Why Curatescape?

Curatescape addresses emerging problems facing humanities curators as the digital age is being transformed by mobile technologies.

  • How should humanists in universities, museums, preservation agencies, or cultural institutions confront the mobile age, at a time when public funding is declining?
  • What were the best practices for curating cultural content on mobile devices?
  • How can we build upon and extending existing digital humanities tools and practices, as well as prepare for the next wave of technological change?

The Pew Internet & American Life Survey describes the mobile revolution as representing a paradigmatic shift. As of 2019, more than 80% of Americans are using mobile devices to access information on the Internet, with other countries having either higher rates or trail closely behind (the median rate of smartphone ownership for 18 advanced economies is 76%, while the median in emerging economies is 45% and rising). Globally, even higher rates of smartphone ownership are the norm among younger, wealthier, and more educated citizens. At least 20% of Americans connect to the internet exclusively via mobile networks, forgoing conventional home broadband connections. Currently, more than half of all the Internet’s traffic goes through mobile devices. Mobile is transforming how, when, and where we access information, accelerating trends already underway as a result of the Internet revolution.

What are the best practices of curating cultural content on mobile devices?

Few museums and cultural organizations are prepared for the shift to mobile, or so say all the surveys, including the Museums & Mobile annual survey.  Likewise, there are no clear best practices for digital and mobile curation. For this reason, CPHDH obtained NEH funding to help us build a framework that engages the best practices of the digital humanities interpretation or technological practice. Through practice (and practice is theory) and exploration, we’ve explored the challenges facing mobile curators. Have we solved all the problems? Of course not, but we’ve distilled many best practices into our information architecture and design.  And, if nothing else, we’re hopeful that talking about our approach will improve the conversations that cultural organizations are having about mobile curation.

How does Curatescape address the problems of declining humanities funding?

Curatescape is available for free (and open-source) in the form of a mobile-optimized website built using the open-source Omeka archival content management system. This part of the system is beautifully designed, has exceptional functionality, and it is sustainable because we’ve leveraged the Omeka content management system. This is a simple and elegant  solution to place-based interpretation.

However, we do charge service fees for license, maintenance, and deployment of your distinctly branded, native mobile apps. This is because of the nature of the development process and because maintaining and extending the software has a very real cost. Additionally, one source of our initial investment was a significant investment by Cleveland State University.  As a result, we charge (see pricing) a modest upfront deployment cost, as well as a yearly license and maintenance fee, for deployment of the native apps.

Thus far, in our experience, this approach has had surprising upsides. We have asked clients to become partners in the endeavor of keeping their own projects alive through seeking small amounts of funding. This has resulted in better projects for our partners, whose willingness to invest in technology is reflected in the care they take in curating their communities as stewards of place.  We recognize that there are many approaches to recovering costs, and we’ve chosen a path that has suited the context of Curatescape’s development very well.

Thus far our experience has shown that  investing in technology, like investing in people, produces better public history and digital humanities projects.

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