Curating East Africa, 2017-2018

Curating East Africa, the newest phase of a three-year-old collaborative project, officially begins today. Funded by a Level II Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities, Curating East Africa, co-directed by Mark Souther and Meshack Owino of Cleveland State University (CSU) in close association with colleagues Gordon Obote Magaga and Benard Busaka at Maseno University, will continue to create new place-based stories about Kisumu, Kenya, that are collectively researched and produced by teams of students from CSU and Maseno. In the original 2014-15 Level II start-up phase of the project, also funded by NEH, the project team curated digital stories for a standard, Omeka + Curatescape based website called MaCleKi while investigating the technological landscape in Kenya and making recommendations for building mobile-first digital humanities projects tailored for the particularities of the East African region.

This work continued under an internal grant from the CSU Office of Research in 2015-16. During this time, the team solidified its vision for developing a Curatescape toolset more suitable for adoption in the developing world. The team submitted a Level III NEH ODH grant proposal in 2016 that outlined plans for a networked, WordPress-based website to support multiple individual Curatescape projects that could also be aggregated for a comparative regional exploration of location-based stories. The proposal planned to launch with a new instance of Curatescape for WordPress in Dodoma, Tanzania, while continuing to build content in Kisumu. When this grant was not awarded, the team went back to work to develop a revised submission in 2017.

The current project phase, which lasts for the next year, builds directly upon both the start-up phase and the internal grant phase. Although the grant carries the broader title Curating East Africa, the project’s Kisumu roots will not disappear. Indeed, the MaCleKi website will serve as the pilot project for Curating East Africa much as Cleveland Historical remains the pilot for the general Curatescape project. In the next three months, Erin Bell, Curatescape lead developer, will develop a working beta of Curatescape for WordPress. We expect that this toolset will be distributed as a convenient one-click install available through the WordPress admin panel, making setup and maintenance as simple as possible. It is important to note that the team intends to maintain and continue to develop the well-established Omeka-based Curatescape framework even as it adds this new WordPress version.

Souther, Bell, Owino, Magaga, and Busaka will transition MaCleKi to the new Curatescape this winter, and new content will be added there in the future. The project team will refine the toolset based on user feedback through the remainder of the grant period, developing and refining documentation of the toolset along the way. Finally, a panel of evaluators from Moi University in Eldoret, International Leadership University in Nairobi, and the University of Dodoma (Tanzania) will evaluate the content and toolset next summer as the grant period draws to a close.

We will offer periodic updates as the project develops in the coming months and invite you to connect with us. Watch for new stories in 2018 on macleki.org, and follow our progress and connect with us on Facebook (Curating Kisumu and Center for Public History + Digital Humanities) and Twitter (@curatingkisumu and @cphdh).

Overlooking Kisumu from Maseno University Varsity Plaza | Mark Souther, Flickr

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