Adina Langer is thrilled to be teaching Theory and Practice of Digital History at Georgia State University. Before moving to Atlanta in July 2014, Adina lived and worked in Lansing, Michigan, New York, New York, Oberlin, Ohio, and Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Adina’s love affair with public history began during her childhood when family vacations often took her to museums and historic sites. Favorites included Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian Institution, The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and Ellis Island.
While a student at Oberlin College, Adina studied history and creative writing, becoming increasingly interested in collective memory and the interpretation of history in public spaces. A seminar entitled “History and Memory” combined with a spring break trip across the American South inspired her to pursue an honors research project focused on the creation of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. In particular, she was interested in the persuasive narrative of sacred space as it was used to help create a public space from formerly private property, and the conflicting expectations that arose from these competing narratives.
After graduating from college, Adina continued to follow her passion for history and memory. She began working at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum foundation as a curatorial assistant and continued working there while she attended the Archives and Public History Program at New York University. Adina worked on her first digital history projects at the 9/11 Memorial, recognizing the key role for someone who could bridge the gap between software developers, museum curators, and constituent publics. Her first project, the 9/11 Memorial Museum Artists’ Registry offered an opportunity for artists to contribute artworks to a comprehensive, tagged database of post-9/11 artwork, lending order to a potentially chaotic mix of artistic styles and levels of experience. Her second project, a content-contribution platform for friends and family-members of those killed on 9/11 and 2/26/93 was an initially less-public form of public history, but it provided individuals with an opportunity to submit materials to be included in a very public memorial exhibition now on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
In graduate school, Adina took a more analytical stance toward digital history projects, studying the role that they have played and continue to play in promoting historical thinking skills in K-16 educational environments. She surveyed a diverse group of social studies teachers in their use of web-based and other tools in teaching historical thinking skills to their students, learning about one particular community with a vested interest in accessing online collections of primary source documents. She also interviewed the creators of some of the pioneering digital history sites including the Lost Museum, the Valley of the Shadow project and the Library of Congress’s American Memory site. None of the creators of these sites realized the degree to which they would be valued by K-16 educators when they were first created. Educational resources were added to the sites over time to help further engage and serve this important community.
As a public historian and museum consultant, Adina has continued to rely on digital history tools in her research, presentation, and collaboration practice. She is keenly aware of the potential that these tools hold for the craft of public history as well as the potential for missed opportunities and setbacks to the goals of preservation and access that are so central to the profession. She is looking forward to building new digital history resources with her students and to delving more deeply into the theoretical and ethical questions raised by the ever-changing dynamics of the digital world.
Posts by Adina Langer include:
Adina will serve as the facilitator for the creation of the Atlanta Rail Corridor Archive. The archive will include student research topics that have a geographical relationship with the historic rail corridor that is currently undergoing redevelopment as the Atlanta BeltLine.