Welcome to the fourth quarter and 2014 HCLE report. We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.
The pace accelerated through the last half of 2014. Thanks to some key volunteer help, the catalog and databases progressed to the point that they are operational. Substantial refinements are necessary for efficiency, but the initial infrastructure means work on the collection can begin. We maintain two databases and a directory of image files. Information about people and institutions is stored in the constituency relationship management database (CRM). This is now operational, with the intent of increasing the efficiency of the outreach, fundraising campaigns and interactions with stakeholders. The collection database (catalog) and the CRM database will be integrated so relationships among artifacts, contributor, curators and museum patrons can be tracked. Exhibits can also demonstrate the relationships between the artifacts, the contributors, and the stories.
With these accomplishments (and with the appropriate funding) HCLE should be able to produce a proof of concept in 2015. Subsequent to the proof of concept will be the major tasks of digitizing and curating the whole collection, and designing the virtual museum interface. Those tasks may not be completed in 2015, but significant progress is possible by the end of the year.
Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.
Table of Contents
- LO*OP Center (HCLE’s host)
- Operations (infrastructure construction)
- Catalog (the archival inventory)
- Metadata (how we organize, find, and track the artifacts)
- Collection (the physical and digital repositories)
- Contributor Relationship Management (CiviCRM)
- Wiki (HCLE’s digital loading dock)
- Exhibits (a typical museum’s end product)
- Online Museum Working Group
- Conference Attendance
- Museum Learning Central
- Social Media traffic report
LO*OP Center (HCLE’s host)
HCLE is a project of the LO*OP Center, Inc., a California, public-benefit, nonprofit corporation founded in 1975. Donations, other financial transactions and tax reporting are handled by LO*OP which means HCLE actively supports the Center’s reporting needs. Over the years LO*OP has undertaken a variety of educational and publishing projects in intercultural communications, US-USSR citizen diplomacy, ecology and earth systems, curriculum development, open educational resources and cognitive learning styles as well as computing in learning. At present, HCLE is LO*OP’s major focus. When time permits, LO*OP staff also work on the Open Educative Systems project which explores new ways to scaffold learning beyond traditional school structures.
Operations (infrastructure construction)
“In any industry, the operations team is the infrastructure of an organization that works behind the scenes to keep things running. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector, where operations staff support an overall organization in a number of functional areas, including accounting and finance, administration, human resources, information technology, marketing, and office management. Across all of these functional areas is one goal: to make sure an organization is operating efficiently and to its full potential.” http://www.commongoodcareers.org
During our start-up period, HCLE Operations covers the majority of the work done by our staff of two and small volunteer cohort. It is the core effort directed towards creating a virtual museum. Each of the operations activities support and overlap with the others. HCLE is growing out of the LO*OP Center Collection that began to accumulate over thirty years ago. The artifacts are in storage, and are ready to be organized, preserved, inventoried, and entered into the catalog. Before they can be cataloged we have to define which combination of terms will comprehensively describe the artifacts, make them trackable, retrievable, and publicly searchable. Those terms are the Metadata. The Catalog is linked to a digital repository of images of the artifacts (documents, pictures, books, magazines, software, photographs of hardware). As each artifact is identified and entered into the Catalog its definition, and contents will be included either through manual input or by automated digitization and scanning processes. As the Catalog fills, selected items will become the basis for Exhibits, ordered sets of images and software connected by interpretive text. Several styles of exhibits are on the drawing board. Depending on the subject, content, and audience the exhibits may be
- static web pages (still images with text that are updated periodically),
- dynamic web pages (video and scripted pages that change depending on user input),
- interactive web pages (games, e-learning and simulations),
- scripted 3-D web sites (simulating guided tours through a museum-like virtual world), or
- interactive 3-D web sites (similar to multi-player video games).
HCLE already offers social media opportunities through our Wiki, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube. Our Wiki also acts as a digital loading dock for collecting more information that will be the foundation and initial structure for the Virtual Museum.
The virtual museum is too large and too expensive to implement all at once so we will develop a Proof-of-Concept prototype first.
Creating HCLE’s Virtual Museum is a large enough project that we are actively seeking additional resources from Volunteers, Collaborations, private contributions, corporate contributions, philanthropies and charities, and governmental contributions. Because contributions can come from individuals and organizations that are also subjects of the museum, integration of the HCLE Collections Database with the Constituency Database is key to track artifacts, the individuals involved, their respective histories, and the interrelations that stretch back to the pioneering era for education and computers. Our intent is to promote personal interaction among museums visitors, those who created our artifacts and educational professionals of all stripes, including HCLE staff.
Through all of this work it is necessary to tell people what we are doing, to demonstrate our progress, and to connect with people who can mutually benefit from the museum. We conduct Outreach through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), our blog, as well as by attending professional conferences, and joining initiatives. Museum Learning Central was a forum for museum professionals inspired by a session at the Museums and the Web conference; and those functions have been passed along to a new forum under the auspices of the Alliance of American Museums (AAM). Another, more active initiative is the Online Museum Working Group (OMWG), inspired by a meeting between Liza Loop and the head of the US Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS’s current charter does not enable it to make grants to solely virtual museums like HCLE. Liza was asked to convene a working group that will propose new wording to incorporate into the 2016 IMLS re-authorization legislation that will correct this omission.
The following newsletter items summarize the fourth quarter 2014 activities in several areas. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Thank you for your support.
Catalog (the archival inventory)
Thanks to the efforts of volunteer Stan Crump, version 1.0 of the HCLE Catalog is complete. Stan coded the interface to Liza’s directions. Like most software, the Catalog, which consists of a MySQL database and a web interface, is destined to perpetually be in revision. This first step allows the artifacts in LO*OP Center’s Collection, and any other relevant material available on the internet, to be added to and described within the database. While functional, the Catalog is not public yet because it requires additional documentation and interface enhancements to enable new users to access and interact with the database securely. One target is to finish upgrading the Catalog interface so that it can be open to be searched by the public. Meanwhile, we are actively soliciting volunteers to help with organizing, preserving, inventory, and entering artifact data into the catalog.
Here’s an example of the Data Entry Screen. http://hcle.wikispaces.com/Data_entry_screens_beta
Metadata (how we organize, find, and track the artifacts)
The set of Catalog fields that describe each artifact in detail is called the Metadata. While the field names would seem to be simple descriptors, picking the exactly correct field names is important. When academically accepted field names are used outside researchers can more readily find items in HCLE’s Catalog. In addition, using standard field names permits HCLE’s Catalog to reference items in the catalogs of other institutions, extending the reach of both. Svetlana Ushakova, a graduate student at the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science, has volunteered her time to research best practices this field. HCLE’s Metadata is based on a standard called Modified Dublin Core, which must be extended to incorporate HCLE specific fields.
Svetlana compared several metadata systems:
- Dublin Core (DCMI),
- MARC, and
- EAD (closest to HCLE because it’s created for archives),
- and two examples from institutions:
- Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, and
- Digital Library of University of Houston.
The best set or combination of sets of metadata for HCLE will be chosen after a review.
Few Collections include such a variety of media and standards in this field continue to mutate and mature so the task is larger than it seems at first glance. As the definitive field names are selected they are reflected in the Catalog.
Collection (the physical and digital repositories)
HCLE draws predominantly on the artifacts collected by Liza Loop during her 35-plus years of computer education work at LO*OP Center, Inc. Augmented by contributions from other educational technology pioneers, the Collection is stored in the HCLE facilities in California. The artifacts include hardware, software, toys, digital text and image files, as well as myriad forms of paper-based material. The physical hardware will not be part of the Virtual Museum because there is currently no way to access it via the internet. (Although 3-D printing is on the horizon, HCLE will leave preserving and accessing the hardware to other museums.) However, rich descriptions of how hardware has been used for learning and lots of images will be featured. Much of the Virtual Museum will be devoted to software, documentation and interpretive narrative because these items were either born digital or can be digitized. The task of preserving and presenting digital material is significant. Software comes in many forms. Originally, many programs were distributed as listings of code printed on paper, then manually typed in computers with limited, often volatile memory storage. Software in the collection is also stored on punched paper tapes, computer cards, audio cassette tapes, digital cassette tapes, large-format, magnetic computer tape, ROM cartridges, large floppies, medium floppies, small floppies, and various disk drives. Within those media, a variety of file formats mean a variety of implementations and preservation requirements. It is common to store the programs in their original format, plus possibly a more modern format. The original formats are historic, and must be associated with their supportive operating systems, and in some cases, hardware. Documentation and associated teaching/learning materials exist in the form of books and publications, but they are also present as hand-written notes, newsletters, mimeographs, “ditto” sheets, software packaging, posters, and advertisements.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of many individuals and institutions, HCLE is trying out various methods of scanning and digitizing artifacts to best understand how to conserve/preserve them. Henry Lowood is championing the digitization of publications from the LO*OP Collection via the Stanford Libraries. Mark Pilgrim has offered to digitize Apple II disks. Jason Scott at Internet Archive has welcomed the addition of LO*OP Center’s software to the Internet Archive, and in particular, the use of their emulation software which will allow old programs to run in approximations of their original environments via Archive.org’s web site.
The hardware in the Collection is historically significant, particularly the Apple 1 #1 given to LO*OP Center by Steve Wozniak so Liza could bring computers into classrooms. Steve also gave her Apple II #10 for the same purpose. The various artifacts are being appraised so they can be properly insured and stored, and possibly made available to researchers. Our network of Collaborators includes other owners of Apple 1’s particularly David Larsen of the Bug Book Computer Museum and the Henry Ford Museum. The Apple 1 owners community is necessarily a small one, and therefore, valuable.
Appropriate ways to collect, assess, preserve, and present historic artifacts are evolving within the larger community of collections libraries, archives and museums, (including the US National Archive and Library of Congress) and we are engaged in those discussions. This is a maturing field with few absolute answers.
Constituency Relationship Management (CiviCRM)
In support of the Catalog, the Collection, and Fundraising we have formalized and centralized our contacts list, social media networks, and funders database into a one database system that will also connect with HCLE’s Catalog. The program we are using, CiviCRM, is an open-source database designed to coordinate the operations of non-profits. We will extend it to enable the tracking of connections between artifacts in the Collection, the Story Project, Exhibits, Collaborators, Volunteers, and Funders. We are doing so because it is possible for one person to be part of every aspect of the Museum and we want to recognize and encourage such extensive involvement.
The work of implementing CiviCRM was largely performed by Liza Loop for the structure and definitions, and Tom Trimbath for the importation of contact data. This solution should be better than the assortment of Google Docs, Sheets, and GMail lists we have been using to date.
As with the Catalog, the initial phase is complete. The current phase involves the documentation of desired functions, creation of forms and reports, establishment of groups, and familiarization with incorporating operations like mailings, proposal tracking, and recording activities.
CiviCRM is still in review and could be replaced, but we have yet to find a more capable database for the price.
Attempting to integrate a museum’s catalog with the constituency database is uncommon enough that the Office of Digital Humanities in the National Endowment for the Humanities is interested in our progress.
Wiki (HCLE’s digital loading dock)
While the Virtual Museum is being developed and while support programs like CiviCRM are being incorporated, we need a place to coordinate the efforts, engage with Collaborators, and collect content for future exhibits. As we refer to it, hcle.wkispaces.com is our digital loading dock; it may not be as pretty as it could be, but it is serviceable for now.
The wiki will probably persist even after the Virtual Museum becomes operational, as a background forum for volunteers and staff the way a loading dock is required even after a store opens its doors.
HCLE has grown rapidly in the last two years, and the wiki could use some cosmetic changes and reorganization. It is also possible that the wiki will be ported from Wikispaces to Wikimedia as our speed and efficiency needs change. Exploratory projects are progressing.
Exhibits (a typical museum’s end product)
HCLE’s most public feature will be its exhibits. The three main categories of exhibits are currently;
- HCLE Educational Technology Pioneers and their stories,
- digitized copies of historic publications, and
- educational games.
Until the main site is operational, the exhibits are being built on our wiki.
The Pioneers are those people who came first, those people who took the first steps to introduce computers to learning and education, and to apply learning and education to computers and computing. We are documenting their contributions by recording and publishing their stories. Some are already recorded in memoirs or historical recordings. Most are in that perishable memory storage we call the human brain. We’re beginning by collecting names, links, personal essays and recorded interviews. Our Writing Competition events are a way to engage others to participate in this oral history effort.
Selected publications that are part of the “Liza Loop Papers”, a collection donated to Stanford University Libraries in 1988, are currently being digitized and served to the internet by Stanford. So far, newsletters from the Homebrew Computer Club and from People’s Computing Company are available on Stanford’s site and are accessible through both Stanford and the HCLE wiki. Eventually they will be incorporated into HCLE exhibits.
Games attract people. Many people learned how to use computers by learning to play computer games. The games also taught basic curriculum content like history, geography, sociology, strategy, and even typing and programming (coding). We are constructing exhibits based on the most influential games. Oregon Trail taught students about the Oregon Trail; but, depending on which version the students used, they may have also learned about computer programming. Early versions were simple, but had to be typed in first; which created a new perspective for the student. Later versions are much more sophisticated and teach more about the nuances of history but teach less about the computer. Similar exhibits are being developed for Carmen Sandiego, SimCity, Civilization, Avalon Hill, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Eventually, exhibits will extend into 3-D interactive environments; which is why we are also staying aware of technologies like Oculus Rift.
Many of these exhibits are also opportunities for collaborations or funding with the corporations that maintain intellectual property rights over the products. IBM’s 1500 computer assisted instruction system, designed to introduce mainframes to children, is such a proposed exhibit.
We are also creating an exhibit for “Public Access Computer Centers in California” including:
- Peoples Computer Center
- LO*OP Center
- Marin Computer Center
These exhibits will feature:
- oral histories
- the software that was used at each center
- descriptions of what folks could do at each center
We plan to involve several Collaborators in the future like:
- Pratt School of Information and Library Science
- Sonoma County Museum
- Sonoma State University
- Schultz Foundation
- Cal Humanities
- Stanford – hosting PCC newsletters
HCLE has accomplished a lot with only the internal support of LO*OP Center, Inc. and the Vision Club members. The initial Collection is in place. The Catalog is operational. The Metadata are being defined. Preliminary scans are in progress. Exhibits are being sketched. However, additional external underwriting is essential for HCLE to progress according to the ambitious schedule we have set out.
Prior to mid-2014 the majority of funding sources contacted were governmental; e.g. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Endowment for the Arts(NEA), National Archives, etc. These are the pre-eminent museum funders in the US. Based on our experience attending conferences and exploring the web, we realize that these institutions expect the organizations they fund to be further along in their development. It is difficult for new, small museums, virtual museums, or museums covering ignored topics to demonstrate the track record, professional staff or sustainability required for winning proposals. Although HCLE participation was welcomed and we were encouraged to apply, the proposal process is designed around criteria that can only be met by fully-staffed, multi-year, conventional museums. This created a “Catch-22” situation. If HCLE were well-established and need the funds to expand, our applications would be competitive. As it is, we cannot rely on these large, federal sources of support.
Based on the success of other museums, we have decided to adopt a more entrepreneurial attitude and pursue non-governmental funding opportunities including the HCLE Vision Club, professional associations, private foundations, and corporations. To support that shift we’ve rearranged our social media networks to increase the opportunities for finding common interests. We were disappointed in our first foray into this arena with news that the Entertainment Software Association denied our proposed Oregon Trail exhibit request.
This is a good opportunity to celebrate one of the Vision Club member’s success. Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators, has been a great success. We also want to thank Walter for calling attention to HCLE and Liza Loop during some of his presentations.
We are open to governmental funding, but will only pursue it for narrower targets with higher probabilities of success.
It is appropriate that we mention one artifact from the LO*OP Center Collection that comes up in discussions about HCLE and funding. The Apple 1 #1 is a priceless historic artifact personally given to Liza Loop from Steve Wozniak. For now, it has been decided to not sell it even as other Apple 1s are being bought at auction. It may, however, be made available for collaborative exhibits for a fee.
Even if HCLE was fully-funded, collaborations are necessary. Museums work best when they integrate collections, each taking the same items but emphasizing them for different reasons. As with any organization with less than full funding, HCLE uses collaborations to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive, complicated, or inefficient to do internally. Stanford scans documents. Volunteer Mark Pilrgrim scans Apple II disks. Collaborators also can strengthen each other’s grant applications. Our CiviCRM database lists over 900 contacts, with a natural gradation between the smallest and largest collaborations. The following is a partial list of collaborators active in late 2014.
- Library of Congress – defining Digital Stewardship
- National Archives and Record Administration – validation of definitions of Preservation and Access
- Computer History Museum – discussions about Apple 1, and movie with HomeBrew Alums
- Stanford University and & Henry Lowood – scans of Homebrew and PCC
- Pratt Digital Preservation – student project based on HCLE disks
- Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum – owner of Apple 1s
HCLE is small now, but the issue is big (as one of our potential funders acknowledged.) We have several ways to get the message out, some of which are less about the details of the Virtual Museum and more about furthering the cause of similar museums, and making more people aware of what we are doing.
Online Museum Working Group
One of the funding issues described above is something HCLE has in common with other virtual and online museums. Most funders are more comfortable supporting brick and mortar, or more likely marble and glass, museums. Some, like IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) are actually precluded from providing funds to museums that only exhibit online. At a recent conference of the American Alliance of Museums, the head of IMLS met with Liza and agreed that the situation must change. She asked Liza to convene a working group of online museums to address two issues: 1) Suggest the criteria that make an online collection a museum and not just a web site, and 2) Recommend the words that should be added to or edited in IMLS’ 2015 funding legislation to give IMLS more latitude. In support of the Online Museum Working Group (OMWG), invitations and introductions have been delivered, a forum established on HCLE’s wiki, and a presentation and meeting will be convened at the April 2015 Museums and the Web conference. The wiki contains the details, but the general agreement is that a museum, online or traditional, does more than present materials. It also preserves, curates, and provides access.
One of the most straightforward ways to bring visibility to HCLE is to attend and present at professional conferences. In 2014 (and in 2015) HCLE has and will be visible at the Museums and the Web conference, which is dedicated to the technological changes affecting museums; and the annual meetings of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), which is much larger, much higher profile, and is better for outreach to traditional museums that may cover history, computing, learning, and education. Our participation and impact has far exceeded what many expect from one or two representatives.
Museum Learning Central
A consequence of the 2014 Museums and the Web conference was the creation of a discussion forum for museum professionals. While many people discussed and considered the value, none was as active as Liza who, within several hours, produced a working site called Museum Learning Central. It has since been superseded by a site produced by AAM, but initiating the site introduced HCLE to dozens of museum professionals, and demonstrated HCLE’s active style.
We continue to blog about issues relevant to the history of computing in learning and education, but also virtual museums, fundraising for small museums, advertising our initiatives, and anecdotal histories. We must be doing something right because blog traffic set new records three months in a row.
Much of the credit for our progress in the fundamental Catalog/Metadata and Database work is thanks to Svetlana Ushakova and Stan Crump, respectively. Each has devoted dozens or hundreds of hours to their tasks. We welcome volunteers for other tasks, too. Laxman Kumar has helped with the Collection. Svetlana’s son, Andrey, has helped Stan with the Database. Jung-Jin has offered help with accounting. Jon Cappetta has offered help with the wiki and initial exhibits. And, of course, board members and Vision Club members are appreciated as well. Simply spreading the word may be the most powerful help available because greater awareness can inspire others with greater resources. We thank you all.
Administration is boring (to some) and necessary. Everything from strategic tasks like maintaining the program plan, to everyday tasks like making sure the bills get paid are the work that enable the rest. (If you know a good web conferencing solution that is compatible with Chromebooks, enables screen sharing, maintains privacy, and is free or cheap, tell us. Clear communication is not as easy as the brochures suggest.)