SUNY Brockport Digital Public History Experiments

students in suny brockport’s honors college try out digital documentation & curation of campus, local, regional, and state history.

Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World by the Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli on the campus of SUNY Brockport. Photo: Jazzersten.

This fall students students in my Honors 112: Reading and Writing Across Forms course at SUNY Brockport developed experimental digital public history projects. Each student documented a topic of interest from campus, community, regional, or state history. They researched the topic to develop a brief digital museum “label” for a photograph or sequence of multimedia documentation. They experimented with digital form using a WordPress website installed on a Reclaim webhosting account (thanks to SUNY Brockport for supporting this digital infrastructure!). You can view the projects at SUNY Brockport Digital Public History Project. Students and I will be curating material from the digital public history experiments for the National Council of Public History’s Instagram feed during the week of December 6th, 2021.

Students explored what it means to document the world, how to research its histories both well-known and hidden, and how one might curate their findings effectively through digital layout, clear writing, and an interplay of different kinds of documentation and explanation. What you will find is not a fully developed, completed project, but rather an entry point, a start, a first take by students, most of them in their first year of university. From histories of the SUNY Brockport campus itself to its sports programs, from local monuments and historical sites to nearby Rochester’s activist history to other dimensions of history in New York State, the projects reveal glimpses of public history and public life as students perceive them. Through combinations of direct observation, representational documentation, historical research, narrative description, analytic writing, digital design, and multimedia curation, the students begin to share the variety and richness of the social world, the built environment, and the lively history present all around us.

I lightly edited the post after a series of workshops and feedback to students on their projects. Students also drew upon the expertise of the librarians at SUNY Brockport’s Drake Memorial Library.

Visit the SUNY Brockport Digital Public History Project Experiments.

1 thought on “SUNY Brockport Digital Public History Experiments

  1. Great to have students invested in the heritage of their college community as well as learning the skills that will enable them to convey that knowledge in the future. I think most of us give little thought to our campus’ history but at least for a handful of students this has been corrected by this project. At the least, lots of students passing ‘the lollipop men’, as the ‘Joy and Happiness’ sculpture is conventionally known, will have a sense of its intriguing history.

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