March 29, 2012

Presenting at Ignite Boston 9: "History 2.0: Make History - Save History”

Update: March 29: Great turnout tonight.  Nice to meet new folks and see friends from many different technology communities.  The video, with slides, is below.  (Slides only: History 2.0: Make History - Save History.)  Feedback always welcome.

Update: May 4: Selected as a featured presentation by Slideshare.

This talk builds on ideas originally presented April 17, 2010 at Boston BarCamp 5.  Thanks to those who provided early feedback on tonight's presentation, especially long-time friends and colleagues Victor Brilon and Darius Abbassi, and Janet and Neil Licht, who both understand deeply the challenges faced by small historical societies.

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March 14, 2012

A new tool for publicizing your events: The History List "widget"

Update: August 1, 2012: The widget described below is built into every organization and event page.  It is free and available to any individual or organization. For organizations that also want account-level control or branding, contact us.  These additional features are available as a part of a package of services for a nominal monthly fee.

If you've ever seen a YouTube video on a site other than YouTube, you've seen a "widget" in action.  We included one in a recent blog post, and two others, one for displaying photos from a Flickr account and the other for displaying a document posted on Scribd, in this earlier blog post.

We've been building The History List with this same capability in mind so that it's easy to share your events with others without anyone needing to update them on multiple sites. Below you see one type of networked calendar from The History List that displays events from the two organizations I selected.  (Optional graphical frames will be developed later Themed frames are available now.)  Each is custom since you build it yourself to your specifications.  You can try out the builder and create your custom widget to place on your site to publicize events or share with others who might include it on their sites to raise awareness for your upcoming events.The embed button, on every organization and event page of The History List

Three important things to know:

  • This is still a beta, which means that we're still testing it and making changes.  If you run into problems or have suggestions, use the "Feedback and support" link at the bottom to us know.
  • It is linked from every event page and every organization page. 
  • To embed a widget similar to the one below on your own site you need to have access to the code for your site, or you can build the widget, copy the code, and e-mail it to the person who handles your site.


Once the widget is embedded in a website, the information is updated whenever changes are made to listings on  The sites, exhibits, and events that meet the criteria you specify when you create your widget will be pulled from The History List automatically and displayed each time someone arrives at a page with your widget.  When changes are made at they will be displayed automatically in your widget.  You can replace a widget with a new one with different criteria or create several different widgets with different criteria.

These selection criteria include . . .

  • Name of the organization(s)
  • State(s)
  • City(ies)
  • Tag(s)
  • Suitable for small children

Putting it to work to publicize your organization

There are several ways that this new tool can help you publicize your activities:

  • Make a widget with your organization's events and then copy and send the code to others and encourage them to put it on their site.  This might include the website of the local newspaper, the local cable access station, or for your city or town.
  • Promote your events and those of partner organizations by making a widget that includes all of your organizations and then put it on each organization's site.
  • Save time and enter your events in The History List, then make a widget and embed it into your own site.  You only have to enter your events once, and each time you make changes at they'll be made automatically on your site.

For larger organizations

One of the challenges large organizations, such as state historical societies, associations, and travel and tourism promotion organizations have is promoting the sites, exhibits, and events of their members or of organizations throughout their state or region.

Traditionally this has meant each local organization has to submit their information to the larger organization, and the staff of that organization then must enter the information, which sometimes requires additional clarification with the local organization.

Using The History List widget is a simpler, more effective, and less time-consuming approach:

  • The state organization informs their local members that they can sign up for a free account on The History List and enter information about their organization and events.
  • Local organizations have essentially unlimited room for text, photos, and video, and because they have control over their entry and see it published immediately, they're much more likely to list more events, provide complete descriptions, and keep them updated as more details are available.
  • The state organization can then go in to their page on The History List, click on the "Share/embed" link, and create a widget that meets the criteria they select, which can include location and name of the organization.  They can also choose the size and customize they want.  This is a one-time step that takes less than 10 minutes.
  • The code is then pasted into the HTML for the page on the state site where the calendar is to appear.
  • The events appear immediately and are updated whenever one of the participating organizations adds or changes information.
  • Additional calendar widgets can be created that focus on a theme, such as Civil War-related events from participating organizations.  This is done by having each participating organization simply add a specific tag, such as "Civil War Sesquicentennial" to each of the relevant events.  When the state organization creates the widget for Civil War Sesquicentennial events, they simply select this tag along with the specific local organizations. 


What do you think?  Let us know

A final note: We moved this up in our list of features to create based on discussions with an individual at a leading organization who has been an early adopter of The History List.  Regardless of whether we meet in-person or exchange e-mail messages, your feedback has a direct impact on what we build, how we build it, and when we build it.  Send us your ideas or use the new "Feedback and Support" tab on the left side of the page.  (And in case you're wondering: Yes, the tab is another widget.)


The development of this tool for promoting events was funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism through a grant administered by the  MetroWest Visitors Bureau.   

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March 1, 2012

New England Regional Conference of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums

Updated: March 2, 2012: Pictures from the first two days of the conference.



March 1, 2012: Looking forward to attending the 2012 New England Regional Conference of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums this weekend in at Coggeshall Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island.


2012 Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) New England Regional Conference

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February 24, 2012

Case study: Promoting historic tours with daily video clips

The first in an occasional series of case studies on the way in which history organizations are promoting their sites, exhibits, and events.  Contact us to suggest or submit a case study.

Title: "This Day in History" video clips from The Freedom Trail Foundation

Description: Daily video clips, about one minute in length, with a costumed interpreter describing an important event that took place that day in Revolutionary era New England.

View an example on the Foundation's YouTube channel:


Objective: Raise awareness of and generate interest in taking one of The Freedom Trail Organization's tours.  Since the National Park Service offers a free tour, the organization wanted to bring to life the fact that costumed interpreters lead the tours for The Freedom Trail Foundation and give people a sense of that experience.  In addition, this would also create content that could be distributed on their Facebook page.

Implementation: Videotaped by in-house staff using standard consumer-grade video equipment.  The organization already had "the talent" in each of their guides.  The material was in the public domain, but had to be selected and then edited for length.   Music was contributed in return for a credit and link to the performer's site.

Funding: Sponsored by the Massachusetts Teachers Association (2012), Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts (2011), and WBUR (2011)

Results:  While the videos varied in quality and suffered a bit early on from an in-house learning curve, each day’s videos generally receive 25 - 200 views and have been well-received by both sponsors and viewers. The resource has also been helpful for schools in both giving their kids a different delivery of historical content and for choosing guides for their future tours.

Matt Wilding of the Freedom Trail Foundation, who formerly was an interpreter on The Freedom TrailMatt Wilding of the Freedom Trail Foundation

Facebook (started 2/2010): 6,082 Likes

Twitter (@TheFreedomTrail) (started 2/2010):  906 followers

YouTube channel (started 6/2010): 395 videos, 67 subscribers, 220,200 video views

Lessons learned:  Generally, the more lead time for production, the better.  Most errors and production problems could have been avoided with more time on the production end.

Institution: The Freedom Trail Foundation

Created and implemented by: Matt Wilding, Media and Content Manager for The Freedom Trail Foundation, and a former interpreter.

Case study date: February 24, 2012

To suggest or submit a case study, contact us.

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February 16, 2012

Engaging the public in "Public History:" Strategies and tactics for getting more people into historical museums, sites, and landmarks

Starting in early April I'll be making a trek from Massachusetts, along the Great Lakes, and on to Des Moines, Milwaukee, and Chicago, before returning to Massachusetts at the end of the month. 

In Milwaukee I'll attend the annual joint Organization of American Historians/National Council on Public History 2012 conference, April 18 - 22.  Thanks to John Dichtl and Cathy Stanton of the National Council on Public History and fellow member and Boston NPS Ranger Chuck Arning who had helpful insights and suggestions about why the conference would be a good place to connect with others from across the country.

If you're attending, I hope to meet you in Milwaukee.  In advance, you can send me a message; at the conference, send a Tweet (@TheHistoryList). 

I've also proposed this topic for a Dine Around (Friday, April 20; 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm):

Engaging the "Public" in "Public History:" Strategies and tactics for getting more people into historical museums, sites, and landmarks

(Discussion continues below the program)

Update: March 22: The topic was approved, so the next question: Where shall we go for dinner?

Update: April 18: See the blog post above for updates on the conference and this Dine Around.


If accepted—not quite sure of the selection process/criteria/voting—this would offer the opportunity for individuals responsible for a museum, site, or landmark the opportunity to share ideas, successes, and lessons learned.  Recent meetings in Boston with prominent institutions resulted in these insights from their experiences.

This is a rough schedule:

  • April 9 - 15                Central Iowa
  • April 16 - 22              Milwaukee (OAH/NCPH 2012 Conference: April 18 - 22)
  • April 23 - 29              Chicago
  • April 30 - May 4        Great Lakes Region

To arrange a meeting in one of these destinations, or somewhere along the way, contact me.

Looking forward to attending the conference and to the meetings and conversation before, during, and after.

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