TEMSIG History of Technology, Museums, and Public History Special Interest Group

Minutes of TEMSIG Thursday Meeting

SHOT--Tacoma, September 30, 2010


Allison Marsh opened our meeting, held in the lounge at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, just after 5:30. After a round of introductions, Marsh noted we were meeting at this time because the group preferred cocktails versus a Sunday breakfast meeting.

Eric Nystrom gave a very short report on TEMSIG's first meeting outside of SHOT. A group met for a dine-around at the National Council on Public History (NCPH) meeting in Portland in March 2010. The group included several people new to TEMSIG. We primarily discussed teaching with material culture, and/or the possibility of proposing innovative sessions at conferences, for example a roundtable on teaching with material culture, perhaps at Cleveland, where you bring in your "stuff."

Bart Hacker introduced Artefacts, a consortium of museums of science and technology. The group consists of 16 members, mostly in Europe. They met 2 weeks ago in Ottawa, and will meet next September in Leiden. The focus of Artefacts is promoting the use of objects as historical sources. Within the last few years, Artefacts has become more interested in reaching out and expanding, and TEMSIG is an obvious choice for potential collaboration. Each Artefacts meeting has a theme, and most result in a publication. Here at SHOT, a flyer will be included with the conference materials about the Artefacts book series.

Ben Gross pointed out that next year's Cleveland meeting, because it is a joint meeting of SHOT, HSS, and 4S, would be a good opportunity for TEMSIG to get together with Artefacts.

Hacker noted that SHOT is an "affiliate" of the American Historical Association (AHA), and as such can present programs without going through the standard program committee. Hacker is the current SHOT/AHA representative. This might be an excellent opportunity for TEMSIG to sponsor a broader discussion/presentation about material culture. Also, SHOT is not limited to just one AHA session. Marsh agreed, noting that a joint AHA/OAH/NCPH whitepaper on tenure for public historians was just published, thus making this seem like a particularly opportune time for collaboration.

Marsh relayed that TEMSIG had been asked to help make nominations for SHOT's Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits. As TEMSIG chair, Marsh will forward recommendations to the Dibner committee. Margaret Vining, a former chair of the committee, said this was a "splendid" idea!

The Public Historian, which is the journal of the NCPH, will be launching a section on reviews of factory tours and corporate museums with the Winter 2010 issue. Marsh and Peter Liebhold (Division of Work and Industry, NMAH) are spearheading the effort and writing an introduction.

On a related topic, Carol Goldstein noted that she is the new exhibit review editor for T&C, and that the plan is to have exhibit reviews that are as global as the journal's coverage. A further issue is reviewing Digital History, as digital exhibits are very important now, given the changing world of museums. At this point, she and T&C are just kicking this idea around a bit, and would welcome input from the group. Marsh noted that she was very interested in this topic. She attended the Digital Humanities Conference in London, but the group was overwhelmingly focused on text, not images, objects, or museums. Since then, Marsh has been working with that group -- no answers as of yet, but some intriguing questions. Alex Bochannek noted that his museum (Computer History Museum, Mt. View CA) wrestles with this too. Their original idea was to launch physically and digitally at the same time. This is a useful concept, but the formats are so different it makes for difficult decisions, such as writing label captions. Elizabeth Bruton noted there were intriguing ways in which online exhibits might be beyond the museum's direct control and mostly user-generated, such as YouTube, Flickr, etc, rather than just an online exhibit on the museum's website. Bochannek noted the opportunities available for both replicating/duplicating and also extending some of the typical visitor experiences at museums. For example, they might be able to watch a video while they are at home, but watching it in a museum becomes more difficult. However, there are problems with this too, including broadcast/distribution rights. Several people noted how this might enable museums to reach different sorts of people with different sorts of experiences.

Goldstein further noted that as T&C is presently examining the relationship between "print" and "online," another question might be about what might be possible with online publication. Since so many exhibits are time limited, by the time a reviewer visits, reviews, the review is published, then a reader sees it and wants to visit, the exhibit might be closed or they might only have a short time. Perhaps online capsule reviews might serve as a resource. Of course, maintaining an active online presence online can mean more work, though it is possible the journal might be headed in that direction as well and provide opportunities.

Bruton announced that she is the web editor for the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS), which is now creating a history of science travel guide and is soliciting reviews. Many TEMSIG members expressed interest in the project, and Bruton promised to send the link for the minutes.

With time drawing short, Marsh made two short announcements. First, Ann Johnson (U. South Carolina) and Marsh are in the planning stages for a conference on the public history of science and technology. Look for an email with further details. Second, Marsh is working on an exhibit about nanotech, and requested that TEMSIG members (and any others) fill out a "front end evaluation" worksheet. She handed out paper copies and requested they be returned to her during the conference. Nystrom suggested sending a PDF of the worksheet to the email list as well.

Meeting adjourned, 6:25pm.


Respectfully submitted,

Eric Nystrom, Vice Chair
October 7, 2010

[Posted to TEMSIG list March 20, 2010]