This and That about THATCamp

I spent most of my weekend at THATCamp Bay Area, and a rollicking good time it was, too. If you haven’t heard of THATCamp, “THAT” stands for “The Humanities and Technology”. The “camp” part is to denote that it is an “unconference” where the participants decide what’s going to happen at the event itself. This event, and many others like it, was inspired by the first THATCamp held by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The Bay Area event was organized by Jon Voss (see picture) of and a team of volunteers.

After a brief introduction by Jon, we all started pitching various session ideas by writing a title on a large post-it, briefly describing it, and putting it on a big paper grid of days and times. What we ended up with were 3-5 sessions per time block, so there was pretty much something for everyone all of time. Raymond Yee, whom I’ve known for years and collaborated with while at the California Digital Library, and I co-taught a “bootcamp” session on mashing up bibliographic data. I highlighted the WorldCat Basic API, which offers access to our 200 million record bibliographic database to anyone for free, and Raymond talked about mashing up more generally and demonstrated Yahoo Pipes.

Other attendees included Rick and Megan Prelinger from the Prelinger Library, Jon Christensen of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, and George Oates from the Internet Archive.

Since this happened to coincide with “Fleet Week” in San Francisco, the Blue Angels were screaming overhead part of the time. Also, Saturday evening when we had various presentations, including two-minute “dork shorts”, fireworks overhead punctuated the event.

The end result for me was being able to understand more about the interests and needs of humanities researchers — particularly in relation to technology. I was also able to contribute a little to their understanding about some potentially useful resources available to them in their work. All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Roy Tennant works on projects related to improving the technological infrastructure of libraries, museums, and archives.

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