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Back home after two weeks on the road

Yesterday was my first day back in Michigan after two weeks on the road, during which my husband and I logged almost 2500 travel miles. April is a busy month, with Passover, Easter, conferences, and, this year, a family wedding in Red Bank, New Jersey.

Art installation near Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT, one of many stops on a recent whirlwind tour of the East Coast.

Art installation near Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT, one of many stops on a recent whirlwind tour of the East Coast.

As a public history consultant and sole proprietor, even pleasure trips can serve as excursions for research and exploration. The highlights of this most recent trip for me included visits to the Grande Bibliotheque and Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. (post pending). In between, I visited with a client (and former employer), the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

But family was the main focus of this whirlwind tour, and also turned out to be the main focus of my first day back. Early yesterday morning, I had a 21-week sonogram appointment during which my husband and learned that we are going to be parents to a healthily developing baby boy. Sonogram technology got me thinking quite a bit about digital technology in a human context. Within my lifetime, just under 30 years, sonograms have gone from being infrequently used, fuzzy renderings of developing fetuses to being a standard OBGYN technology, eagerly anticipating by expecting couples in many places around the world. In this digital age, the obsessive documentation of our lives begins even before we are born. Does this gathering of photographic (and sonographic) evidence detract from the significance of these moments in our lives, or does it enrich our experience as we find more ways to share with our friends and loved ones?

With only one week to go before the National Council on Public History Annual Meeting in Ottawa, I find myself thinking about “the significance of audience” in my work and in my everyday life. Together with my colleagues at The Public Historian and History@Work, I am working to promote the conference, and the exotic locale of Ottawa, Ontario, to a specific audience of self-styled public historians. At the same time, I am eagerly anticipating discussing the elusive Public (with a capital P) with fellow panelists on a panel focused on the evolving public history of 9/11 in the United States. Yet, even with this larger professional audience ahead, I am pulled back to my local responsibilities with a new client project starting up tomorrow and the Lansing Eats exhibit set to open at the start of June. I’m feeling the time-crunch as I work to enter the Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s collection into our Omeka-based system, put up an online version of the society’s past Shops exhibit, and still make some time for volunteer work with the Cuesta Benberry collection at the MSU Museum.

Now, a day after my Day of Digital Humanities, I am working on tying up loose ends, finishing my round of blog posts, and getting ready to hit the ground running on my next set of projects. But someday I’ll look back on this post and know exactly what was going on in early April 2013, a small marvel of digital preservation if ever there was one.