Started in 2008, the CHNM’s THAT Camps have been enthusiastically received by participants at twenty camps to date, and appear to be morphing into an international movement! The format dispenses with formal presentations and allows campers to design hands-on sessions around topics, tasks, or technologies of particular interest to them. The nonhierarchical, non-disciplinary, and project-oriented approach is ideally suited to the field of public history.

1. What is a THATCamp?

Here are the key characteristics of a THATCamp:

  • There are no spectators at a THATCamp; everyone participates.
  • It is small and intimate, having anywhere from 25 or 50 to no more than 100 participants. Most THATCamps aim for about 75 participants.
  • It is not-for-profit and free (or very inexpensive) to attend; it’s funded by small sponsorships and by passing the hat around to the participants for voluntary donations.
  • It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, or presentations. The emphasis is on discussion or on productive, collegial work.
  • It is also non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary: THATCamps welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, administrators, managers, and funders; people from the non-profit sector, the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs.
  • Participants make sure to share their notes, slides, and other materials from THATCamp discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media.

2. What is an “unconference”?

The short answer is that an unconference is an informal conference, one with no presentations or program committees. According to Wikipedia, an unconference is “a conference where the content of the sessions is created and managed by the participants, generally day-by-day during the course of the event, rather than by one or more organizers in advance of the event.” An unconference is not a spectator event. Participants in an unconference are expected to help set the agenda, share their knowledge, solve problems, take notes, blog, tweet, and actively collaborate with fellow participants rather than simply attend or present.

3. Who should come?

Anyone with energy and an interest in the humanities and/or technology.

4. What are “the humanities”?

Good question. Turns out there’s a legal definition! As the National Endowment for the Humanities puts it: “According to the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, ‘The term “humanities” includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.’ ”

5. What is “technology”?

We suggest you read this brilliant article by Professor Leo Marx, American cultural historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept.” (Side note: those who love technology should be those who are most aware of its hazards.)

6. What should I propose?

That’s up to you. Sessions at THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants (but please no full-blown papers or presentations; we’re not here to read or be read to). You should come to THATCamp with something in mind, and on the first day find a time, a place, and people to share it with. Once you’re at THATCamp, you may also find people with similar topics and interests to team up with for a joint session.

7. What are “dork shorts” and why do we want to have them at our THATCamp?

“Dork shorts” are very short (1- to 2-minute) presentations where anyone can get up in front of the group and give a quick introduction for a project. It’s a good opportunity for individuals to get their project or work viewed by all campers, and encourages follow-up conversation afterwards.

8. Where can I read about the history of the “unconference,” the “lightning talk,” the “Pecha Kucha,” and the original BarCamp?

Write the THATCamp Coordinator at with further general questions about THATCamp.