Tag Archives: Video

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.

Social media for a cause: How "Invisible Children" can serve as a model for the heritage field

On April 25th, thousands of people abducted themselves in solidarity in partnership with a San Diego based non-profit organization called Invisible Children. The event was organized through social media to make a statement and it prompts blogger Dylan Staley to ask the question: Has the time come for similar measures for the cause of heritage?

Invisible Children


By Dylan Staley

On April 25th, thousands of people abducted themselves in solidarity in partnership with a San Diego based non-profit organization called Invisible Children. Invisible Children organized this event, called “The Rescue,” to simulate the experiences of children abducted in Northern Uganda by Joseph Kony, leader of The Lord’s Resistance Army. The event’s purpose was to get the attention of media and moguls, Invisible Children’s term for those influential figures in modern culture (artists, talk show hosts, Senators and Representatives, celebrities, etc), to “rescue” the people who abducted themselves by speaking out in support of Invisible Children and their cause.

As organizations like Invisible Children begin to embrace social media as a way to inform people and coordinate events, those in the preservation fields can do so as well. In my earlier blog posts, I wrote about how preservation organizations can use services such as Twitter and USTREAM for live, up to the minute updates of what’s happening right now. Even now, organizations using the power of the masses through services such as Twitter and popular social-networking site Facebook to both organize and inform people about events and causes.

One of the more interesting aspects of The Rescue, however, was its utilization of the internet and social media. Using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Mogulus, Invisible Children was able to coordinate efforts in over 100 cities in ten different countries around the globe. Here’s what happened:

  1. About a month before the event, Invisible Children asked those who were going to be participating in the event to use their social networking sites to get the word out about the event. Also, they encouraged users to use sites such as Twitter and YouTube to get the attention of various celebrities such as Oprah, The Jonas Brothers, Ashlee Simpson, Nicolas Cage, Paramore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie, and hundreds of others. Invisible Children also asked people to use phone calls, emails, and letters to get the attention of their Senators and Representatives.
  2. On April 25th, as thousands of people left their homes to abduct themselves, people used Twitter to keep their friends updated and also to contact other abductees in other cities. I used my Twitter feed in combination with hashtags to share my updates as I was abducted and rescued in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  3. In addition to Twitter, Invisible Children used the power of live broadcasting to bring together people who were unable to attend the event and those who had already been rescued to help get the remaining cities rescued. There was even an instance in which the host of the live show asked the viewers to order pizza for one of the groups in Wichita, Kansas.

So, as we in the heritage field dip our toes into the social media wading pool, what will it take for us to jump in with the big kids and make a real difference?

  1. Communicate the resource. It’s easy to get so bogged down in semantic differences that the resource is forgotten amid the press reports about red-eyed obstructionist preservationists blocking more progress. Communicate why it’s important to you and make a go at understanding why heritage resources are important to others as well. But this has to be done ongoingly BEFORE THE CRISIS to be effective.
  2. Get coordinated. The social web is about collaboration. And most heritage resources require the coordinated efforts of multiple specialists to preserve them. Use these tools to communicate with folks out of your field and learn a little more about their views of these situations. A broader mind never hurt anyone.
  3. Have a plan. The success of the Invisible Children campaign was the result of individuals, groups and various online tools working together for a purpose. Think about who you wish to target with your communication and take the time to understand which online tools resonate with them.

“Anyone born after the year 1980 are Millennials, they grew up on the internet, they know the power and access to technology,” said Jason Russell, one of the three young guys who founded Invisible Children after taking a trip to Africa and witnessing the horrors of the war there that has been going on for over twenty-three years in Northern Uganda. As time goes on and our generation becomes increasingly interconnected through the internet and technology, using these tools can help ensure a bright future for generations to come through the preservation of generations past.

Livestream to bring awareness of heritage resources to the world

by Dylan Staley

Let’s face it: videos are in. With the advent of social video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.tv, video has become a first class citizen on the web. But one of the major drawbacks to video is the time it takes form when the camera stops rolling to when the video is available online for millions to see.

When live television first came on the scene, it introduced a radical idea: the idea that you can watch news as it is happening, live right from your television. You can watch the Presidential Inauguration, the Macey’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the Time’s Square New Year’s Celebration live, right from the comfort of your home.

With internet media, you can now view these events hours after they have happened, and enjoy the moments over and over again. But, sometimes, you wish you could have seen it live.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the $1,000+ equipment that make a live television broadcast possible. This is where sites such as Qik and USTREAM come in.

Qik and USTREAM, both live video blogging sites, allow users to connect their internet-enabled devices (be it computers or camera-enabled cellphones) to their servers and upload a live video feed, directly to the website. No longer do you need to wait until the event is over, on until your upload finishes, or until the website host finishes encoding your video. Viewers can watch what is happening right now, right now.

The ability to broadcast live without expensive equipment is incredibly useful to those working in the preservation field. In my last post, I described how preservationists can use the microblogging site Twitter to send out text updates in almost real time to their followers, but nothing beats the feel of actually watching the action unfold. Here are some ideas:

  • Museum fans can watch live as conservators work on priceless artifacts, perhaps drawing in new visitors to an exhibit.
  • Broadcasting from an archaeological dig as a major discovery is unearthed.
  • Livestreaming from your community preservation event (such as a cemetery cleaning day) to ignite interest and get more volunteers involved.
  • Raise awareness about the state of cultural resources affected by disaster (see video below)

The only thing you need is an internet-enabled device such as a cellphone, and an internet connection. You will of course need to be aware of the sensitivity and security of these sites when you are broadcasting. You wouldn’t want to attract looters to an archaeological site, for example.

With the websites Qik and USTREAM, users sign up for an account and then follow different instructions on how to set up their various devices to communicate with the internet servers. Users can then subscribe to the live video feed and watch whenever, and wherever, you are broadcasting as if they were right there beside you.

Related Links:

Qik | Frequently Asked Questions

USTREAM.tv Help Center

Mashable | What’s is Mobile Video’s Future?

Mashable | Create Your Own Branded Mobile Video Broadcast with Ustream

Video Blog: Chris “The Bulb Hunter” Wiesinger


This is from the video blog I helped produce for Chris Wiesinger. Chris has created quite a niche for himself, traveling the South and “hunting” heirloom flower bulbs that thrive in warm climates. He takes them back to his farm in East Texas where he cultivates and sells them for his company. Chris is a great guy who’s totally unaffected by being featured in the New York Times and too many lifestyle magazines to mention.

See his website to shop for bulbs

John Leeke V-log: Steam Paint Removal

In this installment of his Voices of the Past Video-log, John Leeke demonstrates using steam to remove heavy paint build up from wood surfaces. Steam paint removal softens the paint film so it can be more easily scraped away. It works well with the heavy paint buildup commonly found on the exterior of older buildings during house restoration and historic preservation projects.

This method has significant advantages over mechanical scraping and shaving, chemical stripping and the dry-heat of torch, hot-air gun and infra-red lamp methods:

  • Significantly reduces the risk of starting a building fire compared to dry heat methods.
  • Helps control the lead-health risk issue because it is an inherently damp process and eliminates the lead-fume risk.
  • No fumes from heat decomposition of binders in the old paint as with dry heat methods.
  • Relatively low setup cost compared to dry heat and shaver methods.
  • Lower operating and supply costs than chemical paint removal.
  • Lower residue disposal costs than chemical paint removal.