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!!!