December 4, 2013

History Camp: An idea for an unconference in Boston in 2014

A small group of us are starting to plan "History Camp," a topic-specific unconference (or "BarCamp") to be held in the Boston/Cambridge area in late winter/early spring 2014—assuming, that is, that enough people are committed to making it happen and in attending.  If there isn't a critical mass, then it won't.  So it's up to us.  Are you interested?  If so, please dive in.  We'd love to have you.

The information below is from the wiki page on

When is it?

On a Saturday in February (unlikely), March, or April

Where is it?

Somewhere in the Boston or Cambridge area, or the surrounding area.  Do you have a space where this could be held?  The idea space will have one large room and several smaller rooms (classroom size) for the sessions.  If you have a space, please let us know

Who is organizing this?  How can I help?

Thanks for asking--especially that second question.  Here's the page for volunteers

What is a BarCamp or Unconference?

  • It's a self-organizing conference.  People who share a common interest get together and create the framework for the event.  The on-scene volunteers, presenters, and everyone else who attends make it happen.  The topics that are presented are the ones of interest to the presenters.  The sessions that are well-attended are the ones that are of interest to the attendees.
  • It's free, though it uses a pay-what-you-want model to cover the cost of things like coffee in the morning or lunch.  Ideally, folks will chip in $10 or $20.  However, no one is required to pay anything and no one should feel that they shouldn't attend because they can't chip in financially.  They may want to consider volunteering a little time to help organize, set up, or clean up at the end.  The goal is to break even.  If some individuals or organizations step up as sponsors, then we'll have t-shirts.  If we're not able to find a free space, the event won't happen. 
  • Read more about BarCamps on the home page and other pages linked from it. Browsing the Boston BarCamp 2010 session board
  • There is a great annual barcamp in Boston.  Browsing their site gives you an idea of what a large, well-run barcamp looks like.  (The photo shows the session board on Saturday at the 200 Boston Barcamp.)  Since we're just starting out and since there is a specific topic area, we expect that we'll have a much smaller group, but the goal is the same: Creating a place and time where people can share their enthusiasm for history and their knowledge and insights from with others.

What is History Camp? 

  • History as broadly defined, across geographies and over time.  Yes, it's Boston, but this isn't intended to be limited to the Revolutionary War--or on the United States, for that matter.  Ultimately, it's the speakers and attendees that will define the scope.  Hopefully it will be broad in a way that is of interest to many people.
  • What about genealogy?  Sure.  
  • Has this been done before?  Not that we know of.  There's a very successful program from George Mason University called THAT Camp, The Humanities and Technology Camp.  History Camp is envisioned as being a true BarCamp, open to all.  No need to apply.  No advance screening of topics and presenters.  
  • In short, History Camp is what we make it.  Please join in.
  • It is not, however, a venue for a sales pitch.  In other words, if you are an expert at preserving very old books, do not come and give a talk about how you provide a great service and why people should hire you to repair and preserve their old books.  Rather, give a talk that has useful information, perhaps tips and techniques, so that, regardless of whether the person listening hires you or decides to undertake the work themselves, they walk away with new information that they value.

Who is this for?

You, if you're interested in history.  We hope that students of all ages, teachers and professors, authors, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors and board members, genealogists, and, most of all, history enthusiasts come.

What topic areas might be covered?

Here are some broad topic areas.  They're offered as a way to stimulate ideas and interest.  Would you like to present on one or more, or collaborate with someone else to present?  If so, please insert a bullet with the specific topic, and add your name and e-mail address.  Is there a topic you're interested in that's not listed?  Please add it.

  • Historic eras and events, trends, battles and wars, historic figures, little-known history.
  • Historic sites: Background, preservation, generating attendance. 
  • Careers: Becoming an interpreter or Park Ranger (full time or for the summer), working in a history museum.
  • Education: Getting a masters or PhD. 
  • Preservation of artifacts, such as caring for old books or clothing that has have been passed down in your family.
  • Historic preservation: Sites, commercial and industrial buildings, homes. 
  • Teaching history: In grade school and high school, in college, educating the public broadly.
  • Digital history/humanities. 
  • History books and blogs: Popular and enthusiast publications, getting published, creating and maintaining a site or blog.
  • Genealogy: Research tools, recommendations for specific techniques or overcoming specific hurdles 
  • History games and gaming
  • Reenacting: How to get involved, putting on a large-scale reenactment
  • please add more . . . 

Specific topics requested or committed (with your name and e-mail address) 

  • Example of requesting a topic: Wanted: King Philips War in Sudbury, Marlborough, and surrounding communities
  • Example of committing to a topic:  Lessons learned from holding the first History Camp -- Lee Wright

Okay.  Now I get it.  Sounds fun.  How can I help?

Great!  Here's the page for volunteers


  • What if I can't get there at the beginning or stay until the end?  Come whenever you can and stay as long as you like. 
  • My son/daughter is in junior high and likes history.  Can I bring them with me?  Definitely! 
  • Can I come in my reenactor attire?  Definitely!

And thanks to . . .

. . . these individuals and organizations.


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