Nuts and Bolts

So, now that we have a specific time period, I emailed Ms. Parsons and asked to come in and see the scrapbooks that we will be working with. I was pleasantly surprised that I had already paged through four relevant 1960s ones on my last visit. This time, I looked at their condition as well as any problematic aspects of the scrapbooks that could give us trouble when scanning them.

The American Guild of Organists scrapbook may be a difficult one because it mostly contained programs, music pamphlets, and other pop-up items. It also did not contain much other media or information.

The 1961-1964 Phi Delta Gamma, Home Economics Department scrapbook was one of my favorites. Not just because it was in great condition, had tons of readable info, but also because needlepoint and the perfect pudding was such a serious subject. Sometimes the past can be another world.

I am so glad that we are doing the 1960s , because one really cool aspect of this decade is the change in technology. At the beginning of the decade most of the scrapbooks have small black and white photos.  By the end of the ’60s photo sizes are rectangularly standardized and in color!

Ms. Parsons is going to evaluate the condition of the scrapbooks for us and let us know which ones can be scanned without too much conditional damage. Once she gets back to us than hopefully we can start scanning!

Timelines and Maps

This week, we were challenged to create our own timelines and maps. To keep it simple, for my timeline I decided to make a small history of my life starting with when I was born and ending with today. Thankfully, the timeline was straightforward enough that it didn’t cause me too many issues. 

I’m currently working on my map (which is going to be the locations of places I wish to travel to in the near future) but I am experiencing some technical difficulties. Will post again with the finished product!

A Drop in the Bucket

Well, the amount of information and choices is still a bit overwhelming, but my group has finally got a concrete idea about what we want to do with our project. There were dozens of scrapbooks to choose from and while it was tempting to try our hands at all of them, we chose to concentrate on scrapbooks from the 1960s. This decision allows us to work with a relatively concentrated group with quite a few scrapbooks (about 12 in all) without getting in over our heads. Not to mention, it solves a huge procedural problem we had encountered. This problem was, in short, the fact that the personal scrapbooks (while interesting) tended to yield only very little concrete information; after all, pictures and pamphlets will only get you so far in a class assignment. Club scrapbooks, on the other hand, were full of information that we could present clearly and factually. The scrapbooks from the 1960s give a wonderful sample of each; most of them are club scrapbooks so we will have a wealth of information, but then there are also a few personal scrapbooks so we will be able to get that glimpse into a student’s personal life that we also enjoy.

The pieces are slowly falling into place; now all we need is to get a better handle on the makings of our website. While we decided to go with Omeka, many of us are still brand new to it and most of the other tools we will be using. Not to worry though! We’re planning to meet with DTLT to work out our questions and finally be ready to map out what exactly we’ll be doing. It will be an interesting next couple of weeks, but I’m excited and ready to see what becomes of our look into the past.

Nails and Tarp

Today we scrapbookers nailed down the edges and parameters of our project! It was fantastic to get everyone on the same page. We agreed that we are going to build a historical website around the UMW yearbooks from the 1960s. There are twelve total scrapbooks, but we have to take a look at all of them and assess their condition. That last thing we want to do is damage them more through handling.

We set up a weekly meeting time outside of class to talk about the project as a whole together, which will become especially valuable once the planning stages progress into the more active portions of the project.

Our next weekly out-of-class meeting will be with Tim at DTLT. We all agreed that we need to learn more about Omeka, since that seems to be the most useful tool that we have heard about so far for collections, exhibits, and archives. Since none of us are familiar with it, we wanted to learn more about it’s technical uses.

Finally, we agreed that we wanted to have some sort of interactive feature embedded in our project. I think the trickiest part of this will be keeping our site easy to navigate and understand.

We’re getting there..

Cutting My Way Through Tangled Spreadsheets

So, I have never considered myself much of a “techie,” and I have never really been fond of spreadsheets, either. Through the process of using Spreadsheet Mapper 3 and Timeline JS, I have confirmed the former…but maybe not the latter.

I had some technical difficulties getting the Mapper spreadsheet to work properly. For some unknown reason, the cells were not populating when I tried to publish, so the links to Google Earth/Maps were not functioning. After some frustration trying to fix the problem myself, I turned to the experts. I reached out to Ryan Brazell (thank you!) and we got the problem sorted out.

Below is my test custom Google Map. It is a few sites of important Mediterranean battles in the sixteenth century, which I am discussing in my HIST 485 paper this semester. Enjoy!

View Larger Map

With the whole spreadsheet debacle unfolding, I turned to Timeline JS, which I found much easier to use. I did not run into any major problems, though I couldn’t format some of the dates as I wanted. This was probably my own fault, not using the system correctly, but I didn’t fight too hard to make it right. As it is, the dates given in the timeline are accurate, but perhaps more exact than I would have presented them. (When does an invasion begin? When troops leave their own borders? When they land on enemy soil? When they first capture new territory? I would have been more general, but the dates given are the more “formal” start and end dates.) The Timeline displays the same information as my custom Google Map, a handful of battles discussed in my senior thesis.

Overall, this was a good experience. Creating custom Google Maps is bound to useful in the future as well as for this class–my group is planning on having an interactive map, quite possibly using Spreadsheet Mapper–and the Timeline is really neat. I will definitely use Timeline JS down the road. I am still not a big fan of spreadsheets, but they can be pretty handy in certain situations.

Archives, Art, and an Awesome Alliteration

Yesterday I visited the library’s archives to go through the unpublished photographs in their collection. I found a lot of really cool images that I am very excited to use for our Then and Now project! I also very much look forward to recreating them for the “now” portion of the project.I think it will present somewhat of a fun challenge!
Though I did find a lot of useful images, I was a little frustrated with the metadata associated with those images. Since these photos aren’t published, there is no way to “grab” the data and have it saved with the image. I made a huge word document with all of the data that I just copied and pasted. This data will later have to be added individually with each entry in our project’s website. It would have been great if there was an easier way to get that information.
I will have to continue looking at published images on the archive’s website to fill in the few gaps I have in my research, but for the most part I was quite pleased with my findings!

Virginia Hall< A photo of Virginia Hall from the UMW Archives

My group has also been discussing the web design element of the project- what we want our site to look like, how it will run, what digital tools we will incorporate, all that good stuff. That along with our discussion in class about the websites we had previously investigated had got me thinking more about website design in general. There are a lot of decisions that go into designing a site that you wouldn’t always think about when you’re just casually browsing the interwebs. The colors, overall design, layout, etc all have been chosen specifically by its creator, and they all have a reason as to their inclusion. Do the colors reflect the feel and purpose of the site? Do they make it seem more legitimate, or do they overwhelm the viewer? Is the layout presented in a way to make it easy to find information, or is it presented in an interactive way in order to engage the visitor? These are the same kind of decisions that an artist makes in creating a work of art. It’s all of those little details that have been carefully thought out and selected that show the artist’s true intention and the meaning of the piece. Why is the composition arranged in a pyramidal format? Why did the artist choose to only use dark, earthy colors? Why these materials? Why is this particular item a recurring theme in this artist’s works? This connection between the similarity of the creators of the digital and art worlds has made the prospect of building a website for our project infinitely more exciting in my mind.

Will I attempt to connect everything in this blog to art? I’m not sure, but there’s a good chance, so you should probably get used to it.

Special Collections and the Masonic Lodge

photo 2 It has been another exciting week for us at UMW! Our group found more items in the Special Collections here at UMW that will be really valuable for our project.  Jack, Julia, and I went back to Special Collections yesterday and spent 2.5 hours looking through President Russell’s papers.  I was hoping to find speeches given by President Russell that are mentioned in the October 1917 Normal School bulletin, but the papers held by UMW seem to deal more with administrative matters like reports to school boards and hiring teachers.  However, we did find other very valuable resources.  It seems that many teachers and employees who sought reappointment in 1918 asked for salaries, and several of them cited the much higher cost of goods and their inability to afford such on their current salaries.  Presumably, these high prices were a direct effect of the war in Europe, and these requests are great examples of not only how World War I affected the economy in general, but also how it affected daily life for people at the State Normal School in Fredericksburg.  We have all also been extremely eager to find documents that address the effect that the influenza epidemic had upon the school’s population.  Julia found a 1918 list of students who had missed a significant number of days, and many of them were listed as having had an “illness.”  Later I found what at the time appeared to be a gold mine of information on the influenza at the State Normal School…until I realized that it was a report for the State Normal School in Harrisonburg (there were four State Normal Schools at this time: Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Farmville, and Radford).  (It was very interesting to see, though, that the SNS in Harrisonburg was so afflicted with influenza that it turned one of its residence halls, Jackson Hall, into a temporary hospital because the infirmary was so overcrowded–it could only fit 12 patients.  The school suspended classes for at least two weeks!)  After some more digging and locating a seemingly lost folder of President Russell’s papers, we finally found the Fredericksburg school’s report that mentioned influenza!  Huzzah!  It seems that, comparatively, the SNS in Fredericksburg was not as severely affected by the epidemic as Harrisonburg was–we only closed for 8 days.  Still, a significant portion of the student body and faculty/staff came down with virus.  Unfortunately, Death came to Fredericksburg: Virginia Goolrick, the Head of the History Department, succumbed to the disease and died within a few days of contracting it.  While I was reading the influenza report, Jack was looking at financial records, and found that he could corroborate the dates of the epidemic, and from a monetary standpoint we could see how heavily the virus affected the school.  During the months of the epidemic (fall 1918), the spending of the infirmary shot through the roof, approaching $500!  We had a very productive day in the Special Collections, and marked down what we wanted to go back and digitize for the project.  At this point, I’m not quite sure how we will incorporate everything into the site, but I think at the very least a timeline would be a good feature for the site.  I would definitely like to work in document images as well.

This evening (Thursday, January 29) we continued our archival work, this time venturing to the Masonic Lodge in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg.  We were very excited to visit the Lodge because the Freemasons have a rich and complex history, and we hoped that they would have some good materials for us to look at.  The Masons were delighted that we sought them out for help and are eager to help us with our research–they want a copy of the site/research once everything is completed!  The historian at the Lodge is fairly new (he took on the position in December), and the archivist was not at the Lodge to assist us.  However, as we talked with the historian and the Grand Master, we got some great preliminary information about the Freemasons and their involvement in society, prominent Masons of Fredericksburg at the time.  The Grand Master graciously gave us a copy of their history, written by a Brother, which has a page discussing the Masons’ activities during WWI.  They didn’t have many archival resources for us to look at tonight, but it was more of a preliminary meeting, so that we could meet with them and explain our project in-depth, to give them a better idea of what kind of resources we are searching for.  The Lodge is in the midst of cataloging and digitizing its archives, which will be beneficial to our project.  Once the secretary and archivist are apprised of our project, I am sure they will have some interesting resources for us to look at, like photographs and meeting minutes.  I’m very excited to see what they can find for us!

photo 1

Maps and Timelines

After a bit of a struggle, I successfully created my first Google Map!  The tutorial page was extremely helpful, and the bit that Ryan told us about south and west coordinates definitely saved me a lot of frustration. My struggles didn’t originate from using the spreadsheet and filling out each pertinent cell–they actually came from the apparent speed at which I was editing the sheet. I personally don’t think I was moving too quickly, but apparently the spreadsheet did. I kept receiving error messages about the script, and I had no idea what it was talking about until I read Jessica’s post and saw that she had encountered the same problem. I ended up removing almost all of the rows that I wasn’t using (the spreadsheet gives you 1,000 to begin with…why someone would need that many, I do not know). That way there was less for myself and for the spreadsheet to deal with. I tried entering information less rapidly and giving the sheet more time to update. Finally, when the KML was ready, I again encountered a problem. Even though the KML was ready, the first tab (“start here”) would not give me a link to go view my map. I got pretty frustrated, and ended up just closing the tabs and my laptop and taking a shower. When I came back and opened up my Google Drive, the spreadsheet was ready for me, this time with a link. Finally, my map was done!

Lessons learned: Do not rapidly edit the spreadsheet. (And if you do, give the sheet a few minutes to update itself and catch up with you). Once the KML is ready and you’ve published the sheet, be patient. It may not give you the link to view the map. Try waiting a few minutes, and if it still won’t reveal its secrets, then just close the tabs and come back a little while later.

I just finished my timeline, which I had immense amounts of fun making. The timeline was so much simpler to create than a Google map, and I think it would be a great resource for our project. We have already discussed using it in a number of different ways, such as for general WWI events or for specific events in Fredericksburg or at UMW. It will be a great way to aid our viewers in keeping track of everything! Enjoy my love story of Brick Tamland and Lamp (from Anchorman).

Also, I am in the process of subscribing to all of my classmates’ blogs on feedly.

Timelines Are More Fun Than Maps

Although both making the timeline and the map were pretty straightforward thanks to Timeline JS and Spreadsheet Mapper v3.1, I definitely enjoyed making the timeline more than the map.  The only problem I ran into with the timeline was the dates. It wouldn’t let me have “Fall 2009″ or “September 2005″ so I had to just sacrifice the timeline’s accuracy for having all of the content I wanted. What I like a lot about the timeline is the media component. I know you can add media to the maps, and I chose not to, but I really liked how the timeline made my media links nice looking for me! With the map spreadsheet, I ended up running into the error of “using too many scripts,” and it was frustrating because I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. So after looking it up, I learned I must have made too many changes to the spreadsheet too fast, so I made a new copy of my spreadsheet to fix that. The other issue I ran into was the latitude and longitude coordinates not translating into the proper places for the markers. I am directionally challenged, so of course I entered in the longitudes and latitudes backwards, which made Ireland show up someone near the Middle East. I figured I had just entered them in wrong and reversed them, which did indeed fix the place markers. I attempted to change the balloon colors on “template 1″ and set that template to all of my place markers, but the new color did not show up after re-publishing the map. Overall, I am glad that we had to practice making these since I am fairly certain my group will use a map for the Then & Now pictures.

On another note, I did subscribe to all of my classmates on Feedly as well Dr. McClurken, Michelle M MoravecBenjamin D HennigAntSpiderBee, and Environmental Humanities.