Today, NCPH was host to a new session format: the THATCamp "unconference" (which is a clever acronym for "The Humanities and Technology Camp"). The "unconference" is not dissimilar to a regular "conference," in that both involve gatherings of people who are there to discuss professional issues (hopefully in a lively manner!). The big difference is that participants in an unconference don't come to the conference with any papers, and the schedule is jointly created during the first half hour of the day from session proposals that participants had previously posted to the THATCamp NCPH blog. This strategic lack of preparation (hopefully) creates conversations that are both directed and informal. In practice, this also means that there are lots of tangents - but they are usually productive, and at least interesting!
While THATCamp was technically (and technologically) focused on using digital tools in public history, I found participating in THATCamp to be a great way to mentally prime the pump in preparation for the discussions that will be part of the somewhat more formal conference and workshop sessions going on throughout the rest of this week.
By getting a so many smart people in one room, the unconference format also helped to facilitate creative discussions that were quite different from what the traditional conference format allows for. In one THATCamp session that was particularly intriguing on this front, I and several other NCPH THATCampers came up with an idea of an NCPH community blog that would incorporate several of the already existing threads of NCPH-related online discussion. Some of the features that such a blog might include are: exhibit reviews, questions about and discussion of current events and issues in the field, opportunities for individuals and organizations to showcase their public history projects, announcements, and content that originates from, or is cross-posted to, H-Public. Ideally, we would have enough contributors and different types of content to make this blog into a vibrant public history commons.
While this is just a seed of an idea, we hope that in the coming months we will be able to grow it into something that is both useful and sustainable. We're eager to keep this and other conversations started at THATCamp going. If you have any other ideas about what form this blog might take, and how we might implement it, please add your voice in the comments.