PastForward: Technology Reading List

By Forum Online posted 07-27-2017 15:04

Over the coming months, we’ll be publishing our annual reading lists leading up to PastForward 2017. As always, these lists present curated videos, articles, and projects that we hope will spark discussions in Chicago come November 14–17. Super early bird registration ends August 4. Register today!

In its June 2017 report on the implications of connectivity, the Pew Research Center for Internet & Technology stated that “today, 49% of the world’s population is connected online and an estimated 8.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide.” This increased connectivity is one of the main reasons that the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Leadership Forum team have chosen to focus on technology at PastForward 2017.

Of course, there are many other reasons to engage with technology. The further we move into the future, the more the digital transformation of the world will impact how we save places—through storytelling; advocacy; and the tools we use to map, document, and visualize the old places around us. At the same time, embracing technology has its challenges, like increased costs and the rapid pace and rollout of new tools. It is easy for advocates and organizations to be left behind. Through a TrustLive, five Learning Labs, and series of Power Sessions, PastForward attendees will take an extensive look at the role of technology in the future of historic preservation. Watch this quick video about the origins and future of digital transformation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Principal Research Scientist Andy McAfee.

Digital Documentation and Survey Technology

In order to communicate effectively about a place—whether it be a building, a neighborhood, a cultural landscape, or a city—we first need to collect, analyze, and understand information. And the type of information we need determines the methodology we use to collect it. Advances in technology and software, including mobile applications, give preservationists more options than ever for documenting and preserving historic places.

PastForward will feature one Learning Lab about digital documentation and another about survey methods. These sessions will cover recent applications that practitioners have employed to document and manage buildings—such as the Larz Anderson estate or Mount Vernon—as well as platforms that are used to document characteristics of buildings across cities and towns as varied as Los Angeles, AustinMuncie, and the village of Oak Park.

Today’s tools elevate our tried and trusted methods of documenting and understanding historic places. The digital documentations session will cover tools as varied as unmanned aerial vehicles to 3-D laser scanning. In the survey methods session, learn about crowdsourced science-based apps and discover their preservation applications. We’ll see how the democratization of technology like GIS provides exciting opportunities for the preservation field. Attendees will come away with a better understanding of the variety of tools available, their scope, and the cost considerations inherent in using them.

Also read: 

Digital Storytelling

Whether preservationists are advocating to protect a valuable historic site or engaging with visitors about the history of a place, we frequently leverage digital tools to tell a story. Much of today’s preservation work involves storytelling as advocacy—this virtual reality (VR) piece from Patagonia about Bears Ears National Monument is one outstanding example. It is critical for the preservation community to consider our place in conversations about advocacy and civic technology and also recognize the contributions of digital data to our understanding of the resources we are protecting. Part of this work includes rethinking approaches to social media, which is the subject of an ongoing series by the National Trust’s @savingplaces social media team.

In PastForward sessions about storytelling, attendees will be introduced to practitioners who use technology to tell important stories, revealing multiple layers and perspectives. From an interactive art gallery in Cleveland to augmented reality glasses, we’ll explore how technology enables, and sometimes detracts from, our ability to tell nuanced and powerful stories of place.

Digital storytelling provides opportunities to engage and reach audiences in new and innovative ways by telling stories that are layered, authentic, and connected. This piece by Amelia Wong, written for the 2015 Museums and the Web conference, is a good primer.

The keynote speaker during the technology TrustLive will be sculptor and futurist Zenka, who creates “art for the galactic age.”  She works at the intersection of art and technology and leverages both to tell stories of our past, present, and future.

Additional projects you’ll hear about at PastForward include:

Here are a few more great digital projects that use technology to tell unique stories of people, place, and the objects we use every day:

  • The Strangers Project is an evolving collection of more than 25,000 anonymous stories from the lives of strangers.
  • Object Lessons is an essay and book series about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
  • The World in Ten Blocks is an interactive documentary that explores the diversity of Bloorcourt, a neighborhood in Toronto, Ontario, through the stories of its immigrant small business owners.
  • My Brother’s Keeper is a nine-minute film that uses VR and 360 technology to create a digital sense of place and tell the story of two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.
  • Frontier of Change, which works to bring stories of climate change in Alaska to the streets of Anchorage;
  • Your Story, Our Story, a crowdsourcing platform featuring objects that tell personal stories of American immigration and migration;

Also on the Forum Blog

Forum members will be able to take an even deeper dive into this topic with the fall issue of our Forum Journal, which will focus on technology. In the meantime make sure to check out these posts:

If you are participating in the PastForward Challenge (Gamification) for points and prizes, please enter the following passcode for the "Read: Tech Reading List" challenge: TECHREAD17.

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