Last month, I received a phone call from the Director of Historic St. Mary’s City, Regina Faden, wondering if I’d be interested in completing a digital project for my dissertation research, since the National Trust for Historic Preservation was interested in providing modest funds for the project to be completed. Having wanted to build such a thing, but not having the support to do so, I responded with a resounding, “yes”. The project is now underway, and I’m excited to finally tell you all about our plans.
The project is under certain time constraints, meaning that it will have to be completed by the end of the summer. Fortunately, the plan is to build a multi-component site that will include both a static exhibit space and an ongoing, in-progress blog: it will be transparent about the fact that the research is still incomplete. Our objective as researchers and museum professionals is to provide an ongoing commentary on how historical archaeological research is conducted, and how we draw the conclusions that we do from material and historical documents. This is an approach that I have tried to take in all of my digital engagement pursuits, but this will finally provide a dedicated space for that to happen with the dissertation project.
Most importantly, however, is that HSMC is using this site as an opportunity to begin working with the local community. We are currently engaged in establishing these relationships and working on a process by which we can make the site a collaborative effort. I imagine that for the initial launch, due to the time constraints, community involvement will be in a more advisory capacity. However, because it is a website, the exhibit and the way it is used can be changed, added to, and modified to meet the needs of the public. I hope that this digital space will be used as a resource for the African American community in a number of ways, and that it helps to build stronger relationships between the museum and the community.
At any rate, stay tuned for more updates on this project as it begins to unfold. I am very excited about its possibilities and to begin working on it!
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