Category Archives: Clio1

A Reconstruction–What Can Digital History Tell Us?

I will be presenting on my final project tonight, so I wanted to provide some information on what I will show you all.

For my digital project, I have created an architectural reconstruction of the Sanford Grammar School in Sanford, Florida. For a little bit of background information, this school is now used as the Public History Center, which is a museum for fourth grade field trips to study Florida history and geography. The school building was built in 1902, and it housed 1st through 12th grades. Wings were added to the building in 1917. A popular architect in the area, W. G. Talley, created the school in the Romanesque architectural style.

Previously, this building was placed on the most endangered places list by the Florida Trust in 2009. The building, despite its new partnership with University of Central Florida, is still deteriorating and is in need of very expensive repairs. However, it is still standing in its original form, for the most part.

My idea was to use a Sanborn map to rebuild the original structure before the wings were added. Here is a detail of the school on the map.

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Here is a photograph of the reconstruction placed on the map.

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Here is the front of the building.

I will show more photographs in class, as I believe it would take up way too much space here to present them. However, I have several angles, including front, side, back, and the outhouse!

I’m currently working on my argument aspect, as well as my paper that will go along with this. I feel that it is very useful to create reconstructions for buildings, both standing and no longer standing, to get further understanding of the building. It’s not a perfect representation, and I did my best on it.

I’ve also created a website that would present this information. Here is a basic version of that.

Collaboration in the Historical Field

Since we have been exploring the world of digital history throughout the semester, I figured that this topic would eventually come up. One thing that I have noticed while working with the fields of digital and public history is that collaboration is key to success, whereas traditional history focuses on one author, one book. However, as Dr. Kelly mentioned earlier, there is some type of collaboration in that process as well that makes the end product possible. With public and digital projects, the product can be multi-authored. There is also the aspect of working with the community, where even further collaboration is needed to make the project happen. 

As you all are used to by now, one article in particular stuck out to me this week– “Improvising Digital History in the Deep South Digital Desert.” Being from Tennessee originally and doing most of my undergraduate and graduate work until now in Florida, I have dealt with the issue of digital history being taken seriously. Michael Mizell-Nelson says, “More students will undertake and complete digital projects once their thesis or dissertation advisors and entire departments value – and not merely approve of or tolerate – such work.” At my MA program, we had an option of a public or digital history project, but it was not the encouraged choice. With the research programs, collaborative projects were not encouraged, as only one person could “win” the forum, even if it was collaborative.

Once more programs and historians embrace collaboration and digital history, I believe that we will get more creative projects from it. I think I’m just rambling at this point, I believe, as I like the idea of being able to collaborate. I want more creativity, and I want the field to embrace it more!

The Difficulties of Teaching History

Dr. Kelly wrote in Teaching History in the Digital Age, “It is a bit disheartening to realize that more than 100 years ago historians were already warning their peers about the problems of lecturing.” I, too, find this information troubling. I’ve also been thinking about my own experiences both teaching and learning during my BA, MA, and now PhD processes. In my experience, incorporating the digital can sometimes just mean, “slap a powerpoint up there so they aren’t bored.” (Which, we all know how well THAT works!) But how do we get students to utilize the wealth of sources available to them? How can we assist them in being creative with their historical understanding and analysis without creating an altered document (like the Nuremberg video). I used to teach 4th graders, and although we could not give them digital means to learn history, we DID want them to be hands on. All of the exhibits that we had for our museum were required to have some type of interactivity. Can’t this also be applied to teaching history to older students with digital means?

I, for one, love the idea of letting students go on their own to find their sources, with guidance on how to choose a good source beyond “use .edu.”I love the idea of giving more choice than “use what I give you.” Isn’t that part of the historical process? Why are historians so fearful of changing how we teach students history, and why is there this ongoing theme that these new concepts are scary? All they can do is enhance our understanding of history even further. 

 

 

Historians are Big Snoops

More and more people are using social media as a method of communicating with each other and their ideas every single day. We know that these ideas are being recorded by the companies, and the information could potentially be used for research. Some of this information is considered “private” information, while others are very public. I was struck by Lev Manovich’s assertion that the digital footprint of people on these social networks should not be considered authentic. Historians already deal with that notion, as they have had to compare the private and public thoughts of many people that are constructed through private letters and public declarations of their feelings and beliefs, and often times, these ideas do not coincide. 

Historians go through private and public information to demonstrate an argument regarding a historical event or figure (amongst other things). We use private data, such as letters or diaries, to formulate these arguments. Those letters or diaries were not meant for us to read. They were the private thoughts and communications of an individual. As many of you, while doing the readings this week, as well as our ongoing discussion of information on Facebook, I started to wonder…how is this concept any different from what we already do, besides there being more of it? How does having data from millions of Facebook users change what we do, or how could it? It’s interesting to think about, and it will be something that we and future historians will have to tackle soon. 

Digital Resource Proposal

Previously, I have mentioned my idea for my project, which would be a connector tool for historians. What does that mean exactly? Well, if you have ever tried to use H-Net, you are aware that it is very fragmented and can sometimes be a pain to actually use. What I envision is a fusion between Quora and H-Net, which would allow historians to connect to each other to ask questions about research, funding, conferences, etc.

All of this information would be searchable through tags, rather that being entirely fragmented by subtopics, and it could make it easier for historians to utilize these resources. Although I envision this tool being free to use, I do believe it would be helpful for it to be locked to having a university or professional affiliation email to register, which could potentially keep students from trying to use it to ask individual questions. 

Here are my mock ups of my main page and what a board page would look like: ImageImage

 

I believe this would make a historian’s job a little easier and a little less isolated if this tool were to actually exist, and it is something that I have had in mind since I was first introduced to H-Net. Obviously there are improvements that could be made to my idea, but I do think it could be helpful.

Spatial History

I’ve noticed a trend with myself and readings for history courses–I always find one item in the reading that particularly strikes me, and I latch onto it. This week, it was a quote from Brian Sarnacki’s “Spatial History” that hit me. He quotes David Staley as saying, “visualizations cannot be simply an “add on,” but need to be a fundamental part of the research project from the beginning.”

As a side note, I am also taking the history and cartography course this semester, and so these are ideas that I have to tackle myself while working with mapping. Does having a visualization change the research outcome? What does and can a visualization add to a project? Why can’t a visualization serve as an “add-on”–having a visualization and the traditional scholarly methods work as partners? I know that there is a hurdle in learning how to do visualizations and spatial history, but that hurdle also exists for learning how to do traditional scholarly research. 

Personally, I see many of these things as new tools for historians to learn, grasp onto, and utilize for the future of doing history. I consider it sort of like a new methodological approach to doing history, much like past shifts in doing history. 

 

How Can I Collect History Online?

This week’s readings struck a chord with me. I have been trying to think of ways to incorporate more oral histories into my research, as most of my previous work for my thesis has been done through interviews, newspapers, and magazines. After reading through Collecting History Online, I am wondering if it wouldn’t be beneficial to myself and future researchers on video games (and, of course, those just interested in the topic!) if I were able to create a website to gather online oral histories from gamers from the past. 

To create a digital archive of these oral histories would be really interesting for me, as it would allow for contributors to explain their stories, their thoughts, and their perception of the gaming world at the time. At the same time, I also wonder how easy or difficult it could potentially be to get both contributors and the information from those contributors that is pertinent for the topic. As Collecting History Online’s section on Qualitative Concerns asks, is it easier to ask specific, colloquial questions or would it be more interesting (and also get more participation) if the question is left open ended? Would it be beneficial to ask for advertisement or news stories on popular gaming blogs such as Kotaku or Polygon to attract contributors? 

These are all interesting question to ask, and I might end up tackling these. After reading this week, I really feel that it might be a great way to get some information that I am looking for, while also creating a really cool and interesting website for other gamers. We will see! Any ideas?

Thoughts on Public History Projects

This week, we were tasked with examining public history websites, and due to my previous experiences with them, I chose to examine the websites for the Regional Initiative for Collecting the History, Experiences, and Stories of Central Florida (RICHES) and the University of Central Florida’s Public History Center.

 The RICHES website is a mix of traditional public history projects and digital ones. One of the newest projects that RICHES has added is the Mosaic Interface, which was created in conjunction with Omeka to house the collections. The goal of this project was to create a website that has searchable information about Central Florida using the photographs, primary documents, and oral histories that were gained from work done by RICHES.  The Mosaic Interface could be a bit more user-friendly in the way that its interface and instructions, but it gets the job done.

On the other hand, the other website is for a museum that is a partnership between the University of Central Florida and the Seminole County School system. The Public History Center is a museum that specializes in local history and teaching fourth grade students how to think like historians—they are deemed “history detectives” on their entry to the museum. The website is very clean and easy to use, with information regarding exhibits, volunteering, and what constitutes public history for those that are new to the concept. This museum benefits in that it is partnered with the public history program at UCF, so it has to be self aware of its position in the field. 

I chose these two websites because I have personal experience with them, as I have mentioned before. I worked with RICHES and worked for the Public History Center. These projects, I think, are intriguing ventures into presenting Public History (and Digital Public History). They do have their flaws (namely funding, story of our lives!), but overall, I think they are effective.

What are your thoughts on these?

A Book-Based Discipline?

“History has been and remains a book-based discipline.” This was in the AHA statement regarding the publication of dissertations, and it’s a statement that many in the historical field find to be true. Books and articles seem to be the end goal for many historians, and many times, tenure and promotion depend on these works. Many times in my young career, I have encountered statements of, “oh, this project is great, but it’s not like an article. Can you publish one based off of this?” or “that particular project doesn’t count for much to traditional historians.”  I, as someone who enjoys and probably prefers doing projects over articles and papers, feel that maybe this concept should be overhauled. Why DOESN’T it count as much? Why, if we are using the same values and methodology, should one output be devalued due to its presentation? Dr. Jason M. Kelly explains in his article “Open Access and the Historical Profession” that, “at research institutions, the book is the standard of scholarship.  Many justify this perspective by arguing that the work it takes to prepare a book is very different from other research outputs. “

In particular, one quote stood out the most to me–“Prioritizing the book over other forms of scholarship reinforces a division between those who produce work for other scholars and those who produce work for and with the public when, in fact, both academic historians and public historians should be producing work for and with other scholars and the public.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. History shouldn’t be available only to those who pay for a book or an expensive journal subscription (which JSTOR has kindly decided that individuals can purchase a membership for $200 a year.) History isn’t just for scholars–it’s for everyone.

An Idea Regarding a Digital Resource for Historians!

This may be a wee bit early to consider this assignment, but today became an inspiration day for me. I’ll see what you all think about this. 

There is a website called Quora. This website is essentially a tool where people can ask questions and get answers. Here is more information regarding how it works if you do not know.

Essentially, my thought is to create a historian version of this tool. Some historians have become fans of crowdsourcing, and I thought that this might be an interesting way to utilize that concept. If a historian is associated with some sort of institution-museums, university, etc- they could register (in my head, it would be free) for this tool. From there, they could ask fellow historians questions regarding sources, ideas, or even try to break through when they hit walls. (This happens. You and I know this!) It would sort of be like a fusion of H-Net and a traditional message board, but for historians by historians. I think it could not only help with research, but it could help with teaching, traveling, funding, and other concerns that historians have. 

If there is already something out there like this, then I am late to the game. Otherwise, I believe that this might be a potentially interesting tool for historians to utilize, and I would certainly like to have it! Also, if that is the case, I will need to begin rethinking my idea.