Monthly Archives: May 2013

This post was written by Rachel

Hello, everyone! My name is Rachel and I am from Maybee. And yes, we do have handmade painted signs saying “Maybee the best little town in Michigan” and “Maybee you’ll come back again.” We also have a huge quarry, an operating trading post, a motorcycle shop, a rocket ship in the park, and the largest parking lot belongs to a church, whose festival highlights are sandbelt racing and guessing the weight of a pig. It’s pretty great.

But I am also an undergraduate student in the History Department here at MSU. I will be graduating in December, and am currently working on my senior thesis that will hopefully encompass the geospatial characteristics of marronage in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), which is one of the primary reasons for my participation in the field school this summer. I’m really hoping to learn more about how historians can make their research and data more accessible to the general public and to other researchers. I attended a prominent conference several months ago for the first time and I was struck by how these incredibly intelligent and interesting scholars who had been working on fascinating topics managed to present in such a boring manner. —– Imagine photos with Arial font caption on white Powerpoint slides and reading verbatim paragraph after paragraph from a 10 page paper. —– There just has to be a better, or at least more effective, way to communicate historical research.

So presenting papers may not be something that I find exciting — but maps and graphics and computers and playing around with data definitely are. And luckily MSU has MATRIX, which focuses on these exact elements of presentation and scholarship. I have been working with MATRIX off and on since last July through a project in the History Department, but I still didn’t know that much about the digital humanities, programming, or project design. The CHI field school will certainly be able to help with that and I’m excited to collaborate with all the great people I’ve met over the coming month. See ya next week!!!

Hello, I’m Flora.

Hi everyone! My name is Flora and I am a librarian/archivist/information manager by trade, training and inclination. Usually I live (back home) in New Zealand where I am a research assistant within an awesome team at Victoria University of Wellington’s Wai-te-ata Press. There, I work on digital history projects surrounding New Zealand’s early print culture and trade. I have a BA in English Literature and (oh so soon) also a Masters of Information Studies.  I am captivated by data, metadata, and linked open data.

Like everyone at the Fieldschool, I am fascinated by how digital technology intersects with and impacts cultural heritage concerns and practices. Investigating digital cultural heritage is important for a million reasons, but a few points resonate strongly with me: firstly, a digital heritage environment allows us to engage with audiences outside institutional walls. Secondly, it radically alters how we perform those familiar cultural heritage practices (curation, preservation etc). And, lastly, it provides new ways of asking and answering historical or heritage questions. These changes provide countless opportunities for (and challenges to…) enriching cultural heritage, and since digital technology looks like it’s here to stay it’s critical to understand what these factors are and how they work!

If I was only allowed three questions I would ask: what happens to cultural heritage when you conceptualize it using digital tools? Practically speaking, how can digital tools augment heritage practices and inquiries? And most importantly, please can someone teach me ALL the technical know-how for creating high quality projects, okay? Thanks heaps!

I am really looking forward to getting under the hood of the WWW and further developing a technical toolkit. I also feel that knowing the nitty gritty of digital tools provides a great background for engaging with, creating and using digital cultural heritage thoughtfully and with a reflexive critical eye. I’m really excited about spending the new few weeks at the Fieldschool, learning new skills and talking shop with interesting, like-minded people.  (Other times, when I’m not thinking about information, print culture and the web, I’m usually reading, knitting, doing yoga or going on walks and adventures!)

True Life: I’m Hillary

On this episode of True Life, you will be discovering what it’s like to live the life of Hillary Spruit… Okay, that’s as far as I can take that. Haha. But I would like to tell you a little about myself. I am a finishing my last semester of undergrad in December, receiving a degree in Anthropology with a specialization in Ancient Egyptian Archaeology, as well as Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies. I am currently preparing for law school applications, where I would like to explore the field of Antiquities Law.

I started my college education as a student of the residential college James Madison here at MSU, majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics (and Pre-Law). When on the first day of class, the professors gathered all of the freshman for a “welcoming to the Brotherhood”, I knew I was not in the right place. Fortunately, that same semester I was introduced to the world of anthropology. The next semester, it became my major.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the ancient mysteries (and discoveries!) of  Egypt. So as soon as I could, I took my area course with Ethan (which is what eventually led me here). The emotion and inspiration that were provoked from that class solidified my decision to go to law school to fight for the preservation of ancient artifacts which shaped the world we live in today.

As for the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool  my advisor had a lot to do with that. I was interested in going on a study abroad this summer, yet I couldn’t find the right fit for my field of interest. My advisor asked if I had heard of Ethan and the Fieldschool he was teaching, and I must admit, I knew nothing of the program. But as soon as I read that I would be working both with cultural heritage and digital technology, I knew this would be an excellent program for me.

Technology is seemingly exponential in its progress, and isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon. In order to be successful in ANY field, experiences like the ones we are going to receive here are invaluable in the workplace, giving myself and my peers a leg up on our ‘competition’. As our first week comes to an end, I have become more and more excited about the work that we will be able to create as a whole.

I hope this gives you a little more information to figure out who I am and how I got here. Again, I couldn’t be more excited to see what our final product from all of this will be!


Introducing: Rikki Valkema

Who am I? Hello, my name is Richelle Valkema but I much rather prefer to be referred to as Rikki.  I am twenty two years old and super excited for my upcoming graduation in December.  I just finished up my fourth year at MSU as an undergraduate anthropology student focused in the socio-cultural subdivision specializing in Asian Studies.  My main area of interest is South Korea, especially the modern media culture and its relation to a possible increase in the South Korean crime rate.

Hobbies: reading, writing, singing, sketching, KOREAN!  I am currently studying Korean as well as Mandarin Chinese and I know a little Spanish as well as my native language, English.  Learning languages is actually a hobby of one of my younger sisters and mine.  Studying other cultures and practicing other languages have always been things that I enjoy so when I learned what anthropology was and that I could major in it, I quickly chose to major in it right away!

Where am I from?  I am a native Michigander born and raised in Kalamazoo.  I come from a relatively large family but I am the first child to go to college.

Why the CHI Fieldschool?  I chose to apply for this program/fieldschool because it specializes in the digital aspect of cultural heritage and I am sadly not very capable with technology.  I do not have my own webpage and my younger sister has always set up my accounts such as twitter and youtube.  I really wanted to understand technology better, and I really wanted to find out how this relates to cultural heritage.  Technology is becoming too important in the field of anthropology and I figured that I really couldn’t keep waiting to learn about it if I wanted to be capable and competitive in my career/search for a career.

Technology and the understanding of how it works is especially important considering how many of the sources for my area of interest are in a digital format and involve using technology that I am not currently familiar with.


So far from what I have seen this last week, I can’t wait to really dig into our project designing and creation.  There are so many people here that know where their interests and passions lay and I love how refreshing it is to be surrounded by passionate intellectuals!


It’s nice to meet you all!

Welcome to the 2013 Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome welcome everyone (both students and those who are watching remotely) to the inaugural Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool.  The CHI Fieldschool is an outgrowth of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative at Michigan State University, and is intended to introduce students to the tools and techniques required to creatively apply information and computing technologies to cultural heritage materials and questions.

Over the next 5+ weeks, students will think, read, discuss, learn, experiment, hack, prototype, build, deploy, and launch.

The the public (those who are purposefully watching the fieldschool or those who wander upon it by chance):

I encourage you to read what we are doing, explore what we are building, and interact with us.  The CHI Fieldschool very much adheres to an open access philosophy.  We encourage constructive comments and stimulating discussion. If you are on Twitter, watch the #msuchi hashtag.

To the fieldschool students:

Before we get seriously rolling, you’ve got a (short) to do list:

  • If you want, sign up for a Twitter account (if you don’t have one already) – remember to use the #msuchi hashtag when tweeting about fieldschool related stuff.
  • Sign up for a Gravatar account (if you don’t already have one)
  • Activate your course blog account (you will receive an email by Tuesday at the absolute latest)
  • Introduce yourself to the world on the blog.  Tell us a little about your background and your interests. Be sure talk about why you are taking the fieldschool – why is cultural heritage informatics/digital cultural heritage important to you?
  • Have a look at the Creative Commons Licenses.  For each thing you post to the fieldschool blog, you will need to choose the license that best works for you – which means you need to have at least a passing familiarity with what the licenses actually mean. A couple of years back, the incomparable Bethany Nowviskie (Director of Digital Research & Scholarship at the University of Virginia Library and Associate Director of the Scholarly Communication Institute) wrote a thoughtful piece about why she was switching the license on her blog and Flickr stream from CC-BY-NC to CC-BY.  It is definitely worth a read.