The portal for online proposal submissions is now closed, but anyone who wants to propose a session can do so on March 11.  Morning session proposals are due at the registration desk by 9:15am and afternoon session proposals are due at the registration desk by 12:30pm.  We will have proposal forms and pens on hand.

2016 Hacking Heritage session proposals can be found here.

Questions? Email Marisa Brown:

Before and After the Table – Heritage and Food Justice

Author: Tyler French

Description: What productive tensions between heritage and food justice can we explore if we start our conversations before or after the table, rather than at the table itself? How does the romance of the table in both heritage and food justice discourses obscure labor, ignore economic and racial inequity, and disallow culturally-specific modes of production, distribution, and consumption?

We will begin the session by crafting a working definition of food justice together that includes notions of heritage. We will then discuss whether heritage organizations and programming could provide the deep historical knowledges necessary to contribute to increasing food justice in our state.

Tags: food justice, inequity, labor

Behind the Pretty Face: Subverting Audience Expectations

Authors: Ruth S. Taylor and Morgan Grefe

Description: How many of us are being at least a little subversive as we interpret history for our audiences? Visitors to a historic house or site have expectations about what they will see, learn and do. When we know what those are, can we use them to help people to learn something they did not expect?

Can a house museum that looks like many others offer, through interpretation, a totally unexpected experience for its guests? Can a seminar on doing your own genealogy also teach historical thinking?

And what can we learn from Hamilton, An American Musical, which brought rap, hip-hop and racial diversity to audiences seeking traditional American history, and brought multi-faceted American history to young people looking for good music?

Tags: audience, interpretation, historic sites, subversity

Body Farm: an exhibition on Providence’s deceased buildings and spaces

Author: Marisa Brown

Description: This session is an open call to anyone with an interest in lost/demolished/decrepit buildings, erased history and “ruin porn” to come together and create a draft proposal for an exhibition titled “Body Farm.” (What is a body farm, you ask? Wikipedia tells us that it is a “research facility where decomposition can be studied in a variety of settings.”) We will share stories of particular buildings and spaces; crowdsource photographs, objects or other ephemera; draft an object list and exhibition strategy; and brainstorm possible exhibition locations. If you have photographs or objects, bring them! Of particular interest: images and objects that reveal the corporeal qualities of the dying or dead building/space.

Tags: architecture, exhibition, heritage, historic preservation, body

Bring up the Bodies: Mannequins in Modern Museums

Author:  Anna Rose Keefe

Description: As the popularity of costume exhibits continues to grow, museums are incorporating more items of dress into exhibits. Clothing is the rare type of object that can be displayed both flat and 3-dimensionally on a mannequin. Among museum professionals it’s a widely accepted truth that many Asian garments, including kimono and dragon robes, are too fragile to mount on mannequins. But when European and American garments are in fragile condition, conservators work miracles to stabilize clothes and mount them on a form. It’s also accepted that other textiles like headwraps, or wrap-around garments like saris and skirt panels are easier to appreciate if they’re laid out flat; some objects, like feather capes, are often displayed both flat and upside-down. European and American clothing is rarely displayed flat, and never upside-down, it’s ‘understood’ that you can’t grasp the intended effect those garments unless you see it on a form. What this means is that it’s extremely difficult to find a mannequin representing a non-Western body in most museums.

Do garments gain or lose meaning when treated like 2-dimensional art? How should we balance an object’s artistic and historical merit alongside its functional reality? Which is more irresponsible: misinterpreting the meaning of an object, or exposing that object to potential damage? Is it possible to do ideological damage to an object? Can we, at this Unconference, hack the idea that nobody cares about the mannequins?

Tags: representation, interpretation, museum exhibits, display mannequins, clothing, textiles

Creating a Latino Cultural Corridor

Author: Marta V. Martinez

Description: The Latino Community nationwide has been the fastest-growing population for over 20 years. The birth of Rhode Island’s Latinos dates back to the 1950s and the growth has been steadily seen through each decade thereafter.

I would like to propose that the City of Providence develop, market and support a Latino Cultural Corridor along Broad Street. How can we see that into fruition and where exactly can it best serve its purpose?

This is not a lecture or presentation, but an open discussion. Bring your thoughts and ideas and be ready to sign up to continue this discussion after the Unconference.

Tags: Latinos, Rhode Island Latinos, Main Street, Urban Development, Cultural Preservation

Data as Cultural Heritage

Author: Jim McGrath

Description: How can we think more about the work we do in cultural heritage as creators, collectors, and curators of data? When is it productive to think about the material we collect as “data,” and how might this perspective open us up to new possibilities on our various cultural heritage projects? Who do we want to read, work with, critique, and remix our data? How can we provide community members, collaborators, and scholars with usable forms of data, or models for how to think about cultural heritage data? When might we avoid the metaphors and language of data, and what is motivating these reservations?

This is proposed as an open-ended discussion that gets interested attendees thinking and talking about familiar and unfamiliar contexts for data in our respective fields. I’m particularly interested in defamiliarizing the familiar contexts for data and familiarizing the unfamiliar contexts. In terms of defamiliarizing, how might we think about metrics and metadata in new and creative ways beyond their more traditional uses? When it comes to familiarizing ourselves with the unfamiliar, I’m curious about what it might mean for us to think of our analog records and objects as inevitably networked in an age of augmented reality, how we might imagine “small data” projects around our areas of interest, where it might be fun to draw visualizations of data by hand instead of with a computer. Digital contexts and tools will of course be discussed, but we don’t have to limit ourselves. Ideal for people with various thoughts and backgrounds re: data and cultural heritage: beginners welcome!

Tags: digital humanities, digital storytelling, big data, small data, regular data, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, ok maybe not that last one

Heritage and Place in Nature

Author: Logan Hinderliter

Description: When we think of preservation and heritage, we often think of the built/created environment: How do we preserve and activate a historic Rhode Island stone ender; how do we maintain the historic integrity of a neighborhood’s look and feel; how do we embody and celebrate cultural heritage through clothing, festivals, holidays? Etc. This session would like to explore the question of: How we can frame and activate heritage and preservation in a space that is not built? I.e. the natural environment.

Participants will discuss the multitude of locations and ways that heritage can be celebrated and preserved outside of the built environment. Primers for discussion: the efforts and legacy of protesters with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; the human value of marine protected areas, the heritage of nature in national parks, and the like.

Tags:  Nature, Cultural Heritage, History

The Heritage Of Ordinary Places

Author: Ned Kaufman

Description: What kinds of places really matter to people? Why do we care about places at all? What gives places heritage value?

Historic preservation trades in phrases like sense of place and saving places that matter. Yet preservationists apply a different standard of significance to places than most other experts—or than ordinary people. There’s a mismatch between what preservationists preserve and what people care about..

Why the mismatch? What is to be done? We’ll start with an exercise to help participants come to grips with their own place-feelings. The discussion might then consider the individual bases for place attachment, how places convey meaning, the differences between private and public heritage, and the policies that could align professional and popular views of place.
Tags:  Historic preservation, historic sites, sense of place, place affection, environmental psychology

Jane’s Walk: Un-guided Tours

Author: Sarah Zurier + Joelle Kanter

Description: Inspired by urbanist/activist Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walk is a worldwide movement of informal walking tours led by local citizens. On the first weekend of May, walkers and cyclists take to the streets of Providence to explore topics like downtown redevelopment, the international slave trade, green spaces in Elmwood and South Providence, safe bicycle routes to school, and more. Pitch an idea for a Jane’s Walk or a Jane’s Bike. Where do you want to go and why?

Tags: urbanism, neighborhoods, interpretation, advocacy, design, community development

PLAY! Rethinking Monuments, Memorials, and Heritage Through Kids

Author: Emily Esten

Description: When my one-year old cousin saw the Korean War Veterans Memorial in, she cried. Not because she was sad, but because she wanted to play with them. Through activity-based dialogue, let’s think about childlike responses to the people, buildings, and spaces around us in relation to heritage.

Some possible questions: How do we use statues for social commentary? How do challenge ourselves to think of these commemorative public spaces as both reflection and action? How do we bring out (or foster) new emotional responses in constructing these structures/places? And most importantly – can I play with the statues?

Tags:  children, monuments, memorials, fun, interpretation, play, structures

A reworking of UNESCO World Heritage criteria for an inclusive heritage model

Author: Erica Wolencheck

Description: This session aims to facilitate a conversation about the defining of heritage values through UNESCO World Heritage frameworks, with a specific focus on Indigenous heritages. Is it possible to structure a World Heritage nomination through bottom-up approaches? Can World Heritage be framed through community-based and Indigenous methodologies? In my thesis research, I advocate for a dialogical model grounding heritage value-making. It is my hope, through the dialogue-based platform of this “unconference” panel, that the possibilities of non-exploitative, inclusive global heritage can be discussed.

Tags: UNESCO World Heritage, heritage values, Indigenous heritages, holism, bottom-up approaches, global heritage

Science fiction, survival, and society’s legacy

Author: Angela DiVeglia

Description: We begin with a science fiction premise: in a world of the future, a reduced population of humans have abolished hierarchical government and are living in small, highly-armed settlements. Cities, public infrastructure, and other elements of the human-built environment are being reclaimed by nature. What are people’s varying relationships to history and its physical manifestations? Does historic preservation as we think of it still exist? How do people document and/or preserve the past, if at all? Who regulates what is preserved, and who enforces its preservation or prevents its destruction? How can this fictional situation help us examine our own relationships to the past and think about innovative methods for preserving and passing on our cultural legacies to the uncertain world of the future?

Tags:  science fiction, wilderness, preservation, history, uncertainty

Sensing Heritage

Authors: SueEllen Kroll and Tyler French

Description: What does heritage look/smell/sound/taste/feel like? How might our understanding of heritage shift if we unpack what heritage means through our sensing bodies? How could the question, what did you see/smell/hear/taste/feel this morning, open a window talking about memory, identity, and the places in which we live?

A sensory framework is an engagement tool that invites participation, connects us to one another, and reveals how our senses of the world differ. We will open the session by briefly sharing how utilizing a sensory framework has expanded notions of heritage and culture in the Catalyzing Newport project facilitated by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. This framework draws on Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez’s creative facilitation process and development of Santa Fe’s Cultural Plan, which allowed for the authentic inclusion of more voices and viewpoints in city’s decision-making processes.

We are curious to hear how others are utilizing the senses in their work. We will pause the session and engage participants in producing micro-memoirs to demonstrate the potential utility of creative, sensory-based facilitation as a means to hack heritage and invite participation in defining together what heritage means when centered around our lived, sensory experiences.

Tags: senses, heritage, cultural planning, creative facilitation

Square to Nowhere

Author: Marena Wisniewski

Description:  In 1962, as part of a massive urban renewal project, architect I. M. Pei was tasked with re-imagining Cathedral Square, a central hub on the edge of downtown Providence. Pei drew inspiration from the ancient cities of Europe, striving to create, “a well-ordered center; it will serve the multiple purposes of urban life in the proven manner of so many similar urban spaces and church squares of the cities of Europe.”

When the project was finally finished however, city officials were calling the square “a failure.” Far from being the epicenter of the Weybosset community, the Square became a dead-zone; a desolate plaza where those opposed to feeding the meter parked their cars. In 2007, a study by the Providence Foundation suggested eliminating the square and reintroducing the street grid in an attempt to bring back what was lost when the square was created. While financing has left these plans in stasis, the Square continues to deteriorate.

Why was Pei’s plan a failure? What can be done to fix it? Do we follow his example and start with a blank slate? Or, is there something we missed about his design?

Bring your thinking caps and a pen! We will be drawing site plans of what the space could/should be.

Helpful background info:

Tags:  architecture, historic preservation, modernism, collective memory, Providence