Elissa Frankle Digital Dialogue | February 9, 2016

Making History with the Masses Revisited: History Unfolded and the Realities of Citizen History

  1. MITH kicked off our Spring 2016 Digital Dialogue series with Elissa Frankle from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, who gave a fascinating 'Part II' talk on citizen history projects 'as a methodology in public history.'
  2. Frankle purposely wanted to frame this talk as a follow-up to her previous MITH talk from April 2013, in which she discussed citizen history when the concept was fairly new. During that talk, there was pushback about the efficiency of Frankle's previous project, Children of the Lodz Ghetto. If professional staff were 'fact checking' the work of students, why even involve 'citizens' at all? Frankle considered this moment part of an ongoing. learning process.
  3. Frankle still considers citizen history projects to be in their infancy. In the early days, Frankle's team developed two early crowdsourcing pilot projects on very limited resources. One involved user-created transcriptions of the diaries of Maria Madi, a Jewish Hungarian woman writing during WWII. The other was a participatory photo tagging project, in which the USHMM asked the public to identify people/places, etc in photos selected from its archives.
  4. Through and out of these experiences, Frankle developed her own set of guiding principles. 1: Citizen history is a contract.
  5. 2. User experience and answering historical questions bear equal weight.
  6. 3. Learn from your users at every stage of the process. If you only draw conclusions at the end of a project, you're missing out on some valuable learning experiences.
  7. 4. Make sure it's real history ... the kind you KNOW you don't have answers to already. Build your questions with the participants in mind.
  8. 5. More definition is better (she goes more into this later in the talk).
  9. 6. It takes just enough cooks.
  10. 7. Make decisions together. Success comes from all parties being honest about their needs.
  11. 8. Simple (but not simplistic). Don't dumb down your focus, and don't overcomplicate your process.
  12. 9. If you build it, will they come? Try to ensure that you KNOW your completed project will have an embedded set of users.
Read next page