Tuesday, March 25, 2014

History Camp

Writing at The History News Network, Liz Covart introduces us to the History Camp, an attempt by Boston-area public historians to bring academics and the history-loving public together. It appears to have been a great success.

I love this idea.  Nicholas Kristof take notice.

Here is a taste of Covart's piece:

On Saturday March 8, 2014, over 120 history enthusiasts and professionals converged on the IBM Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the first-ever History Camp. An “unconference,” History Camp came together because people wanted to share their passion for history with others. The initial meet-and-greet revealed the diversity of the attendees: web designers, high school teachers, surveyors, artists, writers, archivists, librarians, undergraduate students, tour guides, medical doctors, photographers, mobile app designers, museum professionals, and National Park Service interpreters. History Camp featured twenty-five, thirty-minute presentations offered by topic experts.
Lee Wright, founder of The History List, started History Camp with three speakers and a wiki page. Wright got the idea for History Camp after attending a BarCamp, a user-generated workshop about technology. Wright wondered if people would attend a history-themed BarCamp. He asked three Boston-based historians—J.L. Bell, Samuel Forman, and myself—if we would help him with his idea. Positive responses in hand, Wright created the History Camp page on the BarCamp wiki and waited to see how many others would sign-up to attend and present.
Within a few days, enough people had registered for History Camp that Wright needed to find a venue to host it. Wright found a partner in IBM, where a few employees with a passion for history convinced their employer to allow up to 160 people to use its Cambridge Innovation Center. Wright also found individual and corporate sponsors: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, TrekSolver, The History List, Hstry, and “Drums Along the Mohawk.” These sponsors paid for breakfast, lunch, and subsidized the event so that everyone could attend for free.
History Camp presented a well-rounded conference even without official organizers to shape the narrative and content of the event. The volunteer presenters offered programs that covered a wide-variety of history-related topics, methodological discussions, and advice about employment opportunities. Of the twenty-five presentations, twelve focused on specific historical narratives, three discussed graduate school, non-academic employment, and publishing opportunities, and ten panels explored interpretation methods (including digital history tools), crowdsourced resources, and technologies that both enhance and spread the reach of historical research.
History Camp proved a success. So many people wanted to attend a day-long conference about history that Wright had to turn interested people away after the 160 registration spots filled. The conference also attracted more than just Boston-based history practitioners and enthusiasts. History Campers hailed from all over New England with some who traveled from as far as New York City, Virginia, & Florida.

Read the rest here.