I have been fortunate to attend a few THATCamps connected to academic conferences for historians, and I have wanted to work with others to create a THATCamp (and, we hope, a series of unconferences) rooted in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. UNO and USM folk from various backgrounds started to collaborate on digital projects several years ago via content development for the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, whose project funding birthed the precursor to Omeka. Therefore, we sought to begin the process of making connections and building a community that transcends the typical borders separating people engaged in digital projects.
One of the best features of THATCamps is their ability to facilitate interdisciplinary exchanges. The conversations that take place when librarians, archivists, museum curators, graduate students, K-12 faculty, public historians, humanities faculty, and others gather together are invaluable. I hope our first gathering will help us to develop a supportive community. I had the pleasure of teaching history and writing classes in a computer classroom starting in 1993 and presenting at Computers & Writing in 1997, so I know how much good comes from getting out of disciplinary ruts or sinkholes.
Maybe we will come up with some solutions to a few of the common problems facing most who work on noncommercial digital projects in the Deep South:
*lack of funding and/or the constant threat of losing meager funding sources;
*lack of administrative support, including attention to key issues such as time & labor & technical support; and
*lack of interest and/or respect for non-commercial digital work, regardless of whether it’s presented as “digital humanities” and if DH’s time as the latest academic fad may seem to have come (and gone).
The arrival of Gena Chattin and Jennifer Jackson on UNO’s campus in concert with the long-term interest shown by Jeanne Pavy and others at UNO as well as Jeanne Gillespie and Diane Ross on USM’s campus have served as the catalyzing energies that have allowed us to move forward. More recently, UNO’s History Department has partnered with Vicki Mayer in Tulane’s Communication Department for a mobile history (ios and Android or Google Play) project using omeka known as neworleanshistorical.org.
Let’s begin to collaborate to build a more effective DH community.