All posts by Jeffery Guin

Jeff Guin is a communications practitioner who is experienced in new media, digital humanities and heritage preservation. His personal mission is to help people discover and protect their cultural heritage through the web.

Paging the Past: No Greater Valor and the role of faith in a pivotal WWII battle

No Greater Valor: The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle That Sealed Allied Victory Book Cover No Greater Valor: The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle That Sealed Allied Victory
Jerome R. Corsi Ph.D.
Nonfiction
Thomas Nelson
October 28, 2014
Hardcover
384
http://www.amazon.com/No-Greater-Valor-Bastogne-Miracle/dp/1595555218/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424259376&sr=1-1&keywords=no+greater+valor

The role of faith in the military is a worthy subject as it plays a key role in a successful military. Surrounded by death, faith is both weapon and defense. In "No Greater Valor," author Jerome Corsi explores the role of faith in delivering the "Christmas Miracle" at Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II.

The narrative focuses specifically on American military faith in the Christian tradition. It’s a fair thesis in the context of the time and place of the subject matter. And, on the whole, the book is an engaging, solidly researched narrative about the beliefs of the people who experienced this chain of events.

There are several good stories encapsulated throughout the larger narrative. The stories are told from multiple perspectives using primary sources. Chiefly, this includes an exploration of General Anthony McAuliffe’s unlikely “Nuts” response to German demands for surrender. There are some good folkloric elements as well, such as the story of an eleven-man “ghost patrol” that advanced peacefully through no-man’s-land into American lines unchallenged and then disappeared into legend.

The legend of this moment in time extends to three tellings of the origins of “The Patton Prayer” by Chaplain James High O’Neill. This prayer was composed at the behest of General Patton for clear weather for battle, and printed on a Christmas card and distributed to soldiers. The prayer was credited for the unexpected break in bad weather on Dec. 23, 1944, that allowed American fighting planes to repel the Germans while other resupply aircraft relieved Bastogne’s suffering. The fortunate weather also earned O’Neill a medal from Patton.

If you’re interested in this as a historical work, you’ll find it more credible if you skip the author's hyperbolic introduction. Among other things, his remarks connect the end of "don't ask, don't tell" to the conjectural court martial of chaplains who refuse to marry same-sex military officers. The next sentence wonders at the likelihood of the banning of the Christian Bible from military bases.

The final chapter makes a more reasoned argument regarding the role of a moral code for keeping a nation united for the greater good. In “No Greator Valor,” Corsi accomplishes his goal in “picking up the pieces of history, and confronting the puzzles of the past” through compelling storytelling about people whose strength of character made a difference in a pivotal moment in time.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Book Review: Dek Unu

Dek Unu: Another Tomorrow Book Cover Dek Unu: Another Tomorrow
Gor De Meel
New Generation Publishing
November 24, 2014
http://www.amazon.com/Dek-Unu-Tomorrow-Gor-Meel/dp/1910266442/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428173861&sr=8-1&keywords=dek+unu

When I read a book review that says “I could not put this book down” I’m always a bit skeptical. But Dek Unu qualifies for this superlative statement. The only thing I knew about it when I started to read it was that it had some archaeology in it, and one of the early quotes that hooked me is “Knowledge of the past is knowledge of ourselves, he kept telling himself. If we don’t take history to heart, we have no future.”

While it contains those heritage values I hold dear, it more so blends my other favorite genres—Sci-Fi, fantasy and post-apocalyptic fiction to create the most pleasantly surprising read I’ve experienced in a while. The book is built in layers, with each piece of the narrative taking a slightly different approach as the story builds. Why did mankind fall? Who are the Protectors and what is their interest in us? What the destiny of the select children? Is life without faith a life of choice?

There are many intriguing plot and philosophical issues, but what makes this book shine is the skill of the narrative. It’s clean, well paced and entirely natural. Something you want to savor. Whether it’s debate among scholars or violence in the back alleys, Dek Unu is always accessible. With all the mysteries, the biggest remains who is Gor de Meel, author of such coolness?

Note: This book was provided as a review copy from the publisher

Book Review: The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig

The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig: A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants & the Recipes That Made Them Famous Book Cover The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig: A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants & the Recipes That Made Them Famous
Chris Chamberlain
http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodies-Guide-Pig-Restaurants/dp/1401605028/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428172157&sr=8-1&keywords=the+southern+foodies+guide+to+the+pig

It's about history, it's about food, it's about the South! During my time in the North, I sought out little bits of southernness I could find. The Southern Foodies Guide to the Pig by Chris Chamberlain is one of those gems that fed my soul, and my mouth. Subtitled “A Culinary Tour of 50 of the South’s best Restaurants and the Recipes that Made Them Famous,” the book more than lives up to its promise.

  • Favorite profile: What sets this book apart is its interviews with the “masters” who make the meat. People like The Pit Master Pat Martin of the Fatback Collective, who raise awareness of heritage hogs and cook whole hogs around the country. The process for whole-hog cooking is described in g(l)orious detail.
  • Favorite Hint: 8 Ways to Use Bacon Grease made my mouth water and brought back fond memories of my grandmother’s cornbread (hint: use a tablespoon of it to grease your skillet before you bake).
  • Favorite tidbit: Then there are the nuggets of folks wisdom and myth busting between chapters. For example, “Wild hogs used to roam the fields of the lower end of Manhattan. Farmers had to build a wall to keep the pigs from digging up their crops. The street that ran alongside this wall became known as ‘Wall Street’.”
  • Favorite Recipe: Tennessee Whiskey Sauce
  • Meal for my bucket list: Central BBQ Baked Beans, Fresh green peas with new potatoes, fried apples, and double-cut pork chops with dirty rice. Blackberry crisp for dessert.

I’m back in the southerly regions now and looking forward to going home to Louisiana this summer to make that meal with my extended family. Thank you Mr. Chamberlain for sharing your storytelling and culinary skills with us in this Southern Foodies Guide.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Case Study: Alchemical Quest Rare Books Museum Interactive

alchem quest

In 2012, I managed development of a museum exhibit interactive called The Alchemical Quest, which supported an exhibit of rare books. The books originated during the golden age of alchemy, from the 16th and 17th centuries and were drawn from the collections of the Othmer Library of Chemical History. The report below documents the project team’s efforts to make these texts accessible and alive to visitors via touch projection technology.

Project Goals:

  • Reinforce the depth and complexity presented in the exhibition content
  • Implicitly reiterate the exhibition narratives while allowing for visitors to enjoy the imagery of the books through the interactive experience
  • Provide visitors with alternate means of experiencing the books in the exhibition
  • Foster curiosity and encourage deeper exploration of images and text
  • Demonstrate an example of an alchemical process in its entirety
  • Reflect the fantastical and practical balance found within the books

 

Case Study: Museum Interactive for The Alchemical Quest Exhibit by jkguin

 

 

20 years later, I finally understand what college media leadership taught me

 

current sauce teaser

 

My career is in digital media now, and I’m grateful for that. But my younger self romanticized the notion of being a newspaper journalist.  Almost 20 years later, the university student newspaper I edited is celebrating 100 years of publication and digitization of its archive. Its tradition may not be yet be gone with the wind, but is certainly being buffeted by modern reality. Here are my thoughts looking back on that time.]

As a painfully introverted Northwestern State University pre-forestry major in 1990, I made one of those classic freshman errors that changes the direction of one’s life forever. In my case, it was taking Intro to Mass Comm class as an elective, a move that derailed any dreams of making a career among trees and not people. Following one class, instructor Tom Whitehead declared I should be writing for the paper and that he was sending me to meet the Current Sauce editor in the journalism suite.

I couldn’t immediately think of an excuse not to, which destined me to spend the remainder of my college life working in the “J-Lab.” It was a indeed a laboratory where an experimental tradition of combined curiosity, tenacity and vision manifested in journalism that reflected ourselves as much as the world around us.

My time as editor-elect was when I first discovered my life’s purpose, though the emergence of social media a decade later that would finally give form to it. It was a time of dreaming about what my paper might be like, and exploring the wonder of historical perspective by looking back through the archives dating back to the earliest Current Sauce issues —identifying the best parts of its legacy, and evolving them with a new generation of writers and editors.

Our “experiments” were published on Tuesday morning, usually after a bleary all-nighter. Still we all anticipated noon, when we could savor a printed copy of our creation. The savoring slowly turned to stewing with each typo found leading up to 3 o’clock. For that was the appointed hour we assembled on that stickiest of all wickets—Media Writing Class, which began with the gang …er,.. group critique of the paper led by Dr. Sara Burroughs. If you are familiar with the character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice, you have a sense of Dr. Burroughs.

Indeed, a weekly beating with a cricket bat would have been the quicker and less painful experience than those critiques. They examined every possible element of journalistic decision making that went into the issue—style, tone, grammar, placement, length and even design. The most thorough contributions came from classmates who had not (nor even cared to) write for the newspaper. The experience introduced me to the nuance of three critical career lessons:

  1. Fight fearlessly for the things that matter.
  2. Recognize a stalemate and change the conversation if you can.
  3. Take it on the chin when it’s due but always keep moving forward.

The beauty of the critiques is that they inspired more determination than defeat. If there was one thing wish I could have done better, it would have been to learn these lessons earlier in my college career and express much more gratitude for my co-editors both as people and as journalists capable of leading the paper in their own right. The talent, work ethic and diversity we had on staff that year was a source of endless conflict, but a profoundly rare gift.

We blew off steam like all proper journalism nerds—with more work. On publishing a tabloid “April Fools” insert along with the regular 12-page broadsheet, Tommy congratulated me on producing the most expensive issue of the Current Sauce ever. I congratulated him on witnessing publication of the Current Sauce’s finest edition ever. Around that time the editorial staff road tripped to Atlanta for the SSPJ conference where the Current Sauce was in competition for the first time. For all our bravado, no one was more shocked that us when we took home several awards, including an honorable mention for best overall newspaper.

We were fortunate to share one more unexpected and gratifying moment that meant more than an award. It was the end of the spring semester and the editorial staff were visibly worse for wear when we assembled for one of our last meetings. Suddenly, Dr. Burroughs appeared in the office—the first time I could recall seeing her in the suite. “This was an exceptional year for the paper,” she said. “Certainly, we’ve torn it to pieces every week, but I just wanted you all to know that.” With a wink she was off, like St. Nick.

Nearly 20 years later, I’ve worked in the digital media space in Center City Philadelphia, and am about to embark on a new adventure in Miami Beach. Two very different cultural environments than where I came from, yet I still find the lessons from that time enduring and influential. The cycles of experimentation and evolution, and the continual refinement finding one’s place in the world can be painful, but they are the ingredients of a legacy that spans generations.

As part of the celebration of the newspaper’s 100th year, Northwestern State University scanned every issue of the Current Sauce and recently put them on archive.org. Here’s the newspaper from my year as editor of “The Sauce.” What wonderful memories!

Case Study: Livestreamed Interactive Webcasts for Cultural Institutions

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

In 2013, as part of my work managing digital initiatives at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, I created a livestreamed program titled #HistChem to establish a deeper dialog with CHF’s audiences around topics of history, science and culture.

Among the program’s objectives:

  • Make the institution accessible by featuring its people, collections and research initiatives
  • Unify traditional & social media platforms
  • Spark compelling conversations about History & SciTech
  • Track effectiveness through metrics & social curation tools

A channel of the program’s episodes can be accessed here: https://vimeo.com/channels/789012

You can access the interim evaluation report with tips for other cultural institutions wishing to adopt livestreaming as well. View it below or by accessing this link: scribd.com/doc/232511146/Program-Report-Livestreaming-Engagement-Model-for-Cultural-Heritage

Program Report: Livestreaming Engagement Model for Cultural Heritage by jkguin

Laura Bang on classroom digital humanities projects at Villanova University

This podcast features a conversation with Laura Bang. Laura works with Special and Digital Collections at Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library. She’s also active in the Philadelphia Digital Humanities community, which is where we often collaborate.

She’ll tell us about two digital humanities projects built by students at Villanova. One takes a look at the heritage of the small town of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The other examines a historic manuscript from Peru. These projects are good examples of how simple ideas can preserve cultural identity … and help students learn those values while growing their digital skills.

Other links mentioned:

Voices of the Past on Twitter twitter.com/heritagevoices.

“Paging the Past” book reviews: http://voicesofthepast.org/tag/book-review/

Teaser photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/122638947@N08/13889171653

Book Review: The Impact Equation

The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? Book Cover The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
http://www.amazon.com/The-Impact-Equation-Making-Things/dp/1591844908/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Chris Brogan is a superstar in the social media world, and engagement with audiences is where he holds most sway. Written with Julien Smith( who I adore for "The Flinch"), “The Impact Equation” is a book focused almost solely on this topic. Centered around the equation “Impact = C × (R + E + A + T + E)”, Brogan and Smith detail foundational principles of influence online. Here’s the quote that hooked me:

“This book is an opportunity that comes from a moment in time. As you read it, you will discover that some of it is relevant to you and some of it isn’t. That’s okay. If you’re in a small town in central Louisiana, your needs will be different from those of someone in New York City. If you’re widely connected, you will have a vastly different experience from that of someone who is just starting out. This is expected. So judge from your surroundings . Figure out what parts of this opportunity work for you. Picture it like a game, and figure out the easiest, most effective moves to make. Do those first, and see what the results are. If you fail, no big deal. Keep trying.”

Having started my career in central Louisiana, and continued it in Philadelphia and now Miami Beach, I can say there is no better advice for the social media practitioner. This book is a philosophical complement to Kawasaki’s “Art of Social Media,” and Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” for building online influence.

Here are my Kindle notes from reading this book. My keyword takeaways, if you will:

  • Add value
  • Be human
  • Distill your message
  • Create wonder
  • Be weird
  • Pass it on

Paging the Past in “Herculaneum: Past and Future”

Herculaneum: Past and Future Book Cover Herculaneum: Past and Future
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
History › Ancient › Greece
Frances Lincoln
2011
Hardback
352

While Pompeii gets most of the play, it was Herculaneum that always seemed to capture my childhood imagination. In the book "Herculaneum: Past and Future," Dr. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill goes beyond imagination to provide a multi-faceted and compelling view of the ill-fated city.

Wallace-Hadrill crafts an engaging narrative that gives unprecedented dimension to the people of Herculaneum and their culture. Besides archaeology, the book covers, architecture, geology, preservation, conservation, anthropology, etc.This is a visually stunning coffee table-sized book that manages to be visually compelling while giving proper consideration to the narrative. More than 300 new images of Herculaneum are featured, including several fold-out panoramic photos. But this book is more than just pretty pictures. The graphs and architectural drawings (e.g. the site plans of the city and locations of excavated skeletons) add a surprising amount of depth you don't realize are typically missing in works that use a visual approach to examine scholarly cultural topics.

Herculaneum in Context

Beginning from the ground up, the first chapter examines the unique geology of the area--the cycle of seismic instability in the region that led to a constant state of repair, redecoration and reconfiguring of the structures there. The chapter also clears up misconceptions about why the city was left so well preserved. It's historic fate was set apart from Pompeii's by the direction of the wind. The chapter on the politics of archaeology poses the question: Why dig up the past? There are many motives, especially for a site whose location and history was never quite lost in the region's communal memory. The noted arrival of Charles Bourbon in the 1730s, was simply the beginning of the "glory years" in a cycle of discovery that occurred over the centuries.

Ruins Restored

The collapse of the ruins at Pompeii have been widely discussed, but researchers have recorded their concerns about decay at Herculaneum as far back as 1832 due to its being less explored by the public. Often good intentions have done more harm than good, as in the case of heavy varnishes damaging paintings and excavations collapsing original structures. This book came out of Wallace-Hadrill's involvement in a 2001 collaboration between the Packard Humanities Institute of California and the Archaeological Superintendency of Pompeii that was designed to address these concerns. This book is a treat for those interested in better understanding heritage preservation practice in historical and sociological context. The book also takes a deeper look into discovery into the conservation of individual artifacts, which has the makings of an interesting volume on its own.

English: Ancient Herculaneum (foreground), mod...
English: Ancient Herculaneum (foreground), modern Ercolano (center), and Vesuvius (horizon). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Town and its Setting

On feature of Herculaneum I find particularly enlightening is its numerous maps (historical and modern) and architectural models, which are key to keeping the reader oriented to what they're seeing and the nature of the cultural and practical influences. One of the most useful to me is a simple line map indicating the location of the Greek colonies founded in the with to sixth centuries BC and the local Oscan foundations under Etruscan influence in the same period.

The People and Culture

Along with delivering all the skeletons and imaginings of gruesome deaths one would expect, the author delivers a good bit of demographic data to fully illustrate the vibrancy and cultural diversity during the heyday of this seaport town. As he states:

The same point of death has the rare advantage, archaeologically speaking, of freezing a cross-section of the population, of different ages and social standing.

I've heard a lot about the boat sheds where many inhabitants met their deaths, and Herculaneum includes the story, photographs and even a breakdown by gender and age of the skeletons found there, and even a map that show the location and depth where they were found. The book backtracks to examine legal documents and statues of political leaders to construct a fascinating tale of the city's slave culture. Likewise, the architecture of the famous Suburban Baths attracted affluent visitors, which defined the public face of Herculaneum.

One of the most captivating stories in book details the Herculaneum Conservation Project's excavation and conservation of a marble head of a statue of an Amazon. There are photos of the half-buried artifact at the moment of discovery and an exquisite detail shot of painting around the eye. The rare preservation of the pigment (which is also extensively evident in the hair) is owed due to immediate involvement by professional conservators in its cleaning.

Standards of Living

It turns out, home size was not an indicator of class and wealth in Herculaneum. Indeed the town's growth over eras led to intriguing interpretations of architectural styles. The author usefully illustrates his insights with three-dimensional floor plans. The architecture and sculpture is most noted in these cultures since they are mostly what survived the catastrophe. Some carbonized wooden furniture survived in Herculaneum and is included. The small tables, cupboards and cradle provide a strikingly human element to this story. Perhaps because they are objects that the inhabitants would have interacted with (indeed, they look like those modern humanity uses), and not just dwelt in or admired.

The author thoroughly contextualizes class, architecture and everyday living. Most interesting was the Conservation Project's excavation of the sewers beneath the Palaestra block. The sewer was divided into one-meter lengths and excavated stratigraphically. Occasional sandy layers marked flood events. The finds there reveal more about the daily lives of the inhabitants as their art and architecture.

The Tale of Two Cities

The book's penultimate chapter provides an interesting comparison between Pompeii and Herculaneum. As the author states:

Put Pompeii and Herculaneum together, and it is like looking through two eyes. They may be close together, but that is enough to restore a sense of depth. It is because they are both similar and different that they give us a more three-dimensional view.

Here we learn that Herculaneum was a relative "small town" compared to Pompeii's metropolis. They had different political standings. Part of our fascination with Pompeii may be its famed brothels or the fact that it was one of the best places in the world to study gladiatorial games. The intimacy and complex personal relationships of Herculaneum's inhabitants put a damper on vice.

The Future of the Past

Wallace-Hadrill concludes "Herculaneum" fittingly with an analysis of the town's present, and the challenges it continues to face. These cities, though ironically well preserved by the disaster that befell them, were fundamentally damaged by it. Now exposed, their conservation is an ongoing challenge. This is especially true in Herculaneum, where carbonized material like structural wood beams are being held together by wax treatments. The politics of competing interests has played a role and has been famously blamed for structural failures in Pompeii in recent years,

Still, there are conservation victories, like the "House of the Gems" which is illustrated with before-and-after photographs. Regarding expansion of excavation versus conservation of what's already been unearthed, the author's closing thoughts comment on Herculaneum's being likened to a time capsule...

But a buried treasure lies secure for future generations. For our own generation, it is enough to appreciate the extraordinary value of the treasure that has already been dug up, to look after its merits, and to pass it on to future generations.

Note: This book was a review copy provided by the publisher. More information can be found at www.franceslincoln.com

 

 

Strategy Kit: Goals, Objectives and Tactics for #DigitalHeritage Outreach Planning

The pervasiveness of online tools makes engagement ever easier, and as a result, a less meaningful measure of influence. Conversely, planning for digital communications is often an uncomfortable and intensive process that results in more effective online initiatives by clarifying audiences and expectations. Based on my presentation at the 2013 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference, the following media will illustrate effective strategic planning approaches for organizations that seek to advocate for heritage resources through the web. Methods examined will include the development of measurable tactics to gain internal buy-in, leverage online partnerships and determine appropriate engagement tools.

Versions of this Post

  • Watch the narrated slidecast version of this post on YouTube below and be sure to subscribe to the Voices of the Past Channel for more content.
  • For a simplified version of this concept, read my previous post on Voices of the Past.
  • Download the full paper here: Digital Planning for Cultural Heritage

Please share a comment regarding digital heritage planning approaches that have worked for you. All of us who use the web to advocate for heritage resources would love to hear your story.

Background

In the decade since the widespread emergence of social media platforms, strategic planning for the web and digital media is still a rarity among heritage organizations. Often, the preferred approach is to nurture innovative ideas ahead of audience needs, or the sustainability of the approach over time. The web, digital libraries social media and mobile tools provide effective platforms for heritage advocacy, but truly leveraging these technologies means continually re-anchoring them with strategic context over the course of time. At the core of strategic concerns for digital heritage on the web are considerations of audience outreach, providing authentic interpretive experiences online, and establishing foundations for future “born digital” data. While these concerns are frequently addressed as separate issues, the effectiveness of each is highly dependent on sustainably the systems interrelate. Ultimately, digital strategy is by, and for, people— from planning to consumption. The key to successfully translating good ideas and intentions for outreach through the web and digital media is to develop them into more defined goals, objectives and tactics that can be measured for mission-based results among audiences. Illustrative elements from the strategic plans of the following heritage organizations and programs will be examined:

  • Chemical Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the history of chemistry. CHF houses a library, archives, oral history program, public museum, gallery of historic art, and visiting scholars program.
  • National Center for Preservation Technology & Training, a U.S. National Park Service research and granting agency. NCPTT advances the use of science and technology in historic preservation with programs in archaeology, architecture,landscapes and materials science.

 

STRATEGIC PLANNING COMPONENTS

Goals

Goals are simple, general statements that are rooted in mission. They are based on changing your organization’s position in reputation, relationships or the work of accomplishing mission-based directives. They are vision statements about an organization’s perfect world. They are also often the most difficult for organizations to articulate because they are impossible to ever quantifiably achieve. Because of their layered meaning, they remain evergreen and rarely need to be refashioned. Stating goals in present tense also serves as a motivational function.

Objectives

While goals function as an organizational compass, objectives define a time and place for recognizing a successful interim stop on the journey. Objectives are a critical success factor in strategic planning for digital planning for heritage organizations, but are rarely articulated because of the discomfort their specificity implies. They focus on inspiring measurable action, acceptance or awareness that make organizational goals a practical pursuit (Smith, 82-84). Eleven criteria define the ideal objective:

The strategic planning process for heritage organizations generally evolves into three levels of focus: goals, objectives and tactics. This approach can be effectively executed regardless of the size, scope or resources of an organization.

  • They support mission-based organizational goals for the organization.
  • They are focused on a specific audience.
  • They emphasize impact, not products.
  • They are rooted in research.
  • Their wording is semantically clear.
  • They are measurable.
  • They are time-defined.
  • They focus on one result from one audience.
  • They challenge the organization.
  • They are attainable.
  • They are accepted throughout the organization.

Objectives accomplish one of three outcomes. The first is awareness, or what audiences understand about an organization through simple transmittal of information. Objectives can also influence acceptance, or the emotional response felt by publics, which can foster advocacy, particularly in controversial situations. Finally, objectives can be used to inspire action for changing an existing behavior or adopting a new one.

It’s easy to report web page hits and time spent visiting a site. Establishing if that is a value and then putting a number to it is critical to establish momentum. These numbers can be determined through evaluation of an organization’s existing audience interactions or results achieved by similar organizations online. As the plan is updated and iterated over the course of time, a truer understanding of audience will develop and more targeted numbers can be assigned.

Tactics

Tactics are the tools, platforms and approaches identified in a plan that most efficiently interface with targeted audiences to accomplish organizational objectives. In social media, these may include Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

CASE STUDIES

Michigan State University Campus Archaeology

The MSU Campus Archaeology Social Media Action Plan combined vision-oriented goals with an aggressive schedule of posting procedures for reaching targeted audiences. Among its goals were to be seen as “the go-to authority for MSU’s history” and “innovators and the authority on Campus Archaeology.” Its targeted audiences included alumni, students, faculty, staff, and Lansing/East Lansing community. The plan emphasized integration of social media and including everyone who worked on any aspect of the program so that a consistent and frequent message was delivered to core audiences, while seeking to expand them as well, especially among staff and alumni. As a result, the program was recognized for its field school work with an AT&T Award for innovative teaching for combining digital and traditional media. The University subsequently reclassified the program as critical and recently made its budget a permanent line item. (Goldstein, 2012)

Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA)

The Social Media Subcommittee of the Society for Historical Archaeology created an outreach plan in 2011. The subcommittee sought to provide a resource for membership to interact regularly with the organization, and offer non-members insight into both SHA and the world of historical archaeology. The subcommittee’s central tactic was development of collaborative blog that was supported by an aggressive community-building campaign on Facebook and Twitter. During 2012, 50 people contributed 125 posts. Followers on Twitter more than doubled to more than 2,800. Additionally, most of its 1,365 followers on Facebook liked the SHA page during that same period. (Brock, 2012)

The foundations for SHA’s strategic plan were established by spring, just in time for the premiers of “National Geographic’s Diggers” and Spike TV’s “American Diggers.” The blog and social media channels became the launchpad for SHA’s response. President Paul Mullins proactively issued a public response to the shows, stating:

“These shows are disappointing, but we can continue to approach them as teaching moments and acknowledge that even thoughtful viewers may not immediately grasp the ethical shortcomings of such methods or understand what they risk losing in the hands of a haphazard metal detector survey. We do not need to surrender our preservation ethics or scholarly rigor, and while we may not transform everybody we can reach many thoughtful people who respect precise fieldwork, community scholarship, and responsible preservation.” (Mullins, 2012)

SHA shared follow-up posts from its Ethics committee regarding the organization’s conversations with National Geographic. It furthered the opportunity for “teaching moments” by featuring a Current Topics post from Matt Reeves, director of archaeology at Montpelier Foundation, who runs a workshop with metal detectorists. The post discussed his program and provided materials for working with this community in more proactive ways. By prioritizing the development of its digital platforms, SHA was positioned to take advantage of a media controversy to raise awareness, foster advocacy and inspire action among its identified publics. It provided members with instant, two-way communication about how the organization was responding to an important issue while it supplied resources they could apply to their own work as it relates to a hot topic. At the same time, it presented the organizational position on these issues and promoted its available resources to the public and potential members. Four of SHA’s top five blog posts them covered this issue, accounting for 15 percent of the blog’s traffic for the year.

National Center for Preservation Technology & Training (NCPTT)

NCPTT’s plan was developed in 2007, just as social media began to enter the popular mindset. Among agencies for the U.S. National Park Service, NCPTT is very small and remotely located in the small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Moreover, it’s congressional mandate extended well beyond the National Park Service to include historic preservationists in general, giving the research it fostered in the technologies of preservation a global audience. The organization applied the Hoshin Kanri model of strategic planning to its digital efforts. It categorized its goals under the 11 focus areas of the Hoshin method: Content, Tools and Vehicles, Structure, Processes, Leadership, Partnership, Metrics, Internal Communication, Reputation/Impact, Role and Global.

Because so few of its peers were on the social web at that point, NCPTT’s priority was to develop its internal savvy and build a library of digital media content that would engage early adopters in its audience and establish its authority in this area when the rest of its audiences followed. This goal was articulated under the Structure focus area as “A streamlined process empowers NCPTT staff to rapidly deliver media content directly to the web.” The objectives under this goal included regular training by digital media experts, more autonomy for staff members posting content, and implementation of digital tools and platforms to make the posting process as simple as possible.

Throughout 2008, NCPTT shifted its digital infrastructure accordingly. The organization tracked digital media conferences taking place in nearby metropolitan areas to draw blogging and experts to its facility for staff training on the principles of blogging, online media editing and search engine optimization strategies. It repositioned its intranet from a static system of document links to a social media learning and sharing experience. It did this by creating an NCPTT FriendFeed group, which was embedded on the intranet’s homepage. Bookmarklets were installed on staff member’s browsers to allow immediate sharing and conversation about news items without the need to broadcast links through email. This provided a safe place for them to acquire online posting and conversational skills. To reinforce the promise of the Web 2.0 revolution among the organization’s laggards, communications staff continually posted news articles about social media’s burgeoning impact to the FriendFeed room. This tactic cost no money, required little time for implementation and readied staff members for engagement on then-emerging platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

A more celebrated objective under this goal in NCPTT’s strategic plan was its migration from a proprietary CMS for its website to the open source version of WordPress. It was among the first U.S. government agencies to make such a leap. With the proprietary CMS, content had to be submitted to the webmaster to post. WordPress’ intuitive interface and built-in search optimization functions allowed staff to post high-impact multimedia content directly to the site. By the end of 2009, NCPTT was featured as Government Video Magazine’s “Website of the Week,” citing the National Center’s use of “photos, videos, podcasts and every other modern method to demonstrate [its research].” Additionally, tech blog Honeytech named the website number four on its international listing of “Top 10 Government Sites Powered by WordPress.” The WordPress organization also chose NCPTT as one of eight U.S. government sites featured in its Showcase for outstanding implementation of the CMS (NCPTT, 2009). The success of this migration led to other agencies within the National Park Service’s Cultural Resource Program to consult with NCPTT regarding their digital strategies.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)

RCAHMS began its digital media planning by embracing the promise of technological and social openness even while it undertook a frank examination of its limitations toward achieving that promise. The planning process started by a “challenge group” comprised of representatives from each department throughout the organization. The group first crafted a description of social media that would communicate its potential to others in the organization. It then set out to link that potential to Strategic Priorities previously identified by the organization. The group called for relaxed editorial guidelines in keeping with more authentic engagement on social media platforms and drafted a one-page common sense policy for using social media. It also emphasized principles of public interaction with its collection through crowdsourced content opportunities, user-generated tagging and integrated data systems. Notably, it also emphasized a spirit of fun and experimentation in approach not characteristic in the heritage field:

“We should be prepared to experiment before we get it right; this is a new way of working, and it will be new for some of our audiences too, we should be prepared to try a few things to get it right. As this is such a new and fast changing media we should be very responsive to change and constantly redevelop our strategies.” (RCAHMS, 4)

One of its first initiatives was a user-centered photo sharing initiative in which it began accepting user-contributed content. RCAHMS began to allow direct public contributions to its MyCanmore online image collections database via the application programming interface (API) of the social media service Flickr. Within six months, more than 2000 images and 350 text contributions were added by users.

In a project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, RCAHMS partnered with the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland to hold a social media training series for the Scottish cultural heritage sector titled “Digital futures of cultural heritage education.” The collaborators worked to establish a research agenda for museum and gallery education for the digital age with the further goal to inform and align policy and practice in the use of social media. RCAHMS also sponsors the research program “Beyond Text” at the University of Edinburgh to explore the role of users in contributing to the public online presence of cultural institutions, the ways in which users might contribute to the ‘making’ and ‘unmaking’ of public archives, and the ways in which a global public learns and constructs meaning from institutions’ digital collections. Among the program’s current research projects is a study of how new online media environments are changing the way users engage with, and learn from, the collections of cultural institutions.

By articulating an audience-based vision at the outset of its digital and social media planning, RCAHMS established an internal mindset of open engagement, which attracted influential partnerships and led to internal technological evolution.

Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF)

The Chemical Heritage Foundation is unique among heritage organizations in the diversity of its heritage preservation and outreach programs. It crafted its emerging media plan to help it re-imagine itself as a platform for telling the story of chemistry using its extraordinarily broad collection of heritage content (i.e. art and object collections, oral histories, archives, rare books) that span the entire historical narrative it supports. These assets provide rich material for digital storytelling. The challenge the organization has begun to address in the past year is to find ways to make its high-quality event programming and collections data more accessible to online audiences.

CHF’s strategic planning approach advocates a high level of collaboration that is focused on “the organization” telling stories, rather than individual programs. It focuses on the creation of digital assets that meet measurable, audience-based needs in the near term; retain ongoing relevance through vigilant curation in the longer term; and provide it in consistently updated formats that will allow the next storytellers of chemical heritage to readily continue the narrative. To this end, CHF adopted the following seven goals for its digital media strategy in the summer of 2012:

  1. CHF publishes its digital products in formats optimized for search (SEO), sharing and exploration.
  2. CHF tells the story of chemistry in human context—stories by people, for people.
  3. CHF provides timely, relevant engagement opportunities for its audiences.
  4. CHF’s content is available whenever and wherever our audiences need it.
  5. Digital strategy is a core consideration in CHF’s public-facing processes and initiatives.
  6. CHF facilitates active and enlightening dialog with its audiences.
  7. CHF’s staff members are savvy, empowered digital advocates for chemical heritage.

These vision statements were each supported by approximately three objectives and an appropriate number of tactics. For example, under Goal 3, the following objectives and tactics were among those articulated:

Objective: Increase audiences for CHF events by 35% in FY 2013 through a program of interactive online livestreaming.

Tactics:

  • TriCaster device for portable in-house production of livestreamed events.
  • Social discovery with simulcast tie-in using Google Hangouts
  • Create a Vimeo channel as platform for a high-quality online archive of event footage
  • Measure views through YouTube Insights, Vimeo analytics and streaming logs

Objective: Establish mobile interactive tour in FY2013 to increase average visitor engagement in CHF’s permanent collections space by 10 minutes.

Tactics:

  • Toursphere Mobile Application Service for museums
  • Virtual docent tour video for six cases
  • iPad Checkout Station for Visitors with pre-loaded tour
  • Museum promotional signage and postcards incorporating coded links/QR code
  • Launched in phases of six cases per iteration.
  • Testing by CHF staff members and random visitors.
  • Measure with Toursphere analytics and built-in survey feature

By the end of the 2012 calendar year, CHF had achieved its objectives for livestreaming through the broadcast of four events. Online audiences for these events more than doubled total attendance with views from around the world. Content for CHF’s mobile app was developed during the fall of 2012 and will launch by February of 2013. It has spurred a broader interpretive multimedia program that has enhanced its social media channels as well. Through these objectives, the organization has enhanced existing audience engagement experiences and opened them up to much a much wider array of audiences with relatively few additional resource requirements.

COMMONALITIES IN PLANNING APPROACH

Collectively, these organizations mentioned above represent a wide range of perspectives related to the preservation of heritage. Their digital strategies reflect that diversity, yet these also share common themes in approach. Here are similarities that can inform other digital planning processes related to the preservation of heritage.

Write an Honest Situation Analysis

Defining goals, objectives and tactics for digital strategy is a process that requires a realistic evaluation of organizational position and responsibilities, whether perceived or actual. This typically examines events and circumstances in the organization, professional fields or among affected publics (including internal ones) that can be leveraged for acting on these results. This should also include threats, including heritage resources the organization is currently charged to protect, or situations it commonly finds itself in when online engagement could make a difference. It should also include a frank look the organization’s existing technology in comparison to emerging platforms.

Root Digital Planning in Existing Organizational Priorities

The critical leap to success depends on tactics being rooted in a larger strategic vision for the organization. In many cases, this has been articulated to some degree with a mission statement and a five-year outlook. While having these directives makes the social media strategic planning process much easier, many heritage organizations either don’t have such a document, or it’s severely out of date, or more likely lacks measurable specificity. Additionally, pre-existing commitments, politics, and infrastructure may not allow a direct route to an articulated plan based purely in mission. In these cases, a strategic plan for digital media can spur a grass-roots recognition of the value of defining audiences and measurable expectations of work.

Thoroughly Define and Prioritize Audiences

The principles of social media in particular will often engage naturally when you are using the social tools while intentionally remembering who your audience is and what drives them. The “World” is not an audience. Neither is “The Public.” This will make participation from the staff and publics much easier as well. Measurable success in digital strategy depends on articulating every potential audience for the organization, and prioritizing those by importance. This will help focus appropriate digital platforms as well.

Monitoring and Management

There must be someone responsible for social media execution, and they must be supported by an interdepartmental team. They must also have appropriate tools to accomplish this job. Milestone check-ins are critical to the success of each project. Commit wholeheartedly and integrate these functions into job descriptions of a full-time individual, but be realistic about what they can accomplish in a given period of time. Google Analytics is used by virtually every organization evaluation. The free service provides a deep level of data on how visitors access and interact with websites. Google has recently begun to focus on increasing its capabilities for measuring social media’s impact on website traffic. For social media monitoring and posting, Hootsuite is also widely used by each organization that engages on multiple platforms. Hootsuite allows subscribers to collaboratively schedule posts, monitor social engagement and respond to audiences through one web-based interface. Once an account is setup, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Linkedin streams can be organized into tabs. Information from those tabs can be further organized into columns, providing a comprehensive social media dashboard.

Costs and Content Development

Costs for digital media initiatives vary as widely as the content standards of the organization, and the greater the time put into crafting this plan, the more efficient it will be in the long-term. Online audiences value consistent, authentic connection with individuals at an organization over higher production values with a corporate voice. Agreed-upon posting schedules and suggested best practices for documenting field work will keep the short-term costs for the public engagement side of digital strategy low. Based on outcomes of the situation analysis, investment will go toward adopting or sustaining storage systems for heritage data that can interface with web-based platforms.

Heritage organizations routinely partner to protect the resources they care about. That spirit of partnership is effective online as well. NCPTT collaborated with the local university journalism program, other National Parks and National Heritage Areas to accomplish some of the tasks in the development of its plan. It also shared its expertise in helping partner organizations like the Association for Preservation Technology launch their digital initiatives.

Be Your Own Platform

Digital media services and platforms will come and go. They are all ultimately tools. It is critical that heritage organizations own their data and take responsibility for continually growing its accessibility. While this is especially important for metadata related to memory collections, it also applies to the organization’s collective voice, a critical part of which should be its blog. Unlike social platforms whose fates are controlled by their parent companies, most blogging platforms allow back up and migration of data through open formats. With their multimedia capabilities, blogs are the most effective means for dynamic digital storytelling. As was demonstrated with SHA’s response to the “Diggers” television shows, it can also be a place to centralize thought leadership and mobilize audiences. Additionally, its built-in syndication capabilities make automating direct feeds to social media and mobile applications possible.

Internal Participation

Seek organizational buy-in the long-term, but start initial planning with an interdepartmental group of influencers that are most enthusiastic about heritage outreach. Identify the digital interests of staff members, and then encourage that through training by people with those areas of expertise. Provide the opportunity to apply those skills with internal engagement opportunities that are internal or to a limited audience. For written posting procedures, one page is ideal for a social media policy. Legalistic guidelines discourage internal participation and lessen the effectiveness of online conversation.

While day-to-day engagement is a critical component in gaining trust, a much more effective strategy is to use time-limited digital outreach campaigns. Use the organization’s long-term activity calendar to align planned projects with potential campaigns, involving as much of the organization as possible over the course of each year. A project lead and team are assigned to keep these time-limited campaigns on track. But other willing staff must be empowered with awareness and proper equipment so they know how to look at a situation and capture engaging content as it presents itself.

Defining goals, objectives and tactics digital planning facilitates a proactive approach for organziations. It ensures that strategic directives can be sustainably accomplished in a world that demands digital accessibility. This goes beyond the traditional archival responsibilities of such organizations to address the current expectation among audiences for ever-present engagement. For any historical narrative, people are both the catalyst and the audience. Much like the digital landscape, these audiences are also diverse and complex. The strategic planning process simplifies focus for both these areas so that professionals in fields such as archaeology, archives, preservation, conservation, landscapes and oral history can be more effective in advocating for heritage resources.

References

Bonacchi, C. (ed), 2012. Archaeology and Digital Communication. Towards Strategies of Public Engagement. London: Archetype PublicationsGiaccardi, E. (ed), 2012. Heritage and Social Media: Understanding Heritage in a Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Goldstein, L. and Brock, T.P. (2010). MSU Campus Archaeology Social Media Action Plan.

Brock, T.P. (2012): Email communication, Dec. 26, 2012.

Adair, B., Filene, B., and Koloski, L. (ed), 2011. Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Dobreva, M., O’Dwyer, A., and Feliciati, P. (ed.) 2012. User Studies for Digital Library Development. London: Facet Publishing

Graham, P. (2011): Skype communication with Philip Graham regarding digital strategy for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

RCAHMS (2011): Social Media Challenge Group Strategic Recommendations. Smith, R.D. (2009). Strategic Planning for Public Relations. New York: Routledge.

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