Beyond Crowd-Sourcing: Sharing Responsibility and Empowering Participants

Citizen history and crowdsourcing are buzzwords entrancing museum professionals. In building collections of primary source materials, museums are increasingly seeking to engage the public in museum work. Great for museums--but are these fulfilling the needs of our participants? In this presentation, we argue that a successful participatory project must consider more than outsourcing grunt work. Panelists from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ford's Theatre share lessons learned from inviting the public in. We will discuss the differences between crowdsourcing and citizen history, challenges facing each, and strategies that will help other institutions effectively plan their own participatory projects. The two projects, based on their objectives and target audiences, took different approaches, reflected in user interfaces. Ford’s Theatre’s Remembering Lincoln, showcasing how people around the United States and world responded to the Lincoln assassination, emphasized the finished product--high-quality images of primary sources with high-quality metadata that localizes and personalizes a national story. The project’s manager will discuss preliminary forays into both crowdsourcing and citizen history since launch, emphasizing that unless institutions set participation as an explicit goal of the project, relying on crowdsourcing can be mutually exclusive from the creation of a polished end-user experience. On the other hand, USHMM’s History Unfolded project, in which citizen historians across the country research local newspaper coverage of the Holocaust, has emphasized creating an infrastructure for participation and a high quality educational experience as important as the finished product itself. The project’s education outreach specialist will discuss the challenges the Museum has faced in balancing educational and research goals, as well as a number of strategies the project’s team has learned in creating a successful citizen history project. Together, these two projects provide lessons learned for institutions that are seeking to build collections of primary sources with user participation. Speakers Session Leader : David McKenzie, Associate Director for Digital Resources, Ford's Theatre Society Co-Presenter : Eric Schmalz, Citizen History Community Manager, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA