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HCLE Summer 2016 Progress Report

HCLE Summer 2016 Progress Report

 

Welcome to the summer quarter of 2016 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.

Our staff of 1.4 FTEs, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the winter (July through September) of 2016.

 

 

Fundraising

  • We updated our strategy to take advantage of our Oral History Workshop and our Make versus Buy process.

Catalog

  • The initial phase of our Make versus Buy process resulted in a trial of Collector Systems and a potential $300K savings.

Collaboration

  • The content of the Oral History Workshop is being edited prior to publication.

Outreach

  • Liza’s presentation at the Geekfest 2016 Berlin conference was well received.

 

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.


A Pioneer has passed

Seymour Papert, co-founder of the MIT Media Lab (then known as the AI Lab). Liza worked with him briefly in the 1980s and taught his childrens programming language, LOGO, in several California schools.

Although Seymour’s work is already well documented, his death highlights the urgency of our museum’s oral history work. Other prominent Pioneers are approaching the end of their lives. Many have not had a chance to provide such a complete legacy. We are working on a virtual exhibit to highlight Seymour’s numerous advances and accomplishments within the field of education and computing. His work is appreciated. His loss is felt.


 

  • Fundraising

    • Strategy

We updated our fundraising strategy to take advantage of our inaugural Oral History workshop (see below), the opportunity to refine our Cal Humanities proposal, and the preliminary results of our Make Versus Buy process (see below). In general, we intend to use feedback from our recent CalHum proposal to update our appeals. The results of the workshop are also an opportunity to demonstrate some of what we hope to preserve and accomplish. The results of the Make Versus Buy process help demonstrate one way we intend to support the creation of the museum.

After we’ve incorporated the feedback from CalHum, we intend to contact Foundations and NGOs with the news of the various updates.

If there are no direct responses, we intend to revisit the Kickstarter campaign, contact key foundation board members for advice, referrals, and hopefully resources.

We’re revisiting our list of foundations and so far have researched candidates to contact from:

      • Kresge
      • Moore
      • Broad
      • Sloan
      • Carnegie
      • Kresge
      • MacArthur

We welcome suggestions about who to contact.

In preparation for the next Kickstarter campaign that will target funding our Proof of Concept, we’ve drafted a series of interview questions from which we’ll create a video interview of Liza. A good video is highly recommended for Kickstarter campaigns, which is why we are focusing on a simple, yet hopefully effective approach.

 


  • Collection

    • social media

Our social media campaign is predominantly for advocacy, collaboration, and fund raising, but it has also been uncovering and collecting digital artifacts, online collections, and oral histories. We conducted a review of the discoveries and compiled them for eventual inclusion in our Catalog.


  • Catalog

    • Catalog Maintenance System – Make Versus Buy

We completed the main selection phase of our Make Versus Buy analysis. After reviewing approximately two dozen candidates, we decided to begin a trial of Collector Systems. Estimated savings are of ~ $300,000 and a shortening of the software timeline of approximately six months. Collector Systems was chosen because it is a cloud-based solution, with relatively low recurring and non-recurring costs, that is somewhat customizable, and that can be readily scaled as needed. The cost of the study was ~$800.

Our preliminary evaluation of the trial is inconclusive because of an interruption in communications, plus a miscommunication about the particular software package we should be using. Liza’s conversations with their CEO enabled a free extended trial until we’ve made our decision. At the close of the quarter, Collector Systems was shifting us to the software package more appropriate for museums, and using our map of the metadata crosswalk to modify their displays to match our needs. They were very receptive to suggested improvements such as including social media in the contact information. A gallery was created with relative ease, but will be probably be replaced after the account is switched to the museum system.

Concurrently, we will continue to use HCLE’s Catalog Maintenance System because it is our established process and we may need to return to it.

One consequence of our review has been an improved documentation of our current digitization, cataloging, and artifact management process. If we choose Collector Systems, we will similarly document the process.

We continue to improve our Catalog Maintenance System by fixing bugs and improving functionality.


  • People/Volunteers

    • Student Project

Liza attended the Sonoma State Internship Faire to recruit interns to work on any of eleven tasks.

Our current team of volunteers and consultants continue to help with specific issues with the Catalog Maintenance System and miscellaneous system administration tasks.

Kimberly Loop has been contracted to edit the videos from the Oral History Workshop held in June.


  • Outreach

    • Events

The primary event was Liza’s participation as a presenter at GeekFest 2016 in Berlin. It was a two day event that “brings together the founding fathers of the early personal computer era and the first Hacker scene and there will be a panel of memories from this era.” Liza was invited partly because of her involvement in the Homebrew Computer Club and the West Coast ComputerFaire. Videos of the presentations are available on YouTube.

We are also preparing a workshop for next year’s Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting (AGM) April 27-29 in Pasadena. The workshop will convey our experience with our Catalog Maintenance System Make Versus Buy process, and will help others modify HCLE’s process to meet their critieria and situation.

1/1/2014 12/29/2014 12/30/2015 9/30/2016
Facebook 59 91 104 137
Twitter 67 271 408 469
WordPress 18 42 49 49
Wikispaces 12 41 62 68

  • wiki

    • The HCLE wiki continues to act as a communications center and as a digital loading dock. An alternative format was proposed and is undergoing outside review.

We continue to refine the videos from the Oral History Workshop that was conducted in June with Leuphana University in Luneberg, Germany. The goal is to create a series of videos, one for each presentation.

We are also in discussions about possible publications, both informal and academic, based on the event.

No decision has been reached on holding a similar event in 2017, partly because of insufficient funding.

Inspired by the event, we are considering producing a monthly series of Oral History videos and podcasts. Each video would be an interview with an HCLE Pioneer. Questions would be standardized. The interviewee would have the opportunity to present several slides, which is one of the benefits of a video rather than a podcast.


  • Exhibits

    • Thanks to some auspicious networking, we are in discussion to create a demonstration exhibit using virtual reality.

  • Operations

    • There are continuing efforts to improve our processes within CiviCRM and our gallery exhibits.

  • LO*OP Center

    • No significant support efforts were required in the quarter.

  • admin

    • A web site and domain name audit was begun to manage site and file proliferation.

 

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Our Inaugural EdTech Oral History Workshop

A first workshop

On June 7th we held our inaugural Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

LLOHW image from Twitter

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As one of the speakers, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control, even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people, used to control people instead of to free them. Time to change all that…”

Our first workshop expanded on that theme with the influence of Montessori logic, applied conviviality, designs for teaching about and through computers, and pedagogy.

The four main presentations were:

  • Jeremias Herberg: IT Became Personal – Montessori Logics in 1970s Computer Hobby Groups
  • Lee Felsenstein: The Tom Swift Terminal and Applied Conviviality
  • Liza Loop: Distance, Synchronicity, Control: Exploring Designs for Teaching About and Through Computers
  • Howard Rheingold: Counterculture + Social Media = Edupunk Pedagogy


(June 2017 update: select videos available)

The workshop was well attended, considering that it was as much a test as it was a research opportunity. A few dozen people attended at Leuphana and online. Scheduling had to accommodate a 9 hour difference in time zones. It was impressive to see how many people were willing to stay up late or get up early to participate. As a reflection on the history of computing, such an event would have been prohibitively expensive and unpredictable decades ago. Now, the system we used was new, familiar to many even with a mix of languages, and was effectively a test for Leuphana. It worked more than well enough for us.

For about 5 hours, the attendees listened and participated in a discussion of the objective and subjective aspects of early EdTech. Dates and data are more readily researched; but oral history captures the subjective aspects like the motivations and circumstances that led to decisions, actions, and also abandoned ideas. Anecdotes may conflict, but they also reveal the various perspectives that existed and influenced those times and these times. Even though Jeremias didn’t work in the ’60s and ’70s, he was able to put the workshop in perspective thanks to his research. Lee, Liza, and Howard were active in that era; their presentations provided insights and inspired questions as well as possible further investigations by researchers.

Education made computers personal

Much of the early EdTech work which was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of this work was recorded. Much of it was never written down in the rush to turn new ideas into programs, lessons and new ways of teaching or learning. The workshop helped to refresh our memories, to ensure  that the information is preserved, to archive it and to make it available to researchers.

The nature of the collaboration between Liza and Jeremias is a good example of creating a bridge between generations. Liza Loop is the founder of LO*OP Center and the co-creator of the event. In the early days of personal computing, she brought the first Apple 1 into schools, opened a public access meeting place for computing, and helped write the user’s manuals for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. She lived the history, and knows others who also lived it. Jeremias Herberg is a post-doctoral fellow with the Complexity or Control Project at Leuphana University and works on how computers influenced learning. A sociologist, he is studying the history of science and technology, and finding others who are active in this field. These young scholars realize that the pioneers from a pivotal era are reaching the end of their lives and opportunities to meet them and capture their stories are becoming increasingly rare. This inaugural oral history workshop was yet another step in passing along history. There are many more stories to tell, record and study.

Lee was involved in the creation of several countercultural movements and in computers, including the Free Speech Movement where he created the famous “Community Memory”. In 1975, Lee co-founded the Homebrew Computer Club, where many early Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Apple inventor, Steve Wozniak, used to gather to swap stories and expertise. As an engineer, Lee created the Sol-20, and early desk-top computer and the Osborne 1, one of the first portable computers. Choosing from a breadth of influences, he chose to talk about the Tom Swift Terminal, a pre-PC device that would have enabled personal access to remote computers and could also be expanded into a quite capable stand-alone machine. As for how “Education Made Computers Personal”, he noted that the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control, even through technology.

Howard was one of the first writers to point out the educational values of digital networks. He was involved in the WELL, a “computer conferencing” system and, drawing from that experience, he coined the term “virtual community”. As he pointed out, many of the issues encountered in those early days still remain after decades of development, partly because;

“Technologies, including EdTech, are changing faster than society.”

Computers and computing have changed society and the way we teach and learn; but, fundamentally, many organizations and institutions continue to struggle to adapt.

Because the details of the presentations are too much to relay here we are working at making the presentations and the video available. (You can follow some of the proceedings via #LLOHW on Twitter.) When they are available we’ll post them this blog and publish announcements on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

One workshop is not enough. There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are at risk of being dismissed or overlooked by subsequent generations unless they are combined with contemporary, interpretive commentary. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop and also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. Howard, Liza, and Lee are already well known through their writing as are many other EdTech pioneers. However, equally useful stories from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students, have yet to be captured. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we build our virtual museum). Keep next year’s workshop in mind and let us know if you would like to be kept abreast of our plans. There are more stories to tell and hear.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

HCLE Second Quarter 2015 Progress Report

Welcome to the second quarter of 2015 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.

Our staff of 1.3 FTEs, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the spring quarter of 2015.

  • Attended and presented at a series of conferences (AAM, MW, Brink, STS)
  • Contacted original members of the Homebrew Computer Club for stories and funding
  • Creation of a metadata superset for simplified coordination with other institutions
  • Developed a list of supportive scholars for future proposals
  • Expanded our list of collaborators including, Pratt SILS, OAC/CDL, CITE, Henry Ford Museum, SHOT CIS, …
  • Extended our outreach via podcasts, and possible publications

With these accomplishments (and with the appropriate funding) HCLE should be able to produce a Proof Of Concept virtual museum web site in 2015. Subsequent to the proof of concept will be the major tasks of digitizing and curating the collection, and designing the complete virtual museum interface. Those tasks may not be completed in 2015, but significant progress is anticipated.

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.


 

  • LO*OP Center

    • Open Education Systems (OES)
      • Liza published the first draft of the OES concept on the HCLE wiki. HCLE is about the past. OES is about the future. The two naturally work together with HCLE providing the data and insights that direct the OES vision.

 

  • Fundraising

  • HCLE currently relies on general operating funds provided by LO*OP Center, Inc. Future sustainability requires additional underwriting from individuals, members, foundations and government agencies. At present there are no plans to generate revenue through fees to access the Virtual Museum.
    • To increase the chances of grant awards, we initiated a search for a professional fundraiser/grantwriter. No selection has been made, yet.
    • CLIR
      • A proposal for the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) was prepared but not submitted. The exercise, however, produced an impressive list of scholars and collaborators who now support our work.
    • A letter to scholars has been drafted to encourage research, maintain relations and to provide a source of Letters of Support for grant proposals.
    • We made a direct appeal to member of the original Homebrew Computer Club. While the primary intent is to collect their stories, a secondary benefit is to increase our visibility to potential funders. See Stories for their response.
    • A draft was created for a Kickstarter project to crowdfund the Proof of Concept.
    • We have received a promise of grant writing assistance from Jeremias Herberg (Luneburg University).

 

  • Operations/Virtual Museum Web Site

  • As HCLE progresses from the present start-up phase into normal operation this section will enlarge.
    • Proof Of Concept (PoC) web site
      • Preliminary conversations were carried out with Jessica Sullivan about the Proof of Concept web site. Preliminary specifications were sketched out. The PoC site is a high priority. Funding is being sought with public, crowdfunded, and private sources.

 

  • Collection

  • The content of the HCLE Virtual Museum comprises materials collected and preserved by founder-director Liza Loop and currently owned by LO*OP Center, Inc. Additional items are being donated and related items, owned and hosted online by other individuals and institutions are being referenced in the HCLE catalog.
    • The Collection continues to be digitized as resources allow. Mark Pilgrim is digitizing Apple ][ disks, Anthony Cocciolo (Pratt Institute) digitized various floppies and Betamax tapes, and Jerry Herberg (Luneberg University) aided Liza in sorting, cataloging, and digitizing parts of the Collection. Discussions with Henry Lowood (Stanford) and Fred Turner (Stanford) continue.
    • All digitization efforts are being encouraged to use the Catalog, though some translations may be required.

 

  • Catalog

  • The Catalog is the software that contains and manages the database. No free open-source software was found that met our criteria, so we are developing this capability internally.
    • The Catalog is in use and enabling the digitization of the Collection.
    • Stan Crump, our programmer, improved the operation and coordinated with the digitization project at Pratt. The more we use it, the more we learn about how it must handle needs such as multiple users; especially, collaborators.

 

  • Metadata

  • Information about each item is stored in the Catalog and can be displayed in various formats for scholars, museum staff and visitors. Maintaining a rich set of metadata is essential for locating documents and images as well as understanding their context and significance.

    • Svetlana Ushakova completed her metadata crosswalk work, effectively providing a comparison between three external metadata sets (EADS, MARC, Dublin) with our internal metadata set.
    • A metadata superset was created based on the work done by Svetlana. A superset will allow us to capture enough metadata to export subsets that match the requirements of collaborators.
    • Svetlana will document some of her work as part of a class project.
    • We began a search for a new metadata coordinator because Svetlana needs to concentrate on her studies.
    • We prepared a metadata schema (list of fields with explanations) and distributed it to various collaborators so we can better coordinate our efforts.
    • We’ll pass along this quote from a collaborator that distinguishes metadata from search data.
      • museums systems were not developed with public search in mind, and they do not support much descriptive metadata.” – from Ellice Engdahl

 

  • Wiki

  • This informal web site serves as an online rallying resource for those building the formal Virtual Museum. It will continue to provide a virtual sandbox and conversation pit for staff and volunteers after the museum site is launched.

    • The wiki continues to grow and the style continues to mature and stabilize. A restructuring has been proposed, but only style elements have been incorporated. This may take a dedicated individual for an intense, short-term effort. The main additions have been:
      • OES (see LO*OP Center above)
      • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)

 

  • Stories

  • Our stories highlight how folks learned to use computers between 1955 and 1995 and how and what teachers taught with them. Our emphasis is on learning and teaching; we leave documenting the history of the computing industry to others. Our story tellers are not the celebrities of the high tech revolution. They are the unsung heroes who changed the way we educate ourselves and our children.
    • HCLE EdTech Pioneers: our growing list
      • We launched a new initiative to contact each HCLE EdTech Pioneer, if possible, asking them to improve their pages, nominate others for the list, and contribute, information, insights, artifacts, introductions and any other resources that HCLE can use.
        • The following people were kind enough to be interviewed; and have nominated several other EdTech Pioneers.
          • Liza Loop, our founder – whose page hadn’t been given the attention it deserved, until we consolidated several pages into one.
          • Bob Albrecht – interviewed by Jon Cappetta and possible blog
          • Glen Bull – who will also propose to CITE’s funders about publishing Pioneer stories on a regular basis, and who may work with Jacoby Young on podcasts.
        • The following people have been contacted. There have been some improvements to their pages, but the bulk of the material awaits existing links or an interview.
          • Marge Cappo
          • Kevin Lund
          • Mitchel Resnick
          • Dan Bricklin (Innovator)
      • HCLE Pioneer Meeting
        • We are organizing a meeting of the HCLE Pioneers to demonstrate our appreciation, provide a venue for collaboration and gather more stories. Formal, structured interviews are useful, but informal, casual conversations from Pioneer to Pioneer may reveal insights an interviewer wouldn’t know to pursue.
    • Atari podcast
      • Thanks to an interview of Liza Loop on an Atari podcast, contacts were made that may extend the reach of our Pioneers’ stories
        • Jacoby Young – podcast
        • Glen Bull (CITE) – an HCLE column in the CITE Journal

 

  • Exhibits

  • Online exhibits will simulate a gallery of objects to wander through, take the visitor on a guided tour or invite hands-on participation.
    • PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)
      • The PIAL exhibit will provide gamers and the curious the opportunity to play the original games within browser-based emulators of the original environment, while providing data to researchers interested in investigating what the gamers learned, and how.
        • A draft page has been produced and will be heavily modified.
        • Bibliographic references to game design have been added to aid designers and researchers.

 

  • Outreach

  • As a new institution, HCLE is making contacts in the worlds of museums, formal education and independent learners — both online and face-to-face.
    • Conferences
      • A variety of conferences, seminars, and gatherings were attended to improve HCLE’s network, identify interested scholars, publicize our progress, enlist collaborators, and identify potential funders.
        • Museums and the Web
          • attendance and blog
        • Alliance of American Museums
          • attendance and represent Online Museum Working Group
        • Brink Institute
          • panel participation and blog
        • Science and Technology Retreat Conference
          • recruiting for HCLE
    • Publications
      • We are pursuing the (re)publication of two books:
        • ComputerTown USA! e-book
        • Future Flashback – a new look at the past and future of educational technology
          • We are considering convening an Ed Tech Pioneer private meeting to generate additional material for Future Flashback
    • Podcasts
      • Liza Loop participated in one podcast (Atari) which may inspire an HCLE series through the actions of Jacoby Young.
    • Social Media
      • We have been reasonably successful at engaging other professionals by commenting on and sharing posts and publications found on social media. Though informal, these contacts have expanded our network and produced opportunities for collaborations, funding, and increased visibility.
      • We continue to use social media as a source of Initial contacts
      • Social Media Traffic Report
1/1/2014 12/29/2014 3/28/2015 6/30/2015
Facebook 59 91 92 97
Twitter 67 271 294 354
WordPress 18 42 43 46
Wikispaces 12 41 42 49
  • #EdTech could use a dose of #EdTechHistory

 


 

  • People/Volunteers

  • We are a community of builders, researchers, educators, learners and enthusiasts. We aim to recognize each person who contributes to HCLE. Their contributions are described throughout this newsletter
    • Svetlana Ushakova – Metadata coordinator, soon to be emeritus
    • Stan Crump – Programmer, soon to be emeritus
    • Jon Cappetta – Interviewer (Liza Loop, Bob Albrecht)
    • Helen Passey – in negotiations for graphic illustration
    • Jeremias Herberg – assisted Collection, is a Collaborator, and may provide insights into funding

 

  • Collaborations

  • HCLE is such a small organization that it must join with more established partners to accomplish its mission. Happily, we are finding willing colleagues.
    • Associate Professor Anthony Cocciolo from Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Sciences enlisted a class of students to help digitize and present some of HCLE’s artifacts.
      • Artifacts: floppies and Betamax
      • Timing: summer project
      • Coordination: Anthony and Stan are getting media into catalog
    • Henry Ford Museum
      • Liza Loop visited the Ford to establish contact and to investigate possible collaborations.
    • Letters of Support (consequence of preparing CLIR proposal)
    • OAC/CDL (works with DPLA) – contact = Adrian Turner
      • Application to be Contributing Institution in process
    • Texas Coast Bend Collection shared their (private) example of a digital museum.
    • tschak909 – Thom Cherryhomes, Atari Education System
    • Kimon – exhibit, Retrocomputing

 

  • Admininstration

  • Even virtual organizations must attend to the tasks that make them “real” within the surrounding social and governmental context.
    • Possible Advisory Meeting
      • We are considering convening an advisory meeting to get an informed, outside opinion of HCLE’s progress and direction.
        • IEEE History Project
        • SHOT
        • Museum of Play
        • The Henry Ford
        • Larry Cuban
    • Newsletters
      • We continue the production of these quarterly newsletters, partly to spread the word about our progress, and partly to capture and preserve the history of this history museum.
    • Backups
      • They may be dull, but backups are a high priority for a virtual museum.

 

 

Self-publishers spread the know-how from 1974 on…

Virginia Tech Professor,  Dave Larsen, started reaching beyond his classroom with self-published Bugbooks in 1974.  Most of his readers were hobbyist or in other professions, not computer scientists. Dave’s books were standard fare at LO*OP Center, computer conferences and hobby clubs where people hungry for information about computers gathered to learn and teach.

reblog from Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum, What is in a Name

 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vintage Computers – What is in a Name – How we are named the “Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum”

Why we call our museum the “Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum”  – here is the short story.

Bugbook III

I call our museum  “The Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum”  is because of the original  “Bugbooks” .

Museum bugs

About 1974 I was part of a team that produced these books. The first two Bugbooks were written and published by Professor Rony and I.  I named the books Bugbooks because the small digital integrated circuits looked like a bug with its legs.  Professor Rony typed the manuscripts and we self published the first few printings of the “Bugbooks” .  These books were the start of a book series called “The Blacksburg Continuing Education Series” .  The books covered various topics of digital electronics, computers and software. Dr. John Titus and Dr. Chris Titus joined the group and became important members of our team.

Bugbooks 1 & 2 for sale 1975

During the period 1974 to 1984 about 75 books were published with a circulation of over 1 million copies.  Our team hired 31  authors to help write books in the series. In addition to the books our team designed several computers and other teaching / engineering aids that were sold world wide. John Titus was the computer designer and I designed the digital engineering  / teaching hardware aids. Most or the books were published and marketed by “Howard W Sams” and the hardware was marked by “E and L Instruments” in Derby Connecticut.  Many engineers, technicians and  electronic hobbyist of the late 70’s and 80s used  these books and hardware.  All the books and hardware are on display in our museum.

Howard W Sams Advertising Display of “Blacksburg series books.

A reoccurring comment from  folks visiting the museum is – I  learned digital electronics from the “Bugbooks”.  The experience with the Blacksburg Group started my interest in collecting microcomputer memorabilia for 40 years and has resulted in the thousands of items collected and the small display in the museum. The Bugbook story involves many relationships, interesting events and eclectic people.  It is my  intent to get the details of these adventures in writing — soon I hope.

 

 

 

Howard W Sams Book catalog with the “Blacksburg Continuing Education Series” Books for sale – about 1978

 

E and L catalog 1977 with all the Blacksburg Group books and hardware for sale.
See Video’s about Dave’s Historical Computer Collection CLICK.

Finding Funds For Niches

Found any funding lately? We are like other niche museums working to safeguard big ideas, frugally hunting for the right partners who aren’t constrained by convention. Maybe we can help each other.

Except for windfalls and fortuitous serendipity, funding new ventures starts with a seemingly forlorn search. Funders have resources and goals, but look to others to do the work. Founders have the passion for the work, but not necessarily the funds. The broader the idea, the easier the search. The narrower the idea, the more reasons to find help about how to find help. Welcome to the world of finding funding for the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum (HCLE).

Some ideas are obvious and global. Memorials for wars, archives for art, libraries for personages, all have people who felt passionate about them. Their establishments required massive fundraising campaigns, but that’s also because they could expect to reach massive audiences. Intense emotions are behind the Vietnam and World War II monuments. Pivotal artists like Picasso or Ansel Adams have a core of patrons from which to draw. Presidential libraries count on dedicated constituents to build impressive facilities.

Some ideas are just as vital, yet easy to overlook. HCLE aims to help everyone understand how he or she learns. More particularly we highlight how computing has changed that process. Within the last few decades we have new tools to help us learn, and yet there’s no museum, archive or website dedicated to preserving and understanding that history of these innovations or their implications — except HCLE.

Our Virtual Museum sits at the overlapping boundaries of history, computers, computing, education, and learning. It’s unconventional because it is virtual.MW2014 Lightning Talk slide 2 And it covers an epoch that is within living memory but easily forgotten by young scholars. There are plenty of natural and national history museums. Computers are finally being recognized as historically significant, with increasing traffic to computer history sites as proof. Computing, as contrasted with computers, as a museum focus may not be as obvious, yet playing vintage games online is growing in popularity. Education, a fundamental activity in all our lives, has very few museums commemorating it. Museums do educate us but rarely invite us to step back and reflect on the process. Learning, that process which changes the individual (as compared with teaching or schooling), in both formal and informal settings, is more often assumed than studied. If there’s a museum of learning, please tell us about it. Virtual museums are so new they have yet to be reflected in the government funding (though we are hoping to help change that with the Online Museum Working Group.)

As we said in our Lightning Talk at the 2014 Museums and the Web conference:

  • Funding a museum about one topic is hard.
  • Funding a museum about two topics is harder.
  • Funding a museum about three topics is hardest.

As we approach funders, we encounter computer advocates who aren’t much interested in education, education advocates who are interested in tomorrow’s technology but not yesterday’s, software enthusiasts who are only passionate about games but not what the player learns from them, proponents of each major topic who realize the major topic isn’t covered well enough and therefore are less inclined to support the work at the boundaries where the overlaps live.

As a result, we must have many more conversations with organizations that aren’t focused exactly in our hybrid field. We hope to find enough common ground to fit into their agendas or to convince them to adjust their organizational borders.

Established museums have, almost by definition, established funding. The initial hurdles have been cleared, and while funding may change, there’s a history of sustained performance, an audience, and direction. If one funder leaves, another may be identified through association. Almost every non-profit has a tenuous future, but momentum helps. New institutions like ours are especially challenged.

We are like many niche, small, and new museums. Our momentum may not be as impressive because momentum is mass times velocity, and no matter how fast we work, we don’t have much mass behind us. We can’t demonstrate the sustainability of our future because we’re still creating our present. We’re doing as much as we can with what we have. We are frugal by necessity, doing a lot with very little, relatively speaking.

Frugality and efficiency are not key criteria for funders. They may be fine criteria ideologically, but in reality the criteria are more bureaucratic and historic. Conventional grant processes ask for information that is reasonable, except in proportion to the size of the organization asking for the funds. Large and small grant proposals take almost the same amount of scarce organizational resources to complete. A five page proposal sounds simple, yet if it asks for historical financial reports, several negotiated commitment letters, detailed program plans, while adhering to strict formatting, then a small museum can be so overwhelmed that all the day-to-day museum work must be postponed for days or weeks while proposal writing is going on. The process is nearly the same for a grant of a few thousand dollars as it would be for a few hundred thousand dollars.

As frustrating as a niche’s search may be, it is encouraging to know that diversity provides possibilities. Unconventional ideas do succeed. Take an entertaining look at some niche museums in a recent Mental Floss video about weird museums. Almost all of them found funding though probably through unconventional means.

Ironically, the History of Computing in Learning and Education actually touches on a trending topic: EdTech, Educational Technology. Billions of dollars are being spent on technology for learning, both inside and beyond the classroom. People and organizations are trying to solve problems in, and change the future of, education and learning through the use of hardware, software and communications technology. Unfortunately, these people often fail to look back at the problems of the past and previous attempts at solutions.

We sit at the periphery of many topics, as do many niche organizations. We’re working towards funding by talking to as many of our neighbors as possible. If you can think of some person or organization to contact, please pass along their contact information. And, if we can do the same for you and your organization, please contact us. The best resource we have is each other.

Online Museum Working Group Introduction

Digital technologies mean a new definition for the word, “museum.” What makes a museum a museum if its entire collection in online? The following post discusses an initiative and conversation inspired by IMLS (Institue of Museum and Library Services)  and implemented by HCLE.  We are pleased to be a part of this work and hope you will join us. Read on to find out how to participate and follow the progress.

 


 

Online Museum Working Group

Introduction

How do we distinguish between someone’s fly-by-night website that shows pictures of their favorite things and a serious ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ museum?

This question was recently posed by staff at the US Institute of Museum and Library Services (1). Current legislation (PUBLIC LAW 111 – 340 – MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES ACT OF 2010) includes the following wording: Section 273(1)(20 U.S.C. 9172(1)) is amended by inserting

includes museums that have tangible and digital collections and

after “Such term”.(2)”

This wording permits IMLS to address digital holdings but only in museums that also have a brick and mortar facility. True “virtual” or wholly online museums are not eligible for these funds.

Congress will reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act in 2016. The purpose of this group is to recommend wording for the new bill that will enable IMLS to make grants to purely digital museums without opening up the application process to every blog site and online picture gallery.

You may participate in this effort at any of three levels.

  1. As a member of the public you may leave a comment on this blog.
  2. To join the working group, please send a message to workinggroupimls@hcle.org requesting membership and briefly outlining your expertise in this area.
  3. Once some progress has been made by the working group we will convene a smaller drafting committee to craft the wording we suggest for the upcoming legislation. Members of this committee will be chosen by the working group.

The draft legislation will be passed back to the working group for approval and/or revision. A final document will be offered to the correct Congressional Appropriation Committee for its consideration.

(1) personal communication via telephone with Liza Loop, Susan Hildreth, Christopher Reich, June 19, 2014

(2) URL http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ340/content-detail.html accessed June 19, 2014


Some first thoughts by Liza Loop, June 19, 2014

Some types of web sites:

  • Simple, informally-formatted, picture collections (with captions but no interpretation)
  • Illustrated blog sites that include situational explanations, narrative or interpretation
  • Linked blog sites that include graphic images, narrative text and links (on or off site) to further information about an item
  • Cataloged picture galleries that include searchable catalogs with standardized metadata for each image
  • Virtual world sites that provide the visitor with a 3-dimensional, first person view of a simulated physical museum exhibit hall

…to be continued…

HCLE At AAM2014

We finally made it. HCLE was represented at AAM2014, the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, a four-day event attended by thousands of museum professionals. While the program emphasized the formal aspects like the sessions and exhibits, the greater value for HCLE were the one-on-one meetings with potential funders and the informal networking. The parties were good too, so I hear.

Washington State Convention Center - Seattle
Washington State Convention Center – Seattle

Conferences and conventions aim at the mainstream. That’s where the majority live, so that’s where the majority are served. HCLE fit in nicely at the previous conference, Museums and the Web, because it was organized for more technical issues. Developing a virtual museum is dominated by discussions of technical issues. AAM2014’s main focus seems to be the big museums with sophisticated exhibits of physical artifacts that will be visited by crowds coming through the doors. We won’t have that, but AAM2014 was large enough to include subgroups of small museums, new museums, and technical discussions of digitization and curation. We felt that we were helping shift the mainstream because the issues we must resolve can benefit others that have less urgency.

Recently we’ve been busy applying for funding. Preliminary conversations with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH which also hosted a major lecture by HCLE Vision Club member Walter Isaacson) and various other agencies helped us submit proposals and inquiry letters to several potential funders. While most funders have submission guidelines, examples, and procudures online, and encourage phone consultations the communication is much better in person. An online document has no intonation. A representative reading the same document emphasizes the key points. A representative listening to our proposed proposal says a lot with body language. We witnessed enthusiasm as well as discouragement, even if no words were spoken.

We learned of the emphasis on including scholars, the importance of board donations, the meticulous attention to grammatical detail, and the legitimacy delivered by a proper program plan.  Decades have gone into defining HCLE’s architecture, but we’ve only just begun to implement the first elements; so, to many in the museum world HCLE appears young. HCLE’s status also means that our needs span the range from individual components to broad campaigns to implementing the main museum. The typical proposals, though, are aimed at incremental improvements to conventional facilities. Finding a good fit for innovative, small, and young museums is difficult.

Fortunately we met with representatives from NEH in several meetings; with representatives from IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) including a mock peer review panel session; and even the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) who pointed out that understanding the effects of computers and computing on the history of education of music fits within their charter. We have a long list of potential grants to write proposals for. Prioritization will be necessary.

This was our first time at AAM’s meeting, but it felt that there was an emergent trend of funding from corporate and private sources. There weren’t any representatives as there were from the national endowments, but several sessions described direct or indirect funding from outside government. The projects tended to be more innovative, more responsive, and less reliant on proper proposal preparation though more detailed as the negotiations developed. Almost all of the projects were thanks to board members, volunteers, and advocates who made personal contacts with key people with familiar corporations. Scholarship wasn’t as important as results, but results had to be measurable and verifiable. A different culture and avenue, and also one that is less organized. Instead of lots of grants being produced by one over-arching entity like the Federal Government, there are at least one opportunities per corporation but each corporation is also a unique process and set of individuals.

The funding possibilities were readily apparent to us because, while we were attending the conference, we were also finishing a proposal for a private non-profit that had some of the structure of the governmental process and some of the flexibility of the corporate approach.

AAM2014 wasn’t all about money.

  • Microsoft Research was nice enough to spend a considerable amount of time building an HCLE exhibit with their Chronozoom timeline tool. Ours is unlisted, but other examples are available.
  • Liza encouraged the crowd of museum professionals to engage via the career development wiki (mlcentral) she built at the Museum and the Web conference.
  • We were even given a shout-out for our extensive live-tweeting of the sessions. Check our tweets (@HCLEmuseum) from May 18-21 for our real time notes.
  • Hopefully an interview or two of Liza will be posted so we can pass along her insights on education, technology, museums, and where we’re heading.
  • We tasked several exhibitors with the same new-technology issue we presented to the funders: How do we integrate collection, content, and constituency systems into one? Currently, each is separate, but we are likely to receive an artifact from someone who is also the subject of an exhibit and who is also a donor. We must pull the systems together, but current government museum funders rarely have grants that fit such tasks and most vendors live within narrow product niches. We are innovators by necessity.

Where we’re heading was a sub-theme to the conference. While most conversations were based on conventional museums and exhibits, the discussions were flavored with the changing technologies and expectations of new generations of visitors.

Because HCLE requires an understanding of computers, computing, technology, and how people adapt we found ourselves in the role of educator occasionally. For two people, we evidently managed to make our presence apparent well through twitter and by asking pertinent questions.

One message from HCLE is that education changed as computers were introduced to classrooms. The role of the teacher changed from lecturer to facilitator. Museum visitors are less likely to absorb static information and more likely to actively research through online sources (wikipedia). Instead of being quiet and eventually telling someone about what they saw, they are more likely to get out their phone and instantly share it verbally or via social media. Recharge stations and good wi-fi are more important than comfortable benches and potted plants.

We are taking the museum to the next step by making our first step a very large one. We can reach the largest community by having the smallest physical presence. HCLE can be more sustainable than most because it requires the least overhead; and, if done right, will evolve with technology rather than have to successively abandon and rebuild.

It was a busy event, and while we did make it to one party (the CEO event), we were busy enough with networking and proposal preparations that we missed the rest of the social events. Maybe next year.