We’re extremely pleased to announce the launch of the Michigan State University Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative. The CHI Initiative will ultimately serve two main purposes. First, it will be a platform for scholars across a wide variety of cultural heritage disciplines, departments, and programs at Michigan State University (social anthropology, archaeology, history, art history, cultural and historical geography, classics, museum studies, etc) to collaborate and communicate in the domain of cultural heritage informatics. Its extremely important to note that when we say “scholars,” we’re not just referring to professors, but professional staff (librarians, archivists, technologists, etc) and graduate students as well (heck, even undergraduates). Second, the CHI Initiative will serve as a platform for a variety of educational efforts designed to equip students (both undergraduate and graduate) with the practical and analytical skills necessary to creatively apply information and communication technologies to cultural heritage materials, influence the current state of cultural heritage informatics, and become leaders for the future of cultural heritage informatics.
The first of these educational efforts is the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowship Program – which is currently accepting applications for its first cohort. The fellowships (which last an academic year) will provide graduate students (at all levels) an opportunity to collaboratively develop a significant and innovative cultural heritage informatics project. The second of these educational efforts is the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool. Adopting a model similar to that of an archaeological fieldschool (in which students work on an archaeological site for 6 to 8 weeks in order to learn how to do archaeology), the CHI Fieldschool will bring both graduate and undergraduate students from a broad array of cultural heritage disciplines together at Michigan State University to learn about the practice of cultural heritage informatics and to collaboratively work on a series of innovatve projects (thereby embracing the “building as a way of knowing” philosophy that has taken root in the Digital Humanities in recent years). In order to focus the participant’s efforts, each CHI Fieldschool will have a specific theme – the first of which will be “mobile.” The CHI Fieldschool will work closely with the MSU Campus Archaeology Program and run parallel to the MSU Campus Archaeology Fieldschool during the summer semester. Stay tuned for more detailed information about the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool.
The inevitable question that must be answered right off the bat – What exactly is “Cultural Heritage Informatics?” In recent years, the term “informatics” has become popular to describe a wide variety of content domains: music informatics, chemical informatics, community informatics, bio-informatics, social informatics just to name a few. At its simplest (and most inclusive), the term “informatics” is used to describe the creative application of information, communication, and computing technologies (broadly defined) to address the needs, challenges, and content of a specific domain. Cultural heritage informatics, then, refers to the creative application of information and computing technologies to the domain of cultural heritage.
As we move forward with the CHI Initiative, we welcome people to follow and interact with us on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/chi_initiative). We also encourage people to watch this site for more news, announcements, and content. In the coming weeks, we will be issuing a broad call to the MSU community for scholarly participation. If you are an MSU graduate student interested in Cultural Heritage Informatics, we strongly encourage you to apply for the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fellowship Program. Finally, we encourage everyone (regardless of whether you are part of the MSU community or not) to share thoughts about the future of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative.