Building a Website With and For Audiences (4)

Demonstration

Beth A. Twiss Houting, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, USA

This June the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) will debut a new digital history exhibition created as a response to and in concert with constituents of the local Puerto Rican community. Beth Twiss Houting, project director, and John Houser, chief information officer, will describe the project, highlighting the challenges and successes of working with community members on identifying and creating content as well as the internal decisions made about platform and web features. The goal for this lightning session will be to encourage others to think about ways to work deeply with audience members to develop online content.

HSP wished to experiment with having an audience design its own programs as a model that could be adopted long-term by the organization as it tries to diversify its audience. It created an audience group composed of community members from HSP and Taller Puertorriqueño. Through a stepped program development model, the members researched subject matter and built the expertise needed to plan programs. They then defined program topics that were to result in two or three real-time programs for spring 2019.

The enthusiasm of members for the new content they had learned led them to identify more content and ways of presenting content than could be accomplished within the grant and which, if offered as a real-time programs, would have short shelf-lives. In response, the grant project team decided to merge the ideas into a digital history project, with an accompanying program that allows for community prototyping of the website.

The decision to move to an online program as a delivery method rather than real-time programs had consequences for HSP’s technology infrastructure. For this project, the IT team conducted a survey of open source exhibit tools that might better fit the long-term needs of the institution. The decision to use Omeka and the successes and challenges of the decision also will be shared during this session.

Bibliography:
Letting Go? Shared Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, edited by Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, 2011.