Category Archives: Adventures in Digital History

11. Clowns and Rationality

I would like to start this post with a personal story that I swear is (or at least will be) relevant. For years I went to the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. My family was lucky enough to get bleacher seats, since my Dad works for the city. There was one year that a roller skating clown collapsed right in front of us, seemingly from a heart attack. I remember the ways people reacted. Some people gasped, but there were about five people immediately jumped up and ran down the stands while whipping latex gloves out of their pockets. These five people jumped over the barricades and, with the police, helped the clown until EMS got there. I feel like that is the mentality of most people that go into the medical profession. They just want to help.

Starr in his article, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, brings up other conundrums of modern medicine as a profession. He brings up the question of the commodity of medical care. Do doctors sell something, like drugs? Or are you paying for their time and experience? But then the ethical concerns come into play. If a person is having an emergency and cannot pay for your experience, how do you provide them care and still make a living? After watching, The Waiting Room, I can understand how that contradiction is still a struggle for hospitals.

One of the first things that hit me about this piece was the author’s assumptions about modern medicine. Starr says that the profession is a conundrum. It is a leviathan of a system, filled with specialized professionals, but it is not strictly rational. There is no one way to cure people. Starr says that our ideas and reactions to injuries and diseases are (still?) very cultural based. Practices like acupuncture and massage may be used to cure the same issues that pharmaceuticals may. However, acupuncture may not be a practice prescribed by doctors, depending on the culture in which they work.



On the Eve of the due Date

Today I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I look at our site and I am extremely proud of it. On the other hand, I want to curl up underneath my favorite desk at the library and cry because I am so exhausted. Just looking at the mint blue background makes me tired. This weekend I was at the Library the entirety that it was open, working on our site.  On Saturday, Laura-Michal and I met to go over our website layout and edit together. Sunday was citations day for me. I pulled together all of Alex’s citations and cited all of the photographs used in the timeline. This took much longer than expected, but what else is new. When the very nice security guards had to kick me out at two in the morning, our 200+ citations were in beautiful numerical and alphabetical order.

Now it is done. It is all done.

Crunch Time

Coming into the home- stretch of our project definitely has me feeling the pressure. In the past two days I have clocked somewhere between 15 and 19 hours sitting at the Macs in the Library, exclusively working on our site. It’s been something of a marathon. Bright side is that all of our scrapbooks are up! All of them! With all of the metadata!!!!! Whoohoooooo. Took me forever and a day and half but now we finally have all of our scans up! I’ve also been struggling with the tags. Despite our efforts to create a uniform tagging system, it is still not uniform. So to finally settle the issue one and for all, I have created a beautiful color coded spreadsheet. I am about 3/4th of the way done, but it is slow going. I will hopefully finish it tomorrow. Once that is over there is context pages and citations on my plate which will definitely keep me busy right through our deadline.

Posting Post Updates

So we have our third scrapbook up with metadata! Since the FTP transfer has not been fixed yet I was updating all of them by hand. It wasn’t so bad, since I was doing all of the metadata as well. Only took me about four hours in the library to get the whole thing done. I’m planning an marathoning the rest on Sunday since we are coming down to the wire. Once we get that done we can start cleaning up our site.

What I’ve been up to = the History of Home Ec.

I’ve actually been up to a lot. Since there has been an FTP struggles in concerns to batch loading images, I’ve been doing other important things for the website. I spent the greater part of the day researching the history of home economics programs, since two of our scrapbooks are from the Home Ec. Club here at Mary Washington. When I thought of home ec,  I flashed back to my rinky-dink high school program or articles like “How to be a Good Wife” that featured in popular magazines in the 1950s. I knew that this was probably not an accurate view of home economics as a college program, so I thought it would be a good idea to provide some general context for home economics in America since for today’s society.


What I found really surprised me. Home Economics went through a verity of phases, based primarily on the socio-political atmosphere of the time.


The formulation of home economics as a subject began after the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Pre-Industrialization, women were education in homemaking by their families but as women went to work, some of that knowledge was lost in translation. During the Progressive Era (1890-1920), home ec. really picked up steam. More women were participating in education and society. Women in home ec. were connected to suffrage, prohibitionist, and nutritionist movements around the US. During this time home economics emphasized cutting-edge theories surrounding sanitation, child development, and architecture (I’m not really sure why the last is so important, but it was). During the Depression, home ec. took a different turn. Home Economics was now all about stretching the dollar, darning worn cloths, and making delicious meals from bland vegetables. During her time as first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was able to garner public support and funding for home economics programs as a part of her initiatives to help women. Post WWII home economics changed yet again, focusing more on the new American consumerism. Home ec. was all about which products were most effective, durable, and cost efficient. New machines like vacuums and washing machines designed to make the home-makers life easier, were at the forefront of home ec. curriculums. These classes had an impact on the way companies advertised and even competed with each other, since they new that there were entire classes of women across the nation testing their products.


Then the 60s came rolling around and new ideas about gender tanked home ec. popularity. But that is okay. Our country began moving in a different direction. And understanding this change is what our scrapbook project is all about.


By far, the coolest thing I read had to do with education in the early 1960s. During this time women in home ec classes started reading about methods to structure the home environment in order to help children with developmental disabilities learn and grow in conjunction with schooling. I think it was really relevant then and today. I have family and friends that are going into special education and they say that one of the most frustrating aspects of their field is that, occasionally, kids will go home from school and their parents will undo all of the progress that teachers have made during the day. If parents had more understanding of methods, earlier then this kind of counterproductive behavior could be avoided. Just a thought.


After finding all of this out, I will definitely look at home economics in a new light and I hope others will as well.

Digital History Today

I read, “A National Treasure at the Brink: Survey Highlights Historians’ Love of, and Frustration with, the National Archives” by Richard Immerman, Kenneth Osgood, and Carly Goodman, published in Perspectives of History in April 2014. I thought it was really interesting that 71% of professionals said that classified documents were very important or indispensable in their research. I hadn’t given much thought to classified documents to historical research, but now that it has been brought to my attention, I can understand  that frustration that it can cause.  To know that the appropriate research material exists, but to be denied the appropriate accesses must make historians want to pull their hair out. The fact that the declassification process is slowing down thanks to budget cuts only aggravates the situation. Interestingly, according to the survey taken by the authors, historians think that declassification and other services for researchers take priority over digitization.  I suppose that opening up new avenues for research takes precedence over replicating old sources online. However, for aspiring historians in college or even high school that can’t access the National Archives due to authorization or spacial concerns, I believe the importance of digitization would be more relevant.

I also read  “The Revolution Takes a Turn: AMC’s Drama about Washington’s Spies Aims for Moral Complexity” by Carolyn Eastman published in the April 2014 edition of Perspectives of History. This article talks about the accuracy historical films in the popular society. Like the first article, I hadn’t considered films as a part of digital history. Thinking back now, I understand that much of the population that does not usually relate to history the same way a history major can. Many people can remember the events of The Patriot, better than they can remember the actual facts from history books (which is extremely unfortunate). I hope that the new series, Turn takes the more historical approach, as Eastman indicates. I am a true and ardent believer in the idea that truth is stranger than fiction.



Insert Whitty Title _______ Here

Well, I am pretty sure that the computer station in the library that I’ve been living at for the past couple days has a permanent Ellen-shaped indentation. My favorite seat has a great vantage point of the door, where I can wave at people I recognize. It makes me feel like I am having some sort of social interaction in my day!

Aside from my questionable state as a library-mole person, I am still rolling along. I prepped the images for scrapbook 4. Which makes ALL of our images ready to upload! Done with that portion. I recruited Ronnie for some help putting in the revised tags for scrapbook 2. After looking at all of the tags as a whole, there is still some work to be done on ironing out some of the wrinkles. But that will be for next week.

Also, I’ve been working on the timeline. I was able to create categories and zoom it in with help from Julia. I was also having some trouble with adding just years to the timeline, without month and day. I discussed some possibilities of formatting with Prof. McClurken to circumvent this issue. BUT! Since I am so stubborn, I was able to finally figure it out! In Google Spreadsheets, you go to Format –> Number –> Plain Text. And it will let you just put the year in the start and end date fields. I’m afraid I might have looked a bit crazy to my fellow library people when I discovered this. Looking back, taken out of context, me clapping and dancing around in my seat might have looked quite strange.

I talked with Laura- Michal about hyperlinking the headline text  to take the user to our collections page. From my research, this requires a bit of html code. I’ve never done anything with code before, but the directions I found for this particular problem seem pretty simple so I’m going to try to give it a shot. Let you know how it goes.

Steam-rolling through the to-do list

Yesterday was Data-day! Jess and I were able to get everything we needed to up and running for the second scrapbook. We may need to go back and fine-tune it a bit later, which was a process thankfully, we anticipated when writing our group contract. I also was able to do half of the straightening, cropping, and shrinking for the third scrapbook yesterday. Today I was able to finish the rest of the prepping for scrapbook #3. Now they are all up on dropbox, waiting to be uploaded.

Today I also added a welcome slide to the timeline that I created. So now instead of opening the timeline page to Gary Melchers’ house, the viewer will start on an introductory slide explaining how to use this feature. Today I also played around a bit with photoshop and learned how to layer images. I created a composite image of the covers of the scrapbooks spliced together. I think it looks pretty cool, and I hope that we can work  it into our site.


Workin’ Hard.

I’ve been up to a many many things in regards to our scrapbook project for the past couple of days. I’ve used Alex’s research to create a timeline of events for the 1960s that can be seen here . It still needs a bit of fine-tuning, but it is up and running! I made sure that all the images I used were public domain. The tab on Google Image search where you can limit the results based on usage was really helpful. When creating the timeline, I went back to some of the posts that the class did in January to refresh my memory and help me troubleshoot some issues.

Laura-Michael and I also had a meeting with Suzanne at Special Collections. It was a really great session. She explained how to straighten images in photoshop (which is something I had already half figured out but was missing a crucial Homeconomicsclub-pg13.editstep). That knowledge was really helpful because many of the pages in the second home ec. scrapbook were a bit slanted. The straightening tool was able to fix that in a jiffy. She also showed me a different way to shrink images, that I do like better than the optimizer that I was using. When you crop in photoshop, the program deletes the pixels (and resulting byte-age) from the image. Therefore if you combine that cropping process with the shrinking process then the result is a much sharper image. Also with this process, I was able to pair down the various different byte sizes to 1-2.5 megabytes respectively. This is a bit bigger than the byte-size the optimizer was making them, but it is much more uniform. Using this process, I was able to prepare the entire second scrapbook (40+ images) in about 2ish hours. Laura-Michael is going to batch upload them and report back to me on the time that takes. Crossing my fingers for good news! Tomorrow is a data day. I have recruited Jess to help me out and between the two of us, we should be able to hammer out the metadata with no problems.


Happy Days!!!

There is no ways to describe the progress we have made of the past couple of days. I did do the happy dance, several times. After talking to Katherine at the Library, we got a definitive answer as to what was blowing up our site. (the image size not the server) And how to potentially fix the problem by shrinking the images down. So I went and did some research on photoshop and other kinds of image optimizers. I ended up using a combination of photoshop and this website, which was fabulous. First I cropped and shrank the image once on photoshop, then I shrank it again through the image optimizer. It literally timed itself down to seconds on how long it took. And it was never more than a few minutes! It was great! Then, I opened up a newly compressed image on our site, and it fully uploaded in about 2 minutes.  I did the happy dance.

The entire first scrapbook took me about an afternoon. Laura-Michael then used the Dropbox plugin to upload them onto the back end of our site. Today we are finishing the metadata. Then we will be done with the first one. Weeks of frustration, finally over! I can’t be more happy. Once we are finished with the backlog, then we will be able to works some more on content and aesthetics.