I am currently interning at the National History Center. The other day we were approached by a local historian to help assist on a new project that involved connecting incoming graduate students in the history or museum field and providing them with information on how to use various resources DC has to offer. This historian had a large project in mind that included an interactive map where students could view great local restaurants, entertainment venues, as well as historic institutions.
For my digital project, I would like to work off of one aspect of this project – connecting incoming history and museum grads with local cultural institutions. Originally I was thinking of creating an interactive map where students could hover over different institutions on the map to find information, but due to time I think I may just create an open source blogging site through WordPress.
This project would mainly involve connecting current and incoming graduate students through a two-way conversation. Incoming students could ask questions, and current students would provide information and helpful tips on how to use certain institutions. For example, when I first arrived in DC I had absolutely no idea how to use the Library of Congress. To which building did I have to go to get my readers card? How long would this process take? Which reading rooms allow personal bags? To whom should I ask questions? Where exactly is the European reading room located? How do I use the online database? This is just one example of how current grad students could really help incoming students use the resources of these institutions more quickly and efficiently.
Another aspect of this project could involve a “venue of the week” feature. For example, I could throw out a question regarding some exhibit at the Smithsonian, asking people how easy it was to find, what the purpose of the exhibit was, how it fits into that museum’s mission, etc. This would prompt people to visit the exhibit and hopefully stimulate a conversation around it. This would benefit not only incoming students who are learning about what these different institutions have to offer, but also current grad students who may not have known something about that institution.