Final Synopsis

Our class provided me with my first opportunity to work in a group on a large project for the first time in my college career. I’ve always had friends (business majors) who always complain about their group projects, and who don’t usually appreciate their final outcome. Although our group faced some minimal adversity, our website turned out great, and its something we can appreciate for a long time. My friends have all been forced to endure updates about my site, and they think its something to be proud of as well.

This class made me much more technologically fluent, and I enjoyed the work throughout the semester. I hope to continue running our twitter account, and I’m excited to see how our website may be expanded upon in the future.

A summary of the semester

Adventures in Digital History has proved to me that reaching people through the Internet is an invaluble tool for teaching and learning. Even more so, putting history on the Internet in meaningful ways to connect to people makes the discipline more complex and applicable to everyday life. I have no doubt that each site created this year will be viewed numerous times by people all over the world. Everyone’s use of information architecture has made sites that are appealing, easy to use, and informative to all age levels and groups. Digital learning, media, and teaching will become the dominant way people learn, teach, and experience the world. However, finding the balance between experiencing the world through what others have created and experiencing the world yourself is important for the continuation of society. While we should place value on the Internet for the interconnectivity it creates, we should always place value on being human.

Reflection

In looking back at where I started my project with my group I could not be happier with the results. By taking a collection of 118 political cartoons that had no common theme to them and building a digital archive, we as a group made sense of the collection. With a collection that ranges nearly a century it was difficult to put these into set groups. I applaud our collaborative effort in this endeavor as we were able to group these cartoons into general categories.

In terms of whether we completed our contract, I feel that we did to the best of our abilities. Our contract was largely built on individual work as the collection was so large. When we subdivide the cartoons and we each got our own sections we each carried out our responsibilities. First, we uploaded all of the cartoons to the website and subsequently labeled them with the information provided by the museum. The next part of our task was more challenging as we had to research each of the individual cartoons and write content labels. Writing the content labels was one of the most challenging parts of the process for me as certain cartoons were filled with obscure references that required deep, hard finding evidence. The difficulties of the content labels at times lead us to not strictly adhere to the timeline of the contract, but we persevered.  In building the exhibits, while some an obviously better than others, the way we presented out material in different ways definitely fulfills the terms of our contract.

The skills I have gained from taking this course are ones that will undoubtedly serve me in my career after college. With substantial knowledge of how to use wordpress and omeka, I now find myself more comfortable with the idea of web design. Even though it wasn’t a lot of learning, but now I know a certain degree of html coding which is something I never thought I would learn. I do wish I could have learned more about plug-in and their complexities.

I would like to make a special not e and thank my group for all of the help they have given me over the course of the semester. They were very understanding of the fact that I was completing my 485 and my attention was at times divided between the two courses. I worked hard to make sure I was pulling my own weight for the project but appreciate the group for taking on some of the more difficult tasks.  Lastly I would like to thank Dr. McClurken for the opportunity to work on this project.

Defending my Contract

For referral, here is a link to our contract.

Despite uncertainty and unforeseen problems, I believe my group followed our contract as promised.  Our main goals was to create a digital archive that showed James Farmer “in his own words,” with little to no interpretation. To show case the lectures we promised to edit, upload, transcribe, and summarize each lecture, which we completed. For technicalities, we stated in our contract that we would use WordPress through UMW Blogs, which we did because it was the best format to display and organize the lectures. Even though we stated that we would use SoundCloud, to host the audio, we later changed to use iTunesU. After our contract was written we received the permission to use iTunesU, which was a better place to house the audio. We wrote that we would use SoundCloud because at the time we were told that iTunesU would not work. We were told that the UMW account/server was down. However, once we were told that we had permission and access to use iTunes we uploaded the audio to it.  As stated in our contract, we did use Vimeo to upload and house the lectures online. For the work load, Kelsey transcribed each lecture, I summarized each lecture, Caitlin and I used Adobe Premier to edit clips to create small summaries or “selected stories,” Caitlin created a video trailer that promotes our project and James Farmer’s legacy, and Laura organized and developed the site.  We held to this list of jobs, but also helped and added to the project. We all worked together when others needed help. For example, we all proofread Kelsey’s transcriptions. We all created publicity for the site e. Kelsey included a map on top of her workload. There was never a time when one person did not have work to do because when there was no work left in the contract a member would pitch in to get work finished or create a new part of the project. We held to our timeline of work. On our last meeting with Dr. McClurken we discussed adding a statement on how to cite our website. Unfortunately, we did not get around to adding it. However, we will add it to our website once we get the edits back from Dr. McClurken. We hope to not be penalized because we plan to add it and it was not stated in our contract. Even though we had difficulty with the missing videos, I think we handled the situation in the best way possible. We might not have had the video, but we included the audio, transcription, and summary of each of the missing videos. I believe that as a group and as individuals we all participated fully in the creation of the website. In addition, I believe that we followed our contract. If anything, I believe anything we did outside of our contract was an addition to our final product.

James Farmer Digital Archives: A Reflection

When I signed up for the Spring 2012 Digital History Seminar, I had a choice between four group projects to work on for my last semester at the University of Mary Washington. I am incredibly thankful to have gotten my first project choice: to create James Farmer Digital Archives. Michelle, Kelsey, Caitlin, and I dove headfirst into our project without having a clear sense of what or even where the resources were.  We were not even sure if we had the rights to upload and present James Farmer’s thirteen lectures, filmed by a local news channel WNVT-TV Channel 53 in the early 1980s.  Once we found the lectures in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) lab and we knew that the University owned the rights to the lectures, we moved them into Monroe’s Digital Media Lab to begin cutting, editing, and transcribing the lectures. Our group contract states that our primary goal is to ultimately present James Farmer in his own words, and I am proud to say my group has truly accomplished that objective.

Although we accomplished our group goal of putting James Farmer into his own words, we had to overcome many obstacles along the way.  First, we had to find the video files that were located somewhere on campus.  Once we found them in the DTLT lab, we discovered that we only had lectures four through thirteen digitized. Once we realized that the first four lectures were missing and in terrible condition, we then ran into our next obstacle: the copyright of the videos.  We emailed around the University staff, and eventually Professor McClurcken discovered that the University had all of the rights for the video recording. Despite these initial hurdles, we were able to complete our goals for hosting our information, creating the transcripts of lectures, as well as creating a trailer (which was only a few days late according to our initial contract.)

I was in charge of designing the website, which is hosted under UMW Blogs WordPress. I had worked with Omeka before, as well as had multiple UMW Blog accounts, but I had never had the opportunity to create a website from the ground up. We chose WordPress as a host not only because DTLT was incredibly knowledgeable about the host’s capabilities, but also because it was user friendly. I was inspired by the University’s website homepage’s slide show feature and my vision went from there. I discovered plugins that would be essential to our site. The What Did They Say?!? Transcript plugin allows for the large blocks of texts to hide and even gives credit to Kelsey under her UMW Blogs username, kmatthews. The Facebook/Twitter buttons are used for promotional purposes. The search engine plugin even allows the user to search within the transcripts themselves to find key words. With a simple website having minimal text, complementary color scheme, and easy dropdown tabs, James Farmer is successfully presented “in his own words.”

Although I put countless hours into trying to create the perfect website archive, I could not have done this without the help of Kelsey, Michelle, and Caitlin. While Kelsey worked hours on transcribing James Farmer’s stories, she also created and embedded a Map tracing James Farmer’s travels. Michelle cut and uploaded video onto the UMW History Vimeo account while still writing and adding summaries to the website. Caitlin cut video, created our trailer, and helped with the aesthetics of the site.  My fellow classmates completed their divisions of labor impeccably, while still helping one another out, allowing our project to be a successful collaboration. Walking away from this project, I understand that I have not only created an excellent resource for students and historians alike, but also that I am capable of creating a project bigger than myself – successfully presenting stories from a pivotal moment in American History.

Reflecting at the End…

At the beginning of this semester, the James Monroe Museum political cartoon group was faced with the task of taking 114 cartoons present in the collection at the museum in downtown Fredericksburg and make it accessible to the public. Our project took the form of creating an archive where each and every cartoon would be available to the public with historical commentary to guide the audience of researchers, educators, and the interested public. Looking back on this semester and at this extensive project, this group not only fulfilled what was promised in the contract, but also a great digital history resource was made available as the end result.

After deciding that this project would feature all 114 cartoons and that they would be presented as an archive, we ventured to the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library to assess the collection of cartoons. Discovering that we already had photos of all the cartoons, we were able to focus our project on bettering the quality of the images, taking pictures of those that were overlooked, categorize the total collection into separate exhibits based on topic, and do research on the events discussed in each cartoon. We then were able to focus on the website itself, deciding on a site platform and what kind of information architecture we wanted to use in displaying this weird, but wonderful collection.

In the beginning, we decided on using Omeka.net as our site support because of its great image hosting capabilities, its exhibit builder, and the Dublin Core data design, which guided our information architecture. Due to the limitations of Omeka.net however, we eventually decided to move everything over onto its brother site, Omeka.org.  While this move was never noted in the contract, we still fulfilled this obligation because we are still using an Omeka based platform.

In building the site, as a group the four of us made sure we distributed the tasks evenly. Although some members were more eager to do more than they should, we made sure no one overstepped their boundaries and that no one took over another’s task. For example, Rachel I. oversaw the writing of the content labels because with her experience with museum work, she knew what components made for a good exhibit label. Andrew, Rachel L., and myself wrote a third of the labels and had Rachel I. look over them for both continuity and to make sure they flowed with each other. We also divided cleaning up the images, citing sources, and making the individual exhibits in this way. We also made sure we had our own little projects, such as my construction of the timeline and my collaboration with Rachel L. on the educational resources page. I can safely say that each group member took their responsibilities in stride and did what they said they were going to do.

Comparing the result of our project with our contract, it is important to note that while we came close to needing to change things around, we never did. The only thing that we were not always faithful in fulfilling was having certain aspects of the site completed by every due date. When this happened though, we were within reason. With my project, the timeline, I had plug-in compatibility issues and this caused us to be two weeks late with its completion. Otherwise, each group member met their due date. In the end, our project came out the way we planned it would. We succeeded in making this unique collection public using every resource and presenting every aspect we said we would. I am very proud with how this came out and feel that we were very successful in creating a substantial piece to contribute to digital history.

Final Thoughts and Reflections…

Wow, has this semester gone by fast! It feels as if we are just getting started, not wrapping everything up to come to a close! I have certainly had a lot of fun this semester working on this project.  I must say, it has certainly opened my eyes and I have been able to learn an immense amount.  I never really noticed highway markers before this project, and I am grateful for being able to be a part of such an awesome team of people to make this website a success! We have all worked really hard, and although each of us encountered a few bumps along the way, we were all able to pull together and make the deadlines.

When we originally made our contract in the beginning of the semester, Dr. McClurken even advised us that we may have been a bit “too ambitious” as far as the dates we decided on for completing our various milestones.  As the project progressed, I think we all realized this was true.  The deadline that each person in the group had a difficult time meeting 100% was the March 13 deadline of having all of our research completed.  This obviously was too ambitious of a feat for us to accomplish, namely because about ¼ of our markers were so random and obscure that they were difficult to find any bit of outside research on them.  After a joint collaboration, we were all able to find information on the remaining few markers that we needed.

As far as everything else went, Mike made the skeleton of our site including pulling some posts in and Sarah went through and categorized and tagged all of the posts, along with making a fabulous Google Map.  Ryan went through each individual post for all of us and checked for spelling and grammatical issues, along with creating a timeline, making a Twitter account for us, and getting in touch with the UMW’s newspaper The Bullet for extra publicity.  I took on the task of photographing every single marker that was erected, along with finding additional images for each post.  I was responsible for every single picture that is featured on the website, including the header image on each page.  Towards the end, I also helped out with the structuring and the background of the website.  I utilized a few necessary plugins, such as the Facebook Like button and I made the Tag Cloud for the site (I just could not figure out how to put it on its own page, so Mike helped with that).  I was also responsible for creating the finalized bibliography that would be posted up onto the site.  For this, each person organized their own sources, Mike checked them for proper Turabian and then they were sent to me where I did a final check before I posted them onto the website.  I also registered our website for Google Analytics, which is really interesting because it allows you to see an overview of who is visiting your site.  As far as my contributions to the project and my individual deadlines, I feel as if I met each one accordingly.

This was a great opportunity for us to work together as a team and create a useful resource for people that will hopefully be used for years to come! Although I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, I am happy to say that it is finished (minus any pending corrections and edits that need to be made).  Everyone in the class has done a great job on their projects and I am really excited to see the finished products of everyone’s hard work this semester.  Great job guys!

It is finished

Am I really finished? It’s so hard to believe. We  have worked extremely hard on this project all semester long and I’m really proud of the results. We did stuck to the contract in terms of time, but did have several difficulties along the way. Being a heavily researched based product, some of us had a few markers that we finally had to put our heads together and work on as a team. I feel as if I stuck to my part of the contract really well with the map – I even feel that it turned out even better than I originally planned with all of the feedback. We got all of our research done by the said dates, but we collaborated on a google doc so we could read over each others work and edit it. When the posts were finally pulled online, Ryan lindsey and I worked really hard on tagging, catagorizing, and editing the posts. Lindsey took over the picture finding ordeal because it was easier for her. She found every image.  I tagged and catagorized every post. Mike turned all our sources into Chicago/turabian and then each of us organized our own bibliography which lindsey then made into a huge one. Ryan did something we never even planned and made a twitter and he edited everybody’s work for grammar and spelling. I linked the map to every page and figured out how to make the timeline it’s own link (the timeline that Ryan created). I also made a banner for the timeline and a mother site to link the all past and future projects. :)  lindsey made the tag cloud and mike figured out how to put it on its own page (that was a hassle – seriously). We really appreciate all the help Jim groom and Tim owens gave us along the way. Especially with the help they gave Ryan in figuring out the slideshow on the front page. I created the bibliography and about us page, and went through every post for formatting and for linking them to the map. Overall, the project went really well buy I’m also really glad it’s over. 

Sorry for any spelling and/or grammar issues. I had to write out this post using my IPhone because of my unreliable Internet. :( thank goodness for my smart phone. 

Reflection Paper

The Historic Buildings of the University of Mary Washington will be an integral site in the advertisement of the University of Mary Washington campus. I feel this way because our group adhered to our original goal of creating a site that would ascertain the historical significance of each building. The importance and impact of the site is evidenced by the volume of interest from students and university departments to use the site and include it in other university materials. Along with accomplishing the main goal, our group was able to include significant visual aspects that make our site more interesting (pictures and the interactive map). For the most part, the group as an entity adhered to the deadlines of the contract. Individually, certain group members did not adhere to their deadlines. Our group expected this which is why we allotted extra time in the deadlines for any delays. However, some deadlines needed to be met in order to allow Sam and Kay to load the information accordingly. I think the research aspect of the project was the hardest to adhere to deadlines because none of the researchers realized how difficult it would be to find information of the people the buildings were named for. The map was past deadline but that was because Kayle had to depend on DTLT to upload the map. The website creators achieved the desired effect and look of the site. I think the website it effective and adds a new dimension to the University that the Admissions department has not fully tapped into yet.

The process of working in a group and working on a website was not easy. I would like to first say that you should never put five girls together in a group. Our group had issues with communicating and forming cliques. I believe that the issue of communication was due to differing personalities and differing schedules. These issues are best represented by the disagreement over which members’ pictures to use and who was to edit the site. Originally I was supposed to take pictures and edit Cam’s research. However, disagreement led to the use of Kay’s pictures and editing done by all group members sporadically. While it might seem that the researchers had little to with the construction of the site, this is not true. All of the researchers loaded their drafts to the website and edited them as well. Also, I needed to understand the inner-workings of the site so that I did not mess up any aspects of the site when editing or changing things. I found that creating the site was easy for the most part. The only issues I encountered were editing text with pictures included in the pages. I enjoyed researching the namesakes of the buildings and founding out the interesting facts about the buildings. A part of the process the group neglected to think about was publicity. Since our focus was on the University, publicity was easy because we could utilize university resources to publicize our site. The best part of the whole process was receiving the e-mail from the Director of Web Communications praising our site for its breadth of information and application of digital humanities.

Done!

I meant to post this earlier in the week but I was a little out of it from my minor elbow surgery. I am pleased with our finished website (and once the corrections have been made it will really be the final product).  I thought our topic was fascinating and it was fun to learn so much about UMW and the history behind the white columns of the buildings.  Throughout the course of the semester we all stepped outside of our comfort zone in order to take on new forms of technology.  I became more familiar with UMWBlogs than I had been, and I also learned a lot about Google Maps.  We definitely learned a lot about digital history and working together to produce a polished product.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to become more hands on with digital history and also to learn the deeper history of the school I love so much.

And it is also exciting that our site may be picked up by the University! :)