Projects I’d Like to Do

1. My favorite idea was to recreate an old movie using new technology. I think it would be neat to see how a great old movie would look except with modern special effects. One movie that really comes to mind is The Birds. When I was little, my aunt said that was the scariest movie she ever saw, but when I watched it for myself several years later, it didn’t seem like much to me. Part of this was because the birds did not look realistic at all. I think if that movie was recreated, or retouched, it would have a much more intense effect.

2. I’ve always been interested in ancient history, so I think researching the different ancient paintings and writings, then mapping and timelining(?) them would be exciting for me.

3. I also like the idea of recreating some old radio broadcast. Something that comes to mind is Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside talks or his telling the public about Pearl Harbor. Perhaps something like a timeline of a bunch of his fireside talks, so we could use timelinejs and the media program.

Course Reflections

On the whole, I would have to say that this course has offered a deeper appreciation into the nature of how our approaches to the discipline of history keep changing and expanding.

As I remember it, when computers began to become more integrated as a resource tool, there were a lot of people, mostly older ones I should say, that were suspicious of it, as some still are.  I profess readily that I include myself in that category.  I think that one of the hardest things for me, is trying to keep up with the ever-increasing pace in this constantly shifting landscape.  It seems that as soon as I get the hang of something it all changes.  Everything changes so suddenly!

One important point I wish to make in relation to how I have experienced this course: Complexity Kills!  Everything has its own language, or lexicon.  When I hear people speak about HTML, WordPress, Interface, APPS, Google Docs, etc., I wonder if they’re speaking English.  Furthermore, when you consider how many steps it takes to get something set up, by the end you sometimes wonder how you got there.  One point that was raised in class discussion was that our instructor, who provided us with steady guidance and direction, was surprised to find how many places across the country are behind the curve, technology-wise.  I however was not entirely surprised by this at all.  The fact is that as long as there are longstanding inequities within society there will always be gaps of one kind or another.  Plus, I have concerns about people becoming so dependent on technology.

I am pleased to hear that our institution is opening a new career and technical center that will offer services that will help to make it easier for people to have access to tools and expertise that will help enable them to better their understanding of how to utilize these technologies.  If I have any advice to those who will have charge over this new branch of our institution it is simply this: First, let people know, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!  Secondly, be mindful of your words, tone, and looks.  There have been occasions where I have sought out help, per the instruction I was given, and have been given the impression by certain persons that they either felt I was a silly idiot or an intrusive nuisance.  When in fact I was simply asking them to help me help myself, which I understood to be their job description.  And thirdly,  let them know you are there for them, not the other way around.  If you encourage people to do well then they will; if you make them feel dumb then they won’t bother.

In conclusion, I close by saying simply this:  The reason why I originally signed up for this course was not because I expected to understand fully how to construct a website; but rather to have a deeper appreciation for how this can enhance our ability to do things in a useful way.  And I would say that I have, for the most part.  I may still be simpleminded and old-fashioned in a lot of ways, but I do care about learning how to make use of my gift, this craft, in an ethical way, with useful meaning and good purpose.  In a place filled with geniuses I would like to think that there is room for at least one oddball like me.

Massive Make Up Master Post

I’ve finally managed to get my work done! …so here are all my missing posts in one massive Master Post! Hopefully I can get everything covered in this one post so no one has to go digging through a sudden back log to find what I’m talking about.  I think they’re all in order, but if they’re not then at least they come with a handy dandy label so you know what each item is talking about!

Timeline JS and Google Map

Group Contract

Blog Post for Week 5

Wikipedia Post

Blog Post for Week 7

Digital Portfolio

Blog Post for Week 9

Project Update

The Impact of Digital History

Blog Post for Week 13

I think that’s everything, so yay!!

Then and Now Reflection

The progression of our site was relatively smooth throughout the semester. After we met with Carolyn Parsons from the library archives room, we quickly set to work choosing which pictures we wanted to include on our site. We discussed choosing pictures that all fit one category like having all black and white then pictures, or pictures from a certain decade, or those that reflected a certain theme. In the end, we decided to choose past pictures of residence and academic buildings on campus that are still relevant today and were not built within the last five years, and pictures that depicted scenes from academic and general student life. This decision was also heavily influenced after meeting Shannon Hauser who was working on a similar project that focused mostly on buildings on campus. We wanted to incorporate much more than just buildings because of her project and the UMW buildings blog that already existed. We chose also to only focus on the university campus rather than branching out into the Fredericksburg community as a whole for cohesiveness as the project could lose its focus if it was stretched too far.  The most exciting part, at least for me,  was choosing which pictures we wanted to include on the site. Looking through the Centennial Collection on the library’s archives websites was fascinating. I loved seeing UMW from the past and our archives are stocked with amazing pictures. We started by assigning categories to everyone in the group, such as residence building, academic life, social events, etc. By a certain date, we submitted our chosen pictures for these categories on dropbox and then went through as a group to determine which pictures we liked best. After these pictures were chosen, we assigned buildings and locations to everyone in the group, organized in a “master list” for which I was responsible, as well as events. Taking the “now” pictures was a fun process and excluding the time it took to get roof access, was accomplished relatively quickly. The most time consuming portion of the project was the written description that needed to accompany every picture. The Crawley book that we used for most of our citations could be checked out at the library for two hours at a time. A process that I did not enjoy one bit. Thankfully, Jess and Carly were able to get their own copies so we were not all fighting over the reserved ones at the library. Because of this, we did not meet one of our checkpoints, but it was quickly remedied.

We followed our contract every step of the way. The division of labor helped our project run smoothly and quickly. The aspect of the Then and Now group of which I am most proud, is that from the beginning, we achieved all the goals we set for ourselves. We never had to compromise on our projections and goals for our project, we accomplished all of them. When it came to meeting our checkpoints, we met them all on time (except for one) which led to our joking self-classification as the “boring” group during class presentations since we didn’t have an issues to report. Our site is a great reflection of all our hard work and I know that each and every one of us is incredibly proud of it.

Completing the Project

For our project and our contract, we selected four of the many scrapbooks held by the University of Mary Washington Special Collections. My assigned job was originally to transcribe the written portions of the scrapbooks and to use OCR software to transcribe typed documents within them.  The biggest change between the contract and what I actually did is the omission of the OCR program.  This was mainly because when I did try running OCR, I could not get it to capture the information the way I wanted; instead, it would grab portions of the text out of order.  Also, when I tried to break it up into very small pieces that would copy what I wanted, the text (due to the age of the documents) was filled with errors that I had to correct.  This is not so much due to the program being faulty, it just did the best it could with what it could decipher from old and faded ink.

That said, I decided that I would just hand transcribe the documents.  To do this, I had to download the documents and transcribe them into a Word document.  Once Ellen and Laura-Michal were able to get our website up and running, I then had to copy and past the transcriptions onto the pages for individual items.  For the first few scrapbooks, I had no problem getting my transcriptions done on time. I must admit later in the semester it did become a little more difficult to get them done, but I was still able to finish them in a modest amount of time.  In periods between scrapbooks, I was able to help Ellen with inputting metadata for one of the scrapbooks after she and Laura-Michal had issues with technology in getting our website put up. Outside of that, my only job was the transcriptions and that job did take me through the end of the semester.  Based on my assigned task, I would argue that, although my timing was a little late on some, I did effectively complete my part of the project as designated by the contract.

As a whole, I think our group did a very good job executing and completing our assignment. Although we were not able to work on additional scrapbooks like we originally wanted to, but for the scrapbooks that we did work on, we did very well getting them done on time.  It is unfortunate that we were not able to use Omeka to its fullest potential, but now at least we know that to use Omeka we should first take a computer science class.  Although our site might not make the most use of Omeka, based on the main requirements I would argue that we did complete our job based on our contract.

Defense of Contract

This semester has gone by incredibly fast, but, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The Century America project was so much fun for me to be a part of, and I had the best group members that I could have asked for. Together Julia, Jack, Candice, and I created a digital history website that successfully fulfills our contract.

We stated that our mission was to research and exhibit the narrative of the World War I homefront experience at the State Normal School and in the Fredericksburg area and create an exhibition-like website to showcase this research. We spent many hours going through archival materials to learn about the homefront experience, and our 8 different pages on the site provide many diverse, intriguing narratives that showcase Fredericksburg’s and UMW’s history: Community and War Timeline, Knox Family, Urbane Bass, Josiah P. Rowe, Faculty and Staff, Academics, Student Life, and Influenza Epidemic.

The homepage for the UMW Century America site is not as visually complex as we had originally imagined (images, quotes, other media, map, interactive elements), but I believe that the landing page we currently have is an effective but simple introduction that captures the visitor’s attention without overwhelming him/her. As originally planned, we split the site’s narrative into 2 main sections: Fredericksburg (town/community) and Fredericksburg State Normal School. Though the site is split in such a way, many of the narratives demonstrate the intimate connection between the town and school experience.

The homepage for each subcategory has the image links to navigate to the 4 subsections, and we also decided to add some introductory text with basic information about Fredericksburg and FSNS, as well as a brief summary/preview of what visitors can find within the sections. For the Fredericksburg section we decided to do away with the Influenza page, due to a lack of resources, and instead create a “Community and War Timeline” page based on the extensive Virginia War History Commission materials and the William F. Liebenow diaries (mistakenly referred to in our contract as the Mary Eastburn diaries—there was some miscommunication with different CRHC staff as to the creator and name). This combination of materials and the lack of an Influenza page left us with one slot to fill, which we decided would be for Dr. Urbane Bass. Jack found much material at the CRHC and is fascinated with Dr. Bass’s story of service and sacrifice, so it was only natural to add it to the Fredericksburg section. It also gives a unique look into a small part of the African American experience in Fredericksburg during WWI. No changes were made to the categories for the FSNS section of the website. Some elements that were not mentioned in our contract, but not foreseen by us until actually creating the site, are side navigation links, “Voices of the Great War” stories, and the placement of citations (the bottom of each page).

We also have the “About” and “Resources” page, as listed in our contract, as well as a “Sponsors” page. The main menu is a consistent element on every page of our site. The Resources page includes our bibliography, and as stated in our contract, the page also lists the most important archival collections to our research with links to the collections’ home institutions/organizations.

For the main Century America site, we successfully created a website that introduces all of the Century America projects and captures visitors’ attention with an interesting headline. After many struggles with MapsAlive, we (mainly Candice and Julia) were finally able to create an interactive map embedded in the homepage that links to the other schools. We were also able to create an engaging interactive timeline for the main site. We added “About” and “Credits” pages to the main site in order to give viewers more information and direct them to places that might answer their questions (individual projects, official school websites, digital portfolios, etc.). This site fulfills its mission of introducing and explaining the Century America project and that schools involved in it.

We successfully met our milestones with only a few minor snags that were really out of our control—digitized materials from the CRHC were received a couple days past our deadline, and the Century America homepage/interactive map was not complete due to embedding issues and lack of response from our virtual classmates. Our division of labor was as listed in the contract, and we each made excellent contributions to the project. We also helped each other as much as possible. As far as advertising goes, we have been tweeting a lot about the project and a news story will be released very soon about our project. After final approvals and changes from Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, we will blitz the internet with advertising for our awesome site.

It was such a great experience to work on the Century America project and be part of a groundbreaking digital history experiment. Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.

A Whirlwind Semester

It’s strange to think that we started our projects a little over three months ago – although I definitely feel that I have dedicated much of my time to this project, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long!  I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Digital History and gain important skills so that I can go forward in a career that might use WordPress, archival research, or digitization.  So before I begin my review of how I’ve fared this semester, I just wanted to thank Dr. McClurken for teaching us so much about the digital world and for letting me be a part of the COPLAC-sponsored project.

I cannot even begin to describe how great it was working with my Century America team; Jack, Candice, Leah, and I worked extremely well together and knew that we could rely on one another as support and critics throughout this process.  This really helped us put together our site since we knew that if the other members didn’t like a formatting or style decision that they would let us know and as a team we could figure out a new solution.  Even through our struggles at the CRHC and trying to frantically decipher edits at 2am, we thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and getting to know one another as colleagues and as friends.

As for the actual research and website creation, though we did encounter some setbacks and obstacles, overall we didn’t have much to worry about and just had to focus on compiling the information and deciding how we wanted to go about creating our site.  In the end we decided it was best to create a narrative of a few key stories to the history of Fredericksburg and the State Normal School during the Great War rather than simply digitizing as many images and documents as we could find and creating a virtual archive.  I think this was a smart decision on our part because we were able to make our research personal and informative, and incorporated some digitized images that really added to the narrative.

We were also in charge of creating the overarching Century America site since we had four people working on our project instead of just one as was the case for the rest of the participating schools.  This was a fair decision, but it was still kind of stressful because we had to make sure our decisions meshed with everyone else’s!  It was also difficult waiting for responses from the other students regarding images, events for the timeline, and citations for both of these, but I guess that’s what happens in a virtual class where we never physically met our classmates and where most of them were unfamiliar with citing in the style of Chicago or Turabian.

Our struggles mainly revolved around communication with others, whether it was the archivists at the CRHC, our virtual classmates through Century America, or simply being baffled about embedding the maps (but luckily DTLT was there to help us!).  We didn’t encounter any issues within the group and were able to fully rely on each other, knowing that we would accomplish what was necessary and at a reasonable time in accordance with our contract, which I am happy to say that we fully met all of our goals and requirements with time to spare.  I know our “weekly updates” might have seemed a bit boring and redundant, but that was only because we were lucky enough to have completed a majority of our site pretty early on so that the rest of our time could be devoted to editing.

I am extremely happy to say that I am proud of our final outcomes for both the UMW Century America and Overarching CA Site during this semester in which all of us were busy but able to keep on top of this project as well as our others.  I thoroughly enjoyed the days spent at the CRHC (it was still fun despite setbacks), in Special Collections, and our goofy group chats.  I’m really going to miss working with a great group of people – thank you Leah, Candice, and Jack for a wonderful semester of teamwork and camaraderie, thanks to our virtual classmates and those in ADH for your feedback and comments, and thank you Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson for all of your help, guidance, and advice.  #ADH2014forever #HIST1914always

Defending a Semester’s worth…

It’s amazing how fast a semester goes by when you work on such a fun project. In a relatively short amount of time we were able to take raw history and turn into an educational exhibit that everyone can now enjoy and learn from. We started this project  going through several archives to gather all the necessary material and enjoyed each and every unique discovery. Though not all of the information could be used in the project they were still fun to find to say the least. Maybe after we turn in the project we can continue on and expand the project further than originally attended.

After several weeks of gathering primary source material and traveling to different cities we were able to begin brainstorming the exact outcome of the project. Through several discussions we were able to determine what CMS we were to use, the proper tools, and who would be responsible for their portion of the site. After these discussions we wrote out a contract that would be used for the remainder of the semester. With a few minor changes we stuck to our original contract. However, we were not creating just one site, but instead two. One would serve as the overarching site for the COPLAC group, which would link out to the other projects, and one would serve as our own research site.

In the contract itself we laid out every tool, page, and source that was to be used or created throughout the project. We decided to use WordPress to manage our content and we were successful in doing so especially with the help of the Parabola theme. We were able to successfully incorporate both Timeline JS and Mapsalive into both of the sites as originally laid out in the contract. We used Timeline JS for an overarching timeline of all the schools, national events, and international events on the Century America project. Additionally, we used Timeline JS for both the Knox family and Liebenow Diaries on the UMW site. We incorporated Mapsalive into the Century America’s homepage as originally plan, even after several attempts and failures. Overall the tools we chose at the beginning were successfully used in both sites.

We decided on the layout of the project very early in the semester and we stuck with the original plan with only a few minor exceptions. We originally drafted to have Liebenow Diaries to have its own page, but we felt that is would fit best in the Community page. Besides that small change in the layout of the project the rest fell into place as we originally drafted several short months ago with post-it-notes on a chalkboard.

ProjectPIC

As for the individual responsibilities for the site…well we never really chose to assign specific task or follow them except to write the individual pages.  We worked tremendously well with one another and as a team we helped each other in every aspect imaginable. Sticking to individually assigned task was just not possible simply because of our academic chemistry. Separating us to do a single task alone would have never been a good idea to begin with. This project was a team effort and our progress shows because of that.

As for the promotion and outreach for the site we have yet to deliver on that part of the project simply because it was not complete. Now that the website is finished we strongly move forward in sharing our semester’s worth of work. By next week Brynn Boyer’s article will be published and hopefully that will boost site visits. From now until our trip to Colorado we plan to share the site extensively through the use of social media and contacting those who can help spread the word about the project.

Overall I am very pleased with the site and the effort put forth by my fellow researchers this semester. It has been a long road traveled fast. Though I wish we could incorporate more into the site, which we more than likely will in the future seeing how we have four more years of WWI’s centennial.

IMG_4234

Additionally, I would like to thank Leah Tams, Julia Wood, and Candice Roland for their efforts and hard work this semester. They were the best group of individuals I have ever worked with and I am proud to have worked with them throughout this semester.

Scrapbook Reflections & Defense

This project was the creation of the combined efforts of a group of colorfully collected and casted characters.  Each one brought something of the best that was within them to it.  Among them, an artistic, driven Jersey girl, who is all business and no-nonsense.  A creative, double major with an interest in Medieval Literature.  A descendant of  German-stock, from the hill countries of Pennsylvania.  A modest, soft-spoken West Virginian, who spent many long and tedious hours scanning pages.  And finally, there is the eccentric, shy luddite.  Me!

Filmmaker Ken Burns once said, “All real meaning accrues in duration.”  The process of doing this project was not unlike how I’ve heard him describe the making of one of his extended narratives, such as Baseball, Jazz, The Civil War, or The War to mention just a few.  Doing this project was a labor of love in the truest sense of that term.  People often confuse love with like.  The fact of the matter is that like is a part of love, but love means so much more.  Love is bittersweet, a splendid misery, you take the good with the bad.  While the process of doing this was long, tedious, and fraught with tension, it was something I can safely say that we all loved doing.

In some sense it was not unlike how Ken described how he started making films when he was a student at Hampshire College.  Rather than go to the University of Michigan, where his father Robert was a cultural anthropologist, he chose to rebel and go to a school heard about by an article he read on the back of a magazine.  there he met two people who would become his mentors, Jerome Leibling & Elaine Mayes.  Both where amateur still photographers.  As Ken put it, “They had a wonderful idea.  Hampshire College had some equipment, great faculty-we thought, young and eager students, and no money.”  In other words, the perfect formula for success.  I believe this is what we may justly call McClurken’s Mania, or Ferrell’s Folly!  Whichever you think more aptly applies.  In short, its a series of seemingly impossible tasks that somehow turn out for the best.

When you look at this project what you see is twofold.  First, what you see is the brainchild of the combined efforts of a group of very skilled individuals.  Something that would not have been possible without the combined talents of each individual.  This project was never about “I” or “Me!” For all of us, it was always “We!”  We accomplishing something together!  Secondly, and perhaps most important of all, what you see is a monument.

The monument that I refer to is not the skill or genius of a group of students.  Rather taking what the generation that came before us left for us to find and making it more accessible to everyone else.  Here we have preserved, protected, and shared the heritage which is ours.  A heritage which we their posterity are still adding to.  The only part of their memory which is still with us is the one that we are all living and still expanding by leaps and bounds.  The fact that once more everyone else can see and hear them means that their most sanguine expectations have been realized.  This is a monument not to anyone person or their greatness, but to the part that they played in our school’s existence.  And I think to myself, “We are still here!”

The process of doing this project consisted of a balance between embracing modern technologies and tools and old school research work.  While Ellen Peiser & Laura-Michal Balderson were busy plugging in all of the necessary technical aspects of the site utilizing Omeka, Jessica Chrisman was busy transcribing almost indecipherable type and handwritten material because OCR software wasn’t cooperating.  Meanwhile Ronnie Vest spent this time going into the Special Collections of UMW scanning one by one each page of the core group of the four selected scrapbooks.  Two relating to Home Economics, and two from the Young Republicans Club of Mary Washington, all spanning the 1960s.  Joining Ronnie in this process was Alex Young.  While Ronnie was busy scanning, Alex was busy transcribing the necessary metadata, typing up descriptions, and coming up with the necessary tags.  Alex also was responsible for handling the research necessary for the construction of the timeline.  For the purposes of constructing the timeline, he focused on four major themes: UMW & Fredericksburg History, National Events, International Events, & Cultural Touchstones.  To find these events and dates, he drew on a myriad of resources, such as monographs, documentaries, and websites.  While the process was at times murky, because it seemed like we were navigating uncertain currents, nonetheless we were able to accomplish everything we had hoped to, at the very least, on time.

One more thing that I admire about Ken is that while his films have the accompanying line, “A Film By Ken Burns,” there are many other people whose creative energies play a role in that process, which he always acknowledges.

Here are the people who made this possible:

Ellen Peiser, Laura-Michal Balderson, Jessica Chrisman, Ronnie Vest, & Alex Young, to name just a few!

Remember Us!

Adventures in Digital History, Spring 2014, J. McClurken

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