On Friday, March 21st, the Hudson River Valley Institute hosted the Greater Hudson Heritage Network Techistory Conference in conjunction with the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council and the Sound and Story Project of the Hudson Valley. This event took place on the beautiful Marist College campus in the newly renovated Student Center. The focus was on a new era of technology and how innovative resources can be used successfully to teach history. The conference combined the final event of the four partners’ grant-funded Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) project with GHHN’s annual meeting and conference. Sound and Story of the Hudson Valley received the IMLS grant to “bring oral history into the twenty-first century” with digitized archival content, newly-produced exhibits and productions, a smartphone app, and the story Cube.
The conference began with a keynote speech by Tom Scheinfeldt, a professor and director of Digital Humanities at the University of Connecticut. His talk highlighted the coevolution of digital archives and traditional historical collections. While these new developments may inspire fear that physical collections will become overshadowed by digitization, Scheinfeldt outlined how these processes can both separate scholars and collection professionals, but also bring them together in the new reality of the digital age. While the content may have been a challenge for some, his underlying message was optimistic and encouraging: don’t be afraid of technology and do the best you can with what you’ve got.
The participants of this conference, numbering between 150 and 160 people, were provided with three separate concurrent sessions. Each session had the option of one of three discussions, ranging from the implementation of new technologies in the FDR Presidential Library, to Wikipedia in New York Library and Archives, to an introduction of “The Cube”. Representing from both an artistic and historical arena, the Cube was created through the Sound and Story Project and is a mobile recording device used to capture interviews and stories about history. The Cube was brought in for this conference and an opportunity to have the chance to record using it was given away at the end of the day.
The techistory conference was brought to a close with the presentation of awards of excellence by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network. These awards were given “to recognize and commend exceptional efforts among GHHN members”. Thirteen participants were awarded. One of the winners was the West Point Museum Staff, for their use of new technologies in the Trophy Point/Fort Putnam Reinterpretation Project, as well as the Mount Guilian Historic Site for its creation of a short film. Scheinfeldt offered the closing remarks to wrap up a successful educational event.
By Samantha McNerney