Jeff Malcomson: ExploreBig: The Struggle to Develop a Mobile App for Montana History

I am pleased to have the opportunity to present in the 2016 Six-Shooters session. I am a public historian with nearly 20 years of experience as an archivist in the West. Since 2005 I’ve worked at the Montana Historical Society (MHS) Research Center where I currently serve as the Senior Photograph Archivist. I created the Society’s first blog several years ago (Montana History Revealed, which is still going strong) and have served on the very active MHS Social Media Committee. Throughout my career I’ve actively sought ways to explore and test new tools in the digital humanities. In recent years I’ve become a fairly active editor of Wikipedia articles in Montana and Western history topics, organizing edit-a-thons and trying to improve this popular platform’s presentation of history.

For my Six-Shooters presentation I’ll talk about our experience at MHS over the past two years trying to develop a mobile app for Montana history. The end result, ExploreBig, is finally coming into its own as a tool for sharing the stories of Montana’s most historic places and buildings. We ended up using the Omeka-based Curatescape to build our website and mobile app, but the path to this product was fairly unique. I hope this harrowing story of high elective office, high-tech education, lowly bureaucratic squabbling, and low budget difficulties may serve to help others avoid similar problems in the future.

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