Category Archives: Portfolio

Toolkit for developing a community of digital history makers with your own GLAM Cyber Cafe’

Sometimes creating in the digital heritage space can feel lonely, if not thankless. It has always been challenging but it has been especially true in the COVID era. Virtual meetings have been a coping mechanism, but there’s nothing like being in the same room together while the ideas flow.  As we seek to find a way to connect with one another again, I thought I’d share some tips and models you can use to bring like-minded digital folks together where you are, whether it be virtual or in person. 

Active Meetups

I’ll start with a few models that are currently out there, and then go into the idea surrounding a model that I specifically developed.

  • Wiki Salon: Folks in the Wiki space are holding Wiki Salons. As of this writing they are mostly virtually through Zoom. These usually present a theme for creating or editing articles in Wikipedia and The Commons. Here’s an event listing from a New York group and a Philadelphia group. Here are general instructions on holding a Wiki meetup.
  • THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp. This was inspired by the old BarCamp concept. Sadly, the organization behind THATCamp has died. However, the concept behind still exists on the old site.
  • CodeforAmerica is back and holding hybrid virtual/in-person meetings. This is the big one, that seeks out ways to make government work better through meaningful presentations of data and development of useful digital tools. They have a summit scheduled in May 2022. There are also regional groups in cities across the U.S., though most seem to be on hiatus.
  • Also in Philly, there’s a Maker’s Meetup that is about 3D printing+++ .
  • Other digital humanities groups on Meetup.com.

The GLAM Café Concept

When I was volunteering for the Philly Digital Humanities group, I proposed the idea of the GLAM Café as a monthly coffeehouse-style event that would extend the organization’s good work and good will during the once-a-year THATCamp throughout the year. Its purpose more broadly was to afford digital heritage enthusiasts and professionals in the Philadelphia region a regular opportunity to connect, collaborate and learn from one another. We held it from 5-8 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. The museum conference center I worked for provided the space, and snacks were sponsored. Though I moved to Miami in 2014, the GLAM Café continued for several years after.

Checklists

Below you can find the checklists and considerations that I used to plan the GLAM Café. And you can check this Google Drive link to find logo and signage templates, as well as images from the events we coordinated in Philly.

Buzz-Builders

  • Door Prizes & Swag: Stickers, pens, overstock from institution gift shops and publications.
  • Podcasts & Blog Posts featuring participant projects
  • DH “Angel”: A help desk at the meetup for helping to orient newcomers, or provide perspective to help people become unstuck with their projects.
  • “Theme Nights” For Archives, Archaeology, Historic Preservation, Etc., with a specialist guest from the field.

One Hour Before Event Start
Setup Digital Help Desk on non-GLAM Cafe Tuesdays. Send broadcast announcement

@Meetup Group Page

Use forum function for virtual white papers (and discussions)

Active Projects

Featured “Follow Tuesday” GLAMCafe’r: Profile on projector with project working on.

Materials to Order/Create

  • Branded paper coffee cups
  • Flyers: Promote/debut at museum events
  • Promo business & postcards, e.g. http://us.moo.com/ distributed @THATCamps
  • Name tags
  • Promo contest (win a travel mug by collecting 10 cards) 

“Connecting” Resources

  • Literature stand for digital humanities white papers (invite people to contribute their own)
  • Large screen with Wikipedia Project Page displayed
  • iPad with Meetup.com group set up (for folks to register, or add their project ideas)
  • iPad showing video on loop of GLAM topics
  • Name tags (with color code interest “tagging”?
  • Streaming chats/hangouts that talk about a case study
  • Power strips!
  • Loyalty card with an attached service prize 

Ambiance

  • Locate “set dressing”
  • Directional signs
  • Promotional material
  • Projection of logo on whiteboard
  • Create “nooks” with furniture and lighting
  • Soft music
  • Live tweet stream projected
  • Projects board
  • Coffee smell
  • Barista with espresso
  • iPad co-working stations 

Outcomes and Outputs

  • Poster/booklet/screen display of online projects people can “adopt.” Unassigned
  • Build audience advocates for digital and social media
  • Build a brain trust of digital leaders to strengthen digital initiatives Unassigned
  • Offer digital learning opportunities for staff

Logisitics

  • Confirm coffee and food with conference center
  • Confirm SPACE with the conference center
  • Set up coffee cart
  • Set up brainstorming tools around the space: whiteboards, easels with paper and markers

Audiences/Partners/Advocates
Primarily local, and select regional groups. These are folks with an interest in consistently using digital tools to communicate.

  • Area Museums
  • Wikipedia Groups
  • Area historical societies

Core Collaborators

DH community
GLAM Institutions
Area Wikipedians 

Example of Reporting and Metrics

(Sample report from Philly GLAM Café) 

At least 36 people attended, about half of whom were involved in PhillyDH. People interested in Wikipedia started arriving around 4.30, and mostly left by 7.00 or 7.30. PhillyDH people arrived between 5.00 and 6.30 and stayed until 8.00. PhillyDH held a breakout meeting from 6.00 to 8.00. There is overlap between the two groups, so having rolling times may work well.

The large round tables in the GLAM room worked well; we should have 4 or 5 of them next time instead of 3. The lounge-style seating was used somewhat in the beginning, but not once the groups broke apart. We may want to have some available. People rearranged the tables in the breakout room into a rough circle so that they could all see each other during their meeting. They may break into smaller working groups next time. The small rectangular tables are good there because they are easy to rearrange. The lighting was good.

Having a mix of sweet and protein in the snacks is important. The Greek yogurt was popular. Bagels with cream cheese would be a good choice as well. Cookies, danishes or biscotti are all good complements. All three drink options (coffee, tea, water) were used.

We should plan to accommodate those who come early. For the next GLAM Cafe, the PhillyDH breakout group plans to meet from 6.30 to 8.00, giving people time to attend the GLAM Cafe beforehand. There was a sense that the first meeting was largely a meet-and-greet, and that people would like the next meeting to be more work-oriented (focused on getting things done more than on talking).

Email Notification Format and language

Hi folks,

Beginning Nov. 12 we’ll have a regular opportunity to  connect, share and collaborate with digital heritage enthusiasts and professionals alike when the “GLAM Café” debuts at [PLACE]. The GLAM Café is a coffeehouse-style event brought to you in partnership with [GROUP]. Come by any time between 5-8 p.m. to join in. If you enjoy it, mark your calendar for future meetups on the second Tuesday of each month.

Why Should I Come?

Sometimes it’s easy to become so focused on our own institution and its immediate needs that we forget we’re all part of a larger community of Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (often referred to as GLAM institutions). Those working in this community are facing many of the same issues we do as a cultural heritage institution in the digital age. We all have unique experiences and perspectives that, when shared, can collectively lighten the load and make the path to digital success clearer.

What should I bring?

  • Bring your curiosity: You’ll have access to expertise ranging  from social media to web exhibits to Linked Open Data and beyond.
  • Bring your ideas: You can also find a project to participate in or potentially even a collaborator for your ideas.
  • Bring yourself!: The point of this meetup is to provide a time, space and support for making progress on GLAM-related digital projects that don’t seem to fit into your schedule otherwise. Feel free to just claim some sofa territory and work solo on that Wikipedia entry you always wanted to correct, or grab a white paper and read up on what others are working on.

Whether you want to socialize, study, or mercilessly hack some poor unsuspecting data set, please come enjoy coffee and snacks in a relaxed atmosphere. 

How can I participate?

If you’re looking to be part of a discussion group, you’ll have two breakaway opportunities at this event:

  1. A digital humanities discussion.
  2. An interest meeting for a planned Hack-a-thon that helps GLAM institutions open up their data for more impact.

To learn more about the folks you might meet at this event and to receive regular reminders of these events, visit the meetup group at the following link: [Insert Link Here]

And please share this announcement with anyone you think may be interested!

Many Hands Make Light Work

Hosting this event was one the most fulfilling things I did during my time in Philly. It made my day job easier by having creative people to bounce ideas and challenges off of. And it’s just so much easier to face those challenges with a community of like-minded people. This concept is very scalable, so I hope you’ll use these tools as a foundation and start your own!

If you know of any other active meetups that I missed, feel free to post them in the comments here.

Case Study: Yours Truly, an interactive archives project

Archival documents play a critical role in shaping the human story of a cultural site. In many ways they are the closest we can get to understanding the intent behind the creation of such places. Yet very few visitors are able to access them, or know where to start when those archives are available online as part of a collections management system. Over the course of 2020-2021, I managed development of a project that leveraged human-centered design principles to contextualize archival correspondence and humanize the founder of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens while illustrating some of the thinking that went into teh Estate’s construction.

“Yours Truly, James Deering” (virtualvizcaya.com) helps visitors to Vizcaya as well as online audiences get an answer to their most-asked question: who founded the Estate and why? Despite his great wealth, James Deering was a private person who did not marry or have children. What we know of him comes from the letters and telegrams he wrote during the construction of Vizcaya in the 1910s, which to this point have been inaccessible to the public. This project fashions his correspondence into an online storytelling experience that gives the user choices regarding what aspects of Deering’s personality they want to explore and guides them into a process of crafting their own narrative about who he was.

On-site visitors are able to activate the mobile experience through QR codes placed in the museum and gardens. Aside from the digitized letters, the experience also extends the narrative with additional multimedia content (e.g., 3D scans, 360 maps, etc.). Collectively, Yours Truly offers visitors context, discovery and surprise in Vizcaya’s storytelling approach.

Human-Centered Design

In 2019 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation asked Vizcaya to participate in a cohort aimed at instilling the values of human-centered design in museums. That involvement resulted in the Yours Truly concept.

The project’s goals and outcomes include the following:

  • Established a digitization plan for archival materials
  • Procured modern digitization equipment and digitized more than 3,000 pieces of correspondence
  • Development of a responsive content management system based on WordPress that forms the basis of all future interactive experiences on the Estate and online
  • Human-centered design process that is now applied for all audience-facing projects
  • Installation of site-wide wireless access for visitors to the Estate
  • Experimentation with expanded forms of multimedia storytelling
  • Development of a user/visitor tracking system “Personamatic” based on Google Sheets/Forms/Data Studio for user studies

CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE A PDF CASE STUDY OF THE PROJECT

User Expectations

Team members worked to avoid prescribed interpretations of James Deering’s correspondence, wanting Vizcaya’s visitors/users to gain an appreciation of them based on their interpretation of his words. In the age of smartphones and tablets and times of pandemic, expectations for interactive technologies have changed significantly. The initial intent was to heavily use kiosks stationed throughout the museum that would be updated via a newly established wireless access mesh. With the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, the development team shifted to using a bring-your-own-device model to access the experience triggered by QR codes on signage throughout the Estate.

Visitors can often be seen in museums using pinch-and-zoom gestures, swiping, and scrolling through content. In much the same way, expectations have also changed regarding how museums and heritage institutions tell these stories effectively. The goal is to create enough novelty and intrigue—use just enough narrative to evoke emotion, inspire memories from the experience—to leave the user with a thirst to know James Deering in the museum and beyond. Vizcaya worked to achieve these objectives with an approach that will inform its future interactive endeavors.

Experience goals based on user testing and capabilities of the technology/online platform

  • Establishes “hooks” (highlighting letter excerpts) to provide focus considering the depth and complexity presented in the content.
  • Refine narratives and navigation keys to improve satisfaction for onsite or remote users in reading and using the interactive experience.
  • Foster user curiosity and encourage deeper exploration of collections with interest-based drop-down options for digital media within the platform.
  • Host a creative platform to reimagine James Deering’s personal life and business trades by combining digitized archives and other digital media.
  • Enhancing onsite and virtual visitor engagement by creating feedback mechanisms for sentiment, reflections and feature requests.
    Explore-by-Map interface in which users can find context-driven content using the floor plan of the Main House.

Digital Strategy Components Advanced during this project

Interactive Experiences CMS
Yours Truly establishes a scalable content management system that serves as a repository for Vizcaya’s archival and object collections, and platform that allows contextual ties that engage users.

Personamatic Audience Studies Platform
Yours Truly is the first project to leverage this unique mix of Google Forms, Sheets and Data Studio to record and visualize audience testing feedback. As data from additional projects is added, the more refined and powerful our audience analysis will become.

Beyond Vizcaya Storytelling Platform
Beyond Vizcaya (also funded by Knight) is an emerging multimedia storytelling platform wherein content has the potential to be co-created by audiences. The lessons learned from Yours Truly development directly informed the structure and technologies behind this platform. With both, Vizcaya is learning how to tell stories in the digital space.

Sitewide Wireless
Vizcaya underwent a total replacement of its IT infrastructure as Yours Truly was beginning. As part of the process of making Yours Truly available to on-site visitors in a bring-your-own-device scenario, Vizcaya was able to offer wireless access to the public for the first time, covering most of the Main House and some of the gardens.

Digitization Infrastructure
Also as part of Yours Truly, Vizcaya developed its first plan for archives digitization and was able to procure modern equipment, as well as the needed help, to make part of the correspondence collection accessible for the first time. Additionally, Vizcaya was able to add four terabytes of storage to its servers to store the digitized collections and their derivatives.

Natchitoches Historic Foundation: Community-Based Preservation Nonprofit

English: River Walk, Natchitoches, Louisiana
English: River Walk, Natchitoches, Louisiana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I served on the board of the Natchitoches Historic Foundation throughout much of the 2000s. NHF focuses on preservation, education and advocacy of cultural heritage in my hometown of Natchitoches, La. My work was focused on promotions and design of print and digital assets.

Brochure Newsletter Writing and Design

The newsletter was still in print at that point, and I took it to a process color quadfold, designing it in Adobe Indesign. It conveyed the necessary information in a concise, easy-to-consume manner.

Tradeshow Display conceptualization and design

NHF held numerous events, and was looking to take its message to events by others during that time. I put together the design shown below, which was printed, laminated and adhered with velcro to a trifold tabletop fabric display.

Gala Invite Postcard

This print postcard was used to promote NHF’s biggest fundraiser, the Preservation Gala. It’s a simple black-and-white design accented with fall colors. The design and typography echos the look and feel of the membership newsletter.

Sacred Places Tour Poster

One of NHF’s most popular events was the annual tour of American Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the state. Community members would tell the stories of those interred while dressed in period costume. In 2006, the tour was renamed the Sacred Places Tour and expanded to churches and other sacred sites of historical significance. NHF hired a professional photographer to capture representative scenes from these places and I designed the 16×20″ posters below, which were used to promote the event.

Website

It was NHF’s website where I first cut my teeth on WordPress. As in, I developed the site as seen below and then exploded it and had to start over. It was developed with an early StudioPress theme.

NHF 07 website

Heritage Education: A national model for instilling cultural stewardship

During my National Park Service years, I was privileged to work on a project initiated by Congress to serve as a national model for heritage education. This included development of the marketing and promotional material to communicate with participating teachers and program supporters.

The initiative was piloted as Heritage Education–Louisiana. Classroom teachers, preservation specialists, and learning professionals were consulted to ensure that the program met preservation ethics and provided professional development for teachers in innovative and evolving educational theology and techniques.

Meeting the needs of classroom teachers who must not only cover curriculum standards and benchmarks, but must also consider high-stakes testing, the program aided teachers in creating integrated lessons and activities that use local cultural resources such as archaeological sites, historic structures, and cultural landscapes as the foundation.

Workshops, Mini Grants, a website and quarterly newsletters were avenues by which the program strove to meet its goals of:

  • Enhancing and enriching Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum;
  • Instilling a sense of cultural stewardship in tomorrow’s leaders; and
  • Serving as a national model for other states.

The program lost its congressional funding after the pilot phase, and limped along until about 2010, but it’s still a worthy model for heritage education. Everyone who participated in it saw its value. You can read more about some of the resulting products and activities at its legacy web presence.

Outstanding products include:

The Summary Report embedded below won an Addy Gold Award for best print publication. It was developed with a matching program brochure and website.

Heritage Education Summary Report by jkguin on Scribd

Heritage Education Brochure by jkguin on Scribd

Heritage Lessons was a quarterly newsletter for and about teachers in the program.

Heritage Lessons Summer 04 Newsletter by jkguin on Scribd

Interpretive animations can activate audience connections to history

For me, enjoying a museum visit has always required a leap of imagination. After all, a glass case or a room barrier inherently separates you from objects. Interpretive animations as short-form video are one way to get a visitor into a state where they can better understand the context is which a space, object or event “lived” its historical purpose due to its interaction with humans.

I experimented with this concept as part of a partnership with University of the Arts in Philadelphia and my colleague, Michal Meyer. Abstracting the object or story with animation really helped focus on imaginative storytelling and more effective interpretation.

Here is a playlist of animations produced as part of this partnership.

Some are definitely better than others, but they increased in quality as we refined the process. One challenge related to this experience (where we were working with a class) is that there is much work in getting the students up to speed on the meaning of the content and desired outcomes for audiences. These were also semester-long projects for an animation class, so they are several months in production. Some animations were never quite finished.

Overall, I think they turned out wonderfully. My personal favorite is an animation of an old alchemical painting the organization had, which explained what was going on through the eyes of a creature featured in it. Here’s a preview to the high-resolution source image for that from Wikimedia Commons (click for original):

Interpretive animations Interior of a Laboratory with an Alchemist 17th century David Teniers II.tif
Interior of a Laboratory with an Alchemist by David Teniers II, 17th Century

I saw that painting almost every workday for three years. It captured my imagination all on its own, and was a no-brainer for this project. To give these project some extra attention, we “premiered” these as part of a live webcast that featured a graphic novelist and a comic book historian.

Drawing History: Telling the Stories of Science through Comics and Graphic Novels from ChemHeritage on Vimeo.

There are many examples of museums using animations as pre-visit prep (manners in the museum) as seen below, but few featuring sophisticated storytelling and animation.

There are also examples of animations being used in museum interactives, such as these at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

I looked for examples of interpretive animations produced by other cultural institutions, and they are hard to find. If you know of something out there, please link to it in the comments. Of course, there are many examples of object-inspired animated GIFs being used throughout social media, but that’s another post.

Products from my life as a one-man National Park Service communications maven in the early days of social media

 
For ten years, beginning in 2001, I worked at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a research center dedicated to the use of technology for historic preservation.  I was a one-man marketing, public/media relations and design department. Over the course of that time, my work included creating the following:
  • Newsletters (email and print)
  • Marketing materials (postcards, flyers, etc.)
  • Product catalogs for research
  • Planning and executing a website redesign with the resident developer
  • Creating the National Park Service’s first social media channels
  • Creating the first social media strategy for a heritage research institution
  • Development of the first preservation-themed podcast
  • Livestreamed trainings
  • Training videos
  • Organizing community events

Embedded below are collateral coming out of that time, including my scrapbook of products from then. Tools used included Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut and WordPress. It was a creative and fruitful time, getting in on the ground floor of the social media movement of the mid-2000s.