wild ride

A year ago, everything was different, except for the fact that I loved my job. It was a magical unicorn job (especially since I landed it right out of grad school the moment before the bottom of the economy dropped out in 2008), but honestly I was starting to outgrow it in its existing form. Then another much different opportunity presented itself at the very beginning of 2015. Change appeared to be on the horizon. Career advancement was in my sights. Details were being ironed out. People were talking.

And then it didn’t happen.

It was awkward and crushing. But a couple of weeks before my job interview, I submitted an application to the Institute for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice at Michigan State. I was already super busy and, at that point thought I’d very likely have a different job soon, but I decided to go for it because it was just too perfect.

Rewind some more. In February 2014 I was invited to participate in a workshop for state archaeology data managers held by the Digital Index of North American Archaeology. In addition to introducing us to DINAA (and Linked Open Data in general), the workshop was an opportunity for us archaeology data people to actually talk to each other and get a feel for how things were done across state lines. It was exceptionally worthwhile, but more importantly I really felt as if I had found my people. I had so much fun learning new things and dipping my toes into what could be done with large archaeological datasets. I came back to Richmond energized.

OK, fast forward again. The call for applicants for MSUDAI came out and the staff roster plus the content just captivated me. I HAD to learn this stuff, no matter what my ultimate job description turned out to be. Not that I really had the time, but what did that matter? I got the bad news about the job and was preparing myself for more about the Institute. Instead, good news came. And I dove head-first into digital humanities.

I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have institutional support for all of my professional development. I’ve done plenty on my own time, but my bosses have really let me follow my own path. I know this is not a small thing. In addition to working on my Institute digital repository project and a handful of others, this semester I’ve followed along with two courses: Shawn Graham’s truly fantastic Crafting Digital History (I really wish I had a few more hours each week to dedicate to this course) and Introduction to Digital Curation (a more traditional MOOC that I’ve neglected, but whose readings are in the queue!).

So, here’s what I’ve either learned, at least at a very rudimentary level, in the past year:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Web mapping with Leaflet and CartoDB
  • GeoJSON
  • Digital archives practices
  • Linked Open Data
  • GitHub
  • XML
  • APIs
  • Web scraping

When I list it out, it’s pretty amazing. I’m so thankful to everyone who has taught me or just thrown me a Twitter life raft. I’ve busted, at least figuratively, out of my cubicle, and reconnected with the academic world and people doing cool, smart, digital things. I’m so happy with where I am, but I also know that there’s so much amazing stuff ahead. It’s all really great. Anyway, that’s why I’m here and this is where I’m going.

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