D.C. Communities and Their Identity – Oral History Turned Digital History

Hello fellow digital historians! We did it! The end of the semester is upon us. Congratulations on all of your hard work this semester.

While this semester has been one of the most difficult of my career for many reasons, I think it has been one of the most valuable and educational. The skills and knowledge I acquired this semester has been the culmination of many. I sent Trevor an email after helping my mom convert and mv4 (or something like that) file to mp3 so that she could upload it to a PowerPoint. I was so proud of myself!

No, really. I felt like a hero.

My digital history project turned out very similar to what I imagined. As you may recall, I proposed a story-map like website that follows the narrator across the globe.

Check out the final map here!

I ran into difficulties along the way, including changing which platform I used about half way through the process. I began the process using StoryMaps, but was struggling with finding the tools I felt I needed. One of the biggest issues was the inability to change the color of the points on the map to indicate which narrator the point belonged to.

This led me to Google’s My Maps, which allowed me to curate the map in a more effective and interactive way. I ended up including my own life in the map for a variety of reasons. First, I was curious to list the various places I’ve lived in my life, and see what my life “looks like”. (Check out the yellow dots on the map!) Second, reflecting on my life helped me trouble shoot a few editorial decisions. I decided to label the joining black lines as dates – this means they indicate how long I was gone or when I went somewhere. (For example Summer 2015 when I was in Michigan, and June 2016-January 2017 when I was living in Germany) I also used variants of the same color to indicate different things. Places of employment are in a dark orange, and places I’ve lived are in a gold color, and a place of importance is in light yellow. This allowed me to bring more meaning and sense to the map I created.

This is a visual of my life! I’m sure I have a lot more to add to it, but it was a lot of fun to develop.

The map felt a little blank and disconnected to the stories which came out in the oral histories, so I decided to include quotes from the interviews on the map. Svetlana, for example, talks about learning English in school when she first immigrates to the United States. This not only adds interest to the map, but potentially helps the visitor connect with the exhibit.

Once the map was close to finished, I had to pivot my focus to creating a platform for the map to live! WordPress was a logical choice for me, as it allows you to upload documents and audio – two outcomes of the oral history project from last semester on which this project is based. One element on my “wish list” would be attaching audio to the map so that you can hear the narrator tell their own story.

Check out the full website here!

While taking countless walks during this pandemic, I kept brainstorming about the meaning and value of this project. This project began as more of a database and exhibit, but I slowly found the message of connectivity. I was no longer thinking about the themes Jack and I initially discussed in the oral histories, and thinking more about the connections between the narrators not just the couples. Perhaps this is the ‘human element’. My hope for this project is to show that we really aren’t that different from our neighbors, especially if we take the time to get to know their story.

Check out my poster below! I’d love your feedback, as this is my first presentation style poster for a project! (TBT middle school for my last poster)

I’d love to go back and interview these families again to follow up on moments I totally missed, or ask about certain events we barely touched on. Svetlana mentions 9/11 affecting her ability to travel back and forth to England, but only briefly. How else did the attacks change her life? This is a moment that affected everyone in the world, and could certainly be visited in another project.

A second “going forward” aspect to keep in mind is that this platform is intended to serve as a database. The website holds links to the recordings (hosted on SoundCloud) and the transcript of the interviews. This material belongs in the family’s hands. It is something they can add to and adapt as their lives change. I will certainly add to my map as my life goes on! I’m not one to journal, so this might be the way I leave my mark on this world.

Okay… now I’m crying. Be well! I miss you all.

Museums at Home: Online Exhibits

I both loved and hated the process of creating this online exhibit.

One of the main reasons I hated my experience was because I am not I technologically savvy person. It is because of this that I accidentally messed up the formatting of my website. After a few frustrating hours, I decided to give up on my website idea. I felt like this was the best choice for me, but this then later left me confused as to how I would present my online exhibit. I didn’t want to give up on my idea because I really liked the concept. After doing some research, I was able to find a program that would let me create a model of my exhibit. What I also really like about Artsteps is that it was free for users.
The software that I used is available through the website ArtSteps. ArtSteps is a web-based program that allows users to create virtual art galleries. This website also allows users to turn their gallery into a VR experience. However, I decided not to keep it simple since I am not very well versed in this program.


I decided to use one of the pre-built gallery models after a few failed building attempts. Sadly, there are only two pre-built options for galleries in the program. However, these pre-built models are very well spacious for the many objects and pictures a user would like to put in place. Another thing to note is that a user can not edit the furniture inside these pre-built models. These are a few annoying aspects of the program, but I had a lot of fun putting up my exhibit.


One major warning I will give people who are interested in using this program is that the site is currently receiving a lot of traffic. Many people are turning to programs like this one since the pandemic has closed many cultural institutions. I had a tough time uploading the picture, articles, and 3D objects into my exhibit. It also did not help that I had internet connection issues. Still, I was able to get the main parts of my exhibit up. I will continue to work on my online exhibit as it has been since I could not put in more details.

I definitely think that museums will continue to expand on what is possible with this programming. I can’t speak for all of us historians, but I’m sure that many of us miss going to our favorite museums. One of the things that has made me stay a little sane in quarantine is looking at online exhibits from museums around the world. I hope that you all are also finding ways to stay sane during these uncertain times. Thanks for a great semester!

Link: https://www.artsteps.com/view/5ea2da930121e57ade22f419

Final Project and Reflection

Hi, guys so this is the end of the road huh? This has been an absolutely amazing and interesting semester. I have really enjoyed learning how to use technology with you guys though I’m still not as good at as I would like to be lol. This course has been one of the most interesting classes that I have ever taken. Not only did I learn about the variety of different digital resources that are out there for historians but also I began to see the way that digital technology is a form of history is slowly becoming a part of history itself. Who knew that collecting practices for digital history was a problem until this class? There are many different lenses to look at history and digital history allows for a more engaging lens to explore it and encourages people outside of academia to think about history.

This is something I especially thought about when it came to my project. What began as a sort of exploration of history podcasts themselves evolved into an exploration of digital audio media and how podcasters interpret history. While doing my project and taking the course I noticed a theme. Through digital resources, historians are able to tell historical stories in an interesting engaging way that can help connect with the public. This class has also helped me to also rethink what is considered scholarship. As technology advances, blogs, tweets, and other forms of digital resources are becoming a more important part of actual public history work but despite this, the academy does not tend to recognize it as “academic history.” However, that does not mean that we can’t still utilize the internet as a way to bypass the usual academic hurdles so that we can reach a wider audience. I am really encouraged by the variety of ways that history can be practiced and explored online and I think I will start utilizing some of these resources as soon as possible. I hope everybody has a great summer! 

Civil Rights Assassinations and Murders: Responses and Reactions that Inspired Key Civil Rights Moments

This is my Conference Poster but I’ll also add an option to download it!

Here is a link to my ArcGIS project and below is my conference poster to download.

This project was both rewarding and mentally draining. Not because it was an assigned project that took a long time, but because of the nature of my project. Researching, writing, and making maps about murders and assassinations that are racially motivated takes a toll, but a toll that is worth it. I opted to include several graphic photos, including a disclaimer at the beginning of the project, because it felt necessary. Most of the time I felt incredibly insensitive adding these photos of people who had been brutalized and killed but I constantly had to remind myself that these things happened, these events altered history, and these people matter. We are often desensitized to graphic images today, so these photos might not outright trigger you, but as you see these photos, remind yourself that these are people, these are victims of brutality and racism that our country still faces today.  

I decided to include murders of not just famous activists, which I think is beneficial to the project and learning about events in Civil Rights. The inclusion of all kinds of murders and assassinations can help learners understand that the deaths of major activists were not the only thing to get the nation’s attention. People like Emmett Till or the four little girls in Birmingham were not civil rights activists but their deaths sparked something larger for the movement. Even activists who were virtually unknown had an impact with their deaths such as Jimmie Lee Jackson.

Also from the comments on my update post, I decided to include a “Beyond Civil Rights” section, and I’m so glad that I did. The inclusion of post-Civil Rights deaths is important because the Civil Rights Movement did not end in 1968 which is often cited as its end date. Although laws were passed giving legal rights, systematic racism was and is still rampant throughout the nation and that is demonstrated by including these deaths. It also helps to show that even deaths today inspire black activists to continue their fight and show them that the fight is not close to being over. I made a subtle point to make all of my Civil Rights photos in black and white, because those events are often seen as a time that is foreign to us and there is no real way to connect with it. But, with the “Beyond Civil Rights” section, I intentionally made sure every photo was in color, as a subtle way to bring the legacy of Civil Rights to the present with the murders and brutality that we see today.

Ultimately, I did not have time to do extensive research on deaths that happened before Civil Rights, so I ended up just doing the post-Civil Rights information. This is something I would like to add as a future addition to my project because those deaths are just as important and deserve to be recognized. I’d also want to go deeper and add more people than who I have currently in the Civil Rights and post-Civil Rights categories. I think this has the potential to be a much bigger project than I currently have.

Regarding the technicalities of the project, ArcGIS is easy in theory, but I had no idea what I was doing, therefore some of my maps might be a bit messy. It was frustrating that only one photo was allowed per point on the maps because for some of the points I could have chosen from hundreds of options, and one just wasn’t enough. I wanted to create more of a gallery for each of the points but I couldn’t figure out how on ArcGIS. The maps also like to zoom in and out on their own free will no matter what I do to them, so if you encounter this problem I’m sorry!! The application is still a great tool, but it seems definitely geared more toward actual GIS work, hence the name. I feel fairly proud of the project and although it has its flaws, I hope you guys enjoy it!

I’m very sad to not be ending the semester with all of you! Hopefully the fall will bring us better days and many happy hours to make up for lost time.

waze|PARKS: Project Reflection

the office party hard GIF
We did it!

Congrats on completing the weirdest semester of all time! We are literally living through history…digitally…woah

Anyway, I am very happy to update you all on my digital project for this semester. Take a look at the conference poster below. FYI- im not sharing my whole project on this, but let me know if you want to see it!

I couldn’t figure out how to do the link and download thing that others have so here it is!

My project has remained pretty similar to my original proposal, as this is an idea that I have had for some time now. It was great to have the opportunity to develop this idea further, and almost create a “proof of concept.” As Brown notes in Communicating Design, there is still a lot to be done in the deliverable process, but I created a few deliverables that I knew would be critical if I ever decide to develop this further. Creating these deliverables included researching both Waze and the National Park Service fairly extensively.

Waze currently has a feature called Waze Local. If you are a frequent user, you may have noticed the banner ads that pop up advertising McDonalds and O-O-O-O’Reilly Auto Parts when you are at a full stop. According to their data, these ads (along with map pins and promoted searches) have resulted in increased Waze visitation. I relied heavily on their data and framing to create a one-pager that fits with their brand identity – giving me the best chance to have a successful pitch to them. I also created an 18-slide presentation with accompanying notes for a pitch to NPS.

I researched the recent financial history of the National Park Service and included that information in my one-pager to Waze. This helped inform a potential contract and cost. The NPS park websites were immensely helpful in identifying parks along the route, verbiage for the audio notifications, and text for the “see more” section. Included in my project is a list of the sites along a road trip from New Jersey to Florida with this accompanying information.

Before I get to challenges and such, here are some screenshots of my project:

Example of the banner/audio notification a user would see
A list of the 19 sites that are mapped.
An example of the breakdown information for each site listed

Challenges

Unsurprisingly, the current pandemic provided some challenges. Chief among these challenges was the inability to user test with friends, family, and other Waze users. This would have given me a better understanding of what information should be included in the “see more” sections, how long the audio alerts should be, and if they would actually use something like this. While this testing might have been possible via a questionnaire, I do not believe it would have been as effective as driving with them and playing the audio every few minutes.

Reflection

Beyond finally having an excuse to work on a project I have been meaning to advance for years, this class taught me a lot about the intricacies of creating meaningful outlets for digital history. I think all of us understand that digital components will be a fixture in future humanities projects, but this class proves that we can look to the past and present to see examples of how it is already a fixture. As training public historians, we have to take the lessons and readings from this course and bring them into the field. Hopefully, this will help us answer the eternal question of public history: How do we engage the public in and with history?

Stay safe kiddos! It was a great semester and I miss you all. Thank you, Trevor!

im out GIF
Peace out!