A Whole New (Digital) World: Online Experiences at the Eastman Museum during 2020
Role: Lead Project Manager
Since March, when the New York State on PAUSE plan was put in place, the Eastman Museum had been increasingly using digital tools to reach our communities: staff members were making short iPhone videos at home, we were repurposing onsite content for a digital audience, and we were quickly crafting virtual versions of our exhibitions using the random assortment of technology we had at our disposal.
In July 2020, the George Eastman Museum was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities: NEH CARES grant, which provided us with funds to support the participation of seventeen staff members in sustaining, expanding, and institutionalizing the museum’s digital programs, and an ArtBridges Foundation grant that would supply us with the technology to improve our methods.
These two grants greatly helped us expand our online programming and presence — both improving the quality and increasing the frequency. The grant also gave staff across the museum the flexibility to be creative and try different methods of online engagement. And it provided new opportunities for collaboration among staff: many of the staff working on the grant-funded initiatives had not previously been as involved with digital engagement.
As part of the grant, we created an impressive lineup of free online programs and experiences for an international audience. Since the end of July, we’ve created:
- 10 virtual talks
- 4 Historic Process demonstrations
- 3 Virtual Discovery Room videos & activities
- 5 Darkroom Magic videos
- 7 virtual tours
- 5 audio tours
- 18 introductions to recorded interviews from the Silver Voices project
- 20 digitized films from the collection, most of which have video introductions by staff members and invited guests
- 40 Dryden Theatre Recommends videos
See all the outcomes of these grants on our blog: https://medium.com/george-eastman-museum/a-whole-new-digital-world-online-experiences-at-the-eastman-museum-during-2020-8c352494bba2
Re-Vamped Eastman Museum Audio Tour [Coming 2021]
Role: Lead Researcher and Author
The audio tour for George Eastman’s historic estate was written and recorded in the early 1990s. The tour provides guests who cannot take a docent-led tour of the mansion with information about George Eastman, his life, and the historic mansion he built in 1905 and lived in until his death in 1932. Since the 1990s, the way we talk about the past, particularly regarding historic homes of wealthy men, has shifted. Instead of focusing on a single individual, museums are sharing the myriad stories of these locations, from the workers who built them, staff who served and ran them, and the guests and visitors who frequented the building. George Eastman’s home also gives us a glimpse into the private side of this figure, showing his interests and hobbies beyond Kodak. The new tour, scheduled for release in July 2020, focuses on the invisible stories of George Eastman, his home, and his staff, using objects and decorative features that guests can see as starting places for the stories.
Role: Creator & Lead Programmer
A ticking clock, a collection of lost films, the threat of demolition, and a theater plunged in darkness. Inspired by the dramatic true story featured in the exhibition Stories of Indian Cinema: Abandoned & Rescued at the George Eastman Museum, Film Quest gives you the opportunity to put yourself in a museum archivist’s shoes and search for films to save. Earn points by collecting film reels and posters—deciding on the fly which should be kept and which must be left behind—as you use a flashlight to wind your way through the cavernous, pitch-black rooms of an abandoned movie theater. But you’ll have to hurry. When time runs out, the theater will be torn down and only the films you’ve saved will live on for future generations.
ieldran: The Early Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Mapping Project [2015-2016]
Please note, this site is not being actively maintained.
Role: Creator & Lead Programmer
The goal of ieldran: The Early Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Mapping Project is to display all burials in England that date from the mid-5th to early 7th centuries CE with relevant information about each location. While there are numerous studies that have covered this period, there are no open access or shared databases of sites. With this in mind ieldran, meaning ‘ancestors’ in Old English, was created to provide an online geospatial database of all excavated cemeteries from Early Anglo-Saxon England. The project seeks to display excavated cemeteries from this period with information on the burials present, references to books and journals, location of museum collections, and links to other relevant digital material.
The project was built by myself using two open source tools: Bootleaf and Leaflet Hash. Support and technical aid was received through MSU’s Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative Fellowship program.
All primary data was collected and catalogued by Matt Austin, my content collaborator, as part of his Masters thesis. All of his data is included in his thesis as a Microsoft Access database (.accdb) and as a Microsoft Excel spread sheet (.xlsx).
Bones Don’t Lie [2010-2016]
Role: Creator and Author
Bones Don’t Lie is an internationally recognized top ranked archaeology blog that shares news and provides commentary on mortuary archaeology, bioarchaeology and death-related studies. BDL was started by myself in August 2010, and now has almost 1,000,000 unique views. The blog regularly gets between 600-1,000 unique views every day and has over 13,000 followers. BDL content is shared and republished on Scientific American, Past Horizons, Shelton Wet/Dry, Forensic Magazine, Independent Funeral Group, and more. It is also a featured WordPress blog under the science section. I continue to be the sole author of BDL and publish at least once per week.
To visit the blog, head over to BonesDontLie.com
Role: Co-Creator & Editor
GradHacker was created by Alex Galarza and myself as a way to provide graduate students with an online and in-person community for improving graduate education. The project began as a series of day-long bootcamps, and has evolved into an online blog and podcast series. GradHacker is now part of InsideHigherEd, and has graduate student authors from around the world and in a range of disciplines. GradHacker content receives 30,000 to 60,000 unique views every month. I continue my role in GradHacker as a co-editor and also lead bootcamps twice a month to help graduate students develop digital skills.
To visit GradHacker’s blog, check out www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/
Red Land Black Land [2011-2012]
Role: Lead Game Designer
Description: Red Land Black Land is an educational mod of Civilization V, and allows users to play through the history of Ancient Egypt using archaeological knowledge in order to improve their gameplay. During the NEH-ODH funded project, I acted as Lead Game Designer and led a team of programmers in completing the mod. In addition to this, I provided all of the written content, designed the gameplay structure, and provided the educational framework.
Campus Unearthed 
Role: Lead Museum Designer
Description: Campus Unearthed is a digital museum designed for the MSU Campus Archaeology Program to allow for users to view the artifact collections and our interpretations of campus history. It is based on the Omeka platform and was constructed by myself in 2011.
Role: Alpha Design & Programming
Description: msu.seum is a mobile app that allows users to interact with the rich archaeological and archival heritage of Michigan State University’s campus, and understand how current archaeological research is helping to uncover it. It provides a location based experience of campus heritage through your mobile device.