|Faculty Scholar, Matthew Edney (left) with students|
|Seminar at Osher Map Library, USM|
I was given the opportunity to teach graduate students in the American and New England Studies program at the University of Southern Maine recently, a program which includes a “Public Culture and History” track. I challenged my master’s students to convert their original research into online museum exhibits using Web 2.0 tools. It was an unorthodox request for these students. Didn’t I just want a final research paper?
With the movement afoot at USM to encourage online education and digital literacy, I designed my “blended” seminar to require students to take their original research into museum and archival collections and convert it into an illustrated, digital narrative that would be available to the general public. Our topic area? "Top of the World: America in the Arctic," in other words, the history of American interests in the Arctic, a rich area to explore, particularly on the heels of the International Polar Year and the centennial commemoration of the discovery of the North Pole.
|"Northward Over the Great Ice" exhibit showcases Peary flag|
We visited the Arctic collection at USM’s Osher Map Library with Faculty Scholar Matthew Edney (above) and took advantage of a special exhibit "Northward Over the Great Ice" at Bowdoin College's Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum (right). But then they set off to explore, virtually speaking, the Library of Congress, National Archives, Alaska State Library, University of Washington Special Collections, New Bedford Museum, and many more. I’m biased, of course, but I think the students produced engaging interpretations that drew from primary source collections without the costs of their travel or publication costs. These same advantages are precisely those that attract heritage or public history industry to Web 2.0 technologies.
|Photo by John Hess, from Briskey's online project|
For more information about the growing relationship between museums and various digital technologies see Museums and the Web.
(Source: New England Museum Association News (33:4) Summer 2010)