What’s Next?

When I arrived in Fairfax in August 2004 to begin a post-doc at the Center for History and New Media, I didn’t have plans to stay for more than a couple of years. We can all see that that was demonstrably wrong.

Now, at the close of my 13th year,  I am excited to announce that I have accepted a position an Associate Professor in the History Department in the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. I will also be a core participant in the College of Arts and Letters’ Critical Diversity in a Digital Age Initiative. As much as I will miss my friends and colleagues at George Mason, especially the Public Projects group at RRCHNM, I am looking forward to new ventures and to carrying the lessons that I’ve learn along the way with me to MSU.

The seeds of most of those lessons were sown by Roy. I got to spend just over three years working with Roy Rosenzweig before he died in October 2007. I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but his spirit and his ethic have had a profound effect on the way that I approach my work and my relationships. I am endlessly grateful for that time. Roy’s way in the world was to be open, collaborative, and constructive. Our goal was to do the best work we could and leave a model for others who wanted to follow in our footsteps. Roy valued engagement with the public and cultural heritage organizations of all shapes and sizes, and he was dedicated to striking the right balance between well-informed, standards-based technical practices and the human and ethical demands of the work.

More than anything, Roy taught me how fully dependent we are on collaboration. We can do nothing without the talents, skills, and deep knowledge of our colleagues — the whole team of developers, designers, and content experts. We all do this work together, and I could not have had a better set of collaborators. Sheila Brennan, Tom Scheinfeldt, and Dan Cohen were and are so deeply filled with Roy’s spirit and vision and commitments that they helped me uphold and share the things that we hold as central to doing ethical public, digital work. Together with the Public Projects team and the graduate research assistants who have joined us along the way, they have challenged me and taught me how to lead a team of incredibly smart and creative people.

During my time at RRCHNM, I have had the honor of working on 36 projects — big and small and lots of shapes and sizes, supported by 19 different public and private funders, with 17 collaborating organizations (some more than once), and 21 staff and research faculty (and many, many GRAs). I am so proud of the work that we’ve built together. There are, of course, the individual projects, from the very earliest education work [HTM | OOH], to the award-winning public history work [Bracero History Archive | Histories of the National Mall]. But more than anything, I’m proud of the software projects that facilitate community engagement [Scripto | Papers of the War Dept.] and serve as the engines and infrastructure for so much DH work [Omeka | Omeka.net | Omeka S], and the communities of practice — of learners [DoingDH] and users — that have grown up around them. Around the edges of those project and management demands, I finished a book and I moved through the tenure process in the History and Art History department at Mason, where I have had the pleasure of helping to prepare the next generation of digital historians.

In the last couple of years, I have managed to start two other projects — important ones, I think, that deserve some concentrated focus. And those projects will absorb my attention in the immediate future. Thanks to the generosity of MSU and an NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication for the 2017-2018 academic year, I’ll be able to concentrate on “Re-Presenting the Enslaved Community Owned and Sold by the Maryland Province Jesuits.” Then, I’ll turn my attention to completing User-Centered Digital History: Doing Public History on the Web.

In the fall of 2018, I will take up my place in the History department in East Lansing. I’m looking forward to teaching digital history and working with the great team that is forming at MSU (joining the existing crew at Matrix and LEADR). This exciting group will have the opportunity to research, write, build, and teach in the spirit of openness and collaboration that has become central to my understanding of what is core to moving the digital humanities forward. I anxiously await the work that we will do together, focusing on using digital methods in just, critical, and intersectional ways to answer important questions about about the past.

Comments 13

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *