like the idea of visualization as one mode of “data-wrangling” — i.e., another tool for historians to use to make sense of an incomplete historical record with too many data points.

Another quick link to someone else’s thoughtful reflections

Today at the Center for the Future of Museums (CFM) blog, a look at “mobilizing museum archives.” Discusses a project that uses historical records (images and field notes) to explore biodiversity in Colorado via crowdsourcing. The specific project is a good model, and the general point is highly relevant: “We live in a world that is increasingly digital. While museums are gradually adapting to this new reality, it is crucial that we complete ongoing digitization projects with minimal resources and a maximum of community engagement.” I also recommend the blog So You Think You Can Digitize, which is curated by two of the guest authors over at CFM.

Image Sharing in America: A Foreign Researcher’s View

Sometimes it takes a visitor to help us understand ourselves more clearly. Merete Sanderhoff of the Danish national art museum is no Tocqueville (to be fair, who is?). But her new report to the Danish Agency for Culture is a good overview of “how digital media technologies, strategies, and platforms are being implemented in US cultural heritage institutions.” Here are the trends she highlights in the report, which is based on conversations with museum professionals in the United States (mostly from very large museums):

  • Sharing is caring: Open access creates more value
  • Use existing platforms and social media
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Mobile strategies
  • Strengthen in-house development teams
  • Online and print publication synergies

Learn more at http://www.formidlingsnet.dk/report-about-us-2011-research-visit. What trends would you add to the list? Would a review based exclusively on history content — or focused on other kinds of institutions (libraries, archives, academic research centers) — look any different? Discuss.