Welcome to Digital Preservation INST 784

You have found your way to the course site Information Studies 784, Digital Preservation, a graduate seminar at the University of Maryland. The course meets this fall in College Park, Maryland.

The course syllabus is available here. This course is built around this public course blog where we share and constructively comment on the work of our fellow learners.

Along with engaging with course readings, each student in this course works as a digital preservation consultant for a small cultural heritage organization. So posts to this blog will explore both thematic issues in digital preservation and report outs on attempts to apply what we are learning to help a small cultural heritage organization develop it’s approach to digital preservation.

The best way to get ahold of me, the instructor, is email. You can reach me at trevor dot john owens at gmail dot com.

Final Project Reflections, Lukacs

A River of Parties, an ongoing endeavor

Click here to be directed to the site.

What’s been done?

So far, the website has three test posts, in chronological order. One post looks at colonial politics between Tories and Whigs and the Articles of Confederation. The second post looks at the Constitutional Convention and the creation of the Federalist Party. The third post looks at the Washington Administration and the creation of the Democratic-Republicans. The further reading page is developing quite nicely. A few personal favorite works have been added in various topics, with an eye towards diverse accounts in terms of authors, subject matter, and methodological approaches. This page will continue to expand, and will need some sort of organizational framework, probably thematically for easier navigation. The master directory page that holds the image of the document now introduces the project a little better, with information about the document itself, the intended audience, and telegraphing the future of the project. Another page has been added that will contain a list of suggested questions and activities to help facilitate using the site. Additionally, the project now has a rough timeline that I can work with. Colleagues Allison Russell and Melyssa Laureano both work in secondary education, at a private school and a public school respectively. Both educators have offered to use their classrooms as guinea pigs to gauge student response, the utility of the site, and further develop content and suggested questions/activities. I’m really looking forward to sharing this site with students, and the initial feedback from Russell and Laureano has been extremely positive. Their remarks focused primarily on the appropriate tone and reading level for that age group, and the potential that a close reading of this document has.

What needs done?

Most of the remaining work will focus on fleshing out content. I am trying to limit each post to between seven hundred and a thousand words. Reading through each individual post should have a minimal time commitment, so that classrooms have enough time to do activities. Even a thousand words is probably pushing the envelope. There are sixteen remaining segments to the documents. So, theoretically, there’s about sixteen-thousand words left to write. I think that qualifies as a novella. The further reading page needs greatly expanded as well. The hope is to have at least three works for every topic of study, a mini historiography that includes diverse representations of scholars and helps flesh out the narrative I am presenting. The website will be largely top-down in its approach, which is not my preferred method. Since the website is offering a wide narrative, I can use the further reading page to present some depth. The page that introduces the document now has a better introduction to the project, but I’d like to refine it more as work continues, if only to update readers on current progress.

There is a lot of technical work remaining as well. First, the site needs repurposed entirely to present the stories on stable pages instead of posts. This will provide a much better structure to the website and ease the process of exploration. It’s also difficult to continually refer to the artifact in writing, especially as the cropped image for each segment is presented at the top of the page. I could simply copy and paste the image several times throughout the story for readers to refer to, but it would be better if the image could float down the page with them, focusing more on the image in a dynamic way that would make it so readers didn’t have to scroll up to reengage throughout the narrative. This is a technical challenge that will be approached more fully after the content is developed in an initial, but compete, draft.

Connections

One of the most intriguing projects we looked at in class was the now defunct History Wired site run by the Smithsonian. I have expressed this often in class, but digital space has a great potential for exploration and community-creation. History Wired had a sense of exploration, and by determining the size of clickable links by popularity, sort of created a sense of community. I’ve kept the potential of that project in mind the entire time I’ve been working on River of Parties, encouraged by working so closely with a Smithsonian artifact. I want to create a space where students can explore and be entertained. As a historian I have a ton of fun engaging with history and with others about history, and its so common to see kids (and adults) complain that history is boring. But it doesn’t need to be; whether you’re telling a darkly hilarious story about the Aztec prince who served his wife to his father-in-law or comparing Revolutionary War slogans to internet memes. Maintaining a sense of discovery and fun will be a constant challenge throughout the project, but so will trying to foster a sense of community. This can be done through comments on the site itself, but I may disable those. The website is primarily intended to be a group activity for students, and only secondarily a place for bored adults to peruse. The students themselves will be able to share stories and learn together outside of a textbook or ten-year-old notes the teacher puts on the projector.

I’m so excited to continue working on this project and looking forward to developing and refining it over the summer and fall. The ultimate vision for this project is much more expensive and technically demanding, either as a more functional website or as an interactive digital exhibit, and hopefully a working model like this can help explore those possibilities in the future.

 

 

Absentee (Founding) Fathers – Herlihy Final Paper

In the process of writing this paper, I realized that digital tools provide a whole new avenue for historical interpretation that can and should be used in different forms of history outside of strictly “digital history.” One of my largest takeaways was the amount of times I was writing on a trend or an article I came across in my deep-dive into the Google n-gram and Time Magazine Corpus results that I thought “wow this would make a really really interesting standalone research project.” Some of those include the comparison between George Washington and Simon Bolivar which fluctuated widely in the late 20th century and what that says about ideals of freedom both in America and internationally, how presidents and figures like Abraham Lincoln become sanctified alongside the founding fathers despite living 50+ years after the American Revolution, how come we don’t care about John Adams anymore, and the creation of the phrase founding father and how that has changed since it originated in the 1920s. So, there is no limit to the amount of inspiration digital tools can provide to more traditional academic history. This process made me think about how digital tools can also be used to examine very small or specific historical eras, as they reveal so much information that it can be overwhelming to think about broad trends without something small and concrete. We talked a bit about macroanalysis in class, and I understood that to mean looking at national or international trends on a huge scale. However, something I learned from this project is that the more narrow you can make the field for macroanalysis, the easier it is to make sense of your results. Both large scale and small scale macroanalysis have their place in historical analysis, but using macroanalysis for smaller projects was not something I came into this project thinking about and I am glad I got to explore the tools that Google n-gram and the Time Magazine Corpus have to offer.

As an aside, one of the most annoying things about this process, I will say, is the fact that after every few searches on the Time Magazine Corpus they would ask for money or for me to register for an account, which was incredibly frustrating when I would try to search for multiple figures in a row. There were also so many different cool features I didn’t get to mess around with for the sake of keeping the project manageable and to create valid point of comparison for Google n-gram and the Time Magazine Corpus, which I hope to be able to play with on future projects.

Enjoy!

Absentee Founding Fathers – Herlihy Digital History Project

 

Tracking Antisemitism-Reflection

I switched back and forth on my topic…a lot. I kept thinking ‘too big’ and even when I was told to narrow it down, I just couldn’t conceptualize that. I wanted something that explained this big idea I had. I wanted something that would show that I wanted this big digital project even if I couldn’t create it.

And so here we are. I started off creating a mock website on Tumblr and then got sidetracked with writing a mock grant. This final project is a combination of both. I created a prototype website on tumblr, with a definition of how antisemitic incidents will be collected. The prototype also has a ‘Submit an Incident’ portion that is monitored through Google forms and places all submitted incidents into a chart. I decided to write up a mock NEH public digital grant. In my application, I explain the nature of this project and its importance to the world of digital history and what this project will bring to the public.

I know that there’s a lot of work to be done on this project. That was clear to me as I was working on this grant. I had to figure out how to explain what this project would look like in words. It was really hard (even hypothetically) to ask for money for something that doesn’t exist.

I’m really proud of this idea and with sculpting from the help of my peers and Dr. Owens, I think this project combines both digital and public history. One quote from this class has stuck with me since I first heard it and that’s “become digital or become irrelevant.” I’ve taken things I’ve learned from this class and incorporated it into other classes. This class has helped me become more comfortable with the digital and using that platform to get people interested in history and current events. In my personal opinion, I think digital projects are the bridge we need from the past to current events. That’s how I see Tracking Antisemitism. This project bridges past antisemitism with the increased antisemitism we’re seeing today.

Anyway, here’s the website:  https://www.tumblr.com/blog_auth/trackingantisemitism

And here’s my grant:

Tracking Antisemitism

Abstract 

As of 2018 there are only two websites that are home to tracking incidents of antisemitism. Anti-Defamation League audits antisemitic incidents over a twelve-month period and publishes it at the beginning of each new year.  The second tracker of antisemitism is the AMCHA Initiative. Both of these two websites will be explained later.

This digital tracker will automatically put information into an excel spreadsheet that counts anything categorized as an “antisemitic” event or incident as pre-determined by the authors of the project. An alert will be set on the host site/server that inputs the information based on what is published on the Internet.

These sites of publication on the Internet can include news alerts from credible news companies: BBC, CNN, Fox, local news companies, etc. Incidents reported on social media sites will also be inputted-these sites can include Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

The majority of the funding of this grant will go towards creating a website that has an automatically generated component. The tracker will break incidents into quarterly reports (every four months). The staff of the website will be responsible for auditing the incidents that the generator has recorded. This way, the incidents can later be mapped and placed into context and categories.

As the website prototype stands now, the current incidents reported are through crowdsourcing. The most basic form will be google forms embedded into the website that will take the information submitted via the google forms and then put into an excel spreadsheet. The website will have to be monitored through an administrator as the definition of what counts as an antisemitic incident changes based on national level, state level, and personal level. For the purposes of this project, all incidents will be filed under the definition given by Yad Vashem-Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The second component of this website is its historical context. The purpose of this project is to increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism. However, that cannot be accomplished without the debunking of the myth that antisemitism is a new trend or only happened around the time of the Holocaust. When the project launches there will be two specific historical times that will have already been catalogued and mapped. The first map will focus on antisemitic incidents between 1840-1860, the second wave of Jewish immigration largely from German Jews who were escaping persecution in Germany. Antisemitic incidents from this time will be pulled from Cincinnati and New York City. To locate incidents, individuals will look at police reports, housing locations, jobs, and if any immigrants changed their Jewish names to more Americanized ones. The second time will be 1946-1950 starting right after the Kielce pogrom in Poland. The Kielce pogrom started after a Christian Polish boy disappeared and then reappeared days later, citing to his family and the local police that he had been kidnapped by the Jewish Holocaust survivors all living in a home together, to use him for blood (commonly referred to as blood libel). The police and the town citizens marched on the house and after an unknown shot was fired, the townspeople viciously beat the fleeing Jews. At the end of the day 42 Jews had been killed. The Kielce pogrom demonstrated to the Jewish survivors that they had no future in Poland, a country still rife with antisemitism. In the three months following the pogrom over 75,000 Jews left Poland.

The choice of these two events is significant because they debunk the myth that antisemitism only happened during the Holocaust and not in the United States. While the automated tracker portion of the website will be working 24/7, other members of the production team can continuously research other events tracing, antisemitism as far back as documented to help create a holistic, comprehensive narrative of antisemitism. By understanding and analyzing the history of antisemitic incidents, this can help point towards a future without antisemitism.

The last component of the project will be its occasional blog posts posted on the site written by members of the staff, as well as guest writers. The posts will include historical context, current incidents of antisemitism and debatable topics about Jewish culture, life, the Holocaust and antisemitism.

Nature of the Request:

     The idea for this project arose out of a class project in my Digital History and New Media course. I wanted to create an automated tracker that would record incidents of antisemitism. This automated tracker would show the public that antisemitism is rooted deep in our history but has never gone away, it just takes the background and then becomes front and center during times of stress or particular problems. Antisemitism also saw an increase in recognition after the Holocaust happened, although there was the myth that antisemitism disappeared with the global coverage of what the Nazis had committed.

The purpose of this request is to help increase global awareness of worldwide and local antisemitic incidents.

Related Projects:

       There are two other similar trackers, that have helped model the idea of this project. The audits done every year by the Anti-Defamation League and the AMCHA initiative.  

      Anti-Defamation League audits antisemitic incidents over a twelve-month period and publishes it at the beginning of each new year.  The audit published by the ADL includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs. These are compiled by victims, law enforcement and community leaders and then is evaluated by the staff of ADL. The ADL has been tracking antisemitic incidents since 1979.

In the first quarter of 2017 (3 months) there was an 86 percent increase from 2016. In this three-month period there have been 541 antisemitic incidents which include: 380 harassment incidents, an increase of 127 percent; 155 vandalism incidents, an increase of 36 percent.

The second tracker of antisemitism is the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that documents incidents related to 3 rules: (1) Targeting Jewish students and staff; (2) Antisemitic expression; (3) BDS activity at high schools or institutions of higher learning in the United States. A majority of the criteria has been derived from the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism.

Audience and Distribution:

      Tracking Antisemitism will be its own website and therefore will be serve as its own host. I would like to have the site showcased by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for New Media and Matrix at Michigan State University. Not only have these centers created a name for themselves in the world of Digital History, they also have a wonderful staff trained in production, understanding, and distribution of digital history. As the site gains traction, the staff will work towards building a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, the Materials Claim Conference of Germany, Yad Vashem, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

 

Project Evaluation:

 There will be two evaluations done for this project. A front-end evaluation was preliminarily done during the duration of Digital History and New Media course. A fifteen week course with approximately fifteen other graduate students who provided feedback and listened to ideas about tracking antisemitic incidents. I learned how one can code a simple website. I was introduced to other platforms to host a prototype of this site (i.e. Tumblr) and was given feedback on how to make this project more historically based, as well as what the future of this project could look like. A second front-end (I’ll call it front-end) was the poster session during our class. I heard myself explain the project out loud and answered questions and this helped me understand how I could make the project more user-friendly and the real purpose of the project. After the poster session, I was able to explain the project at its bare bones, instead of circling around trying to reach the main point.

 

The second evaluation will be a formative evaluation done towards the end of the production timeline. This will be about three-five months before the website goes live/launches. The formative evaluation will show how well the automated tracker is working, by double-checking the incidents that have been catalogued. The partnering institutions that are working with the production staff, will be involved in the evaluation to see how user-friendly the interface is and if the navigation of the website makes sense.

Project Timeline:

Total: 3-5 years

1st Year: Production and Design of the Website (and the automated tracker)

               Archive Tracking and Mapping of 1840s antisemitic incidents

 2nd Year: Continued Design of the Website

                Archive Tracking and Mapping of 1946-1950 antisemitic incidents

 3rd Year: Website Finished-webpage on two historical antisemitic incidents                           with its maps  

                Tracker will go live, recording & cataloging incidents starting in Oct.-                           Dec. 

 4th Year: Production Team is working in the archives, searching and reporting                     on past antisemitic incidents  

              Website goes live

             Tracker starts recording incidents starting in January of the new year       

 

 Budget

 

Total Cost: 1,000,000 Website design (one time cost): $10,000

Website maintenance/month: $175

 

Production Staff:

(I didn’t have enough information to fill out the excel spreadsheet but I wanted to include it for future work on this project)

Mapping Movement: Japanese-Americans and World War II/Internment

My final project is a series of maps on Google Mymaps that maps the movement of three Japanese-Americans as they experienced World War II and internment in unique ways. The goal of this project is to nuance the modern understanding of internment. There was no singular path that Japanese-Americans took or experience of the injustice and opportunity of the twentieth century. I chose this topic because Asian-Americans in general are often overlooked or handled only briefly by American students and I wanted to bring more attention this significant portion of the population during this formative time.

 

For this project I created a WordPress blog which contains general background information about the project and about Japanese-Americans. From this blog there are links available to the map. Once on the map users are able to choose which “layer” of the map to view, each layer being the map of one person’s movement, before, during, and after the war. Each plot point on the map contains important information about how and why that person was in that place at the time. These maps also include insights into the minds of those portrayed, highlighting racial identity issues. The maps proceed chronologically and are also color coded to help provide the macro-perspective of the movement that took place.

 

While working on this project I ran into one main issue. How to present all the necessary information while maintaining an intuitive layout and without getting bogged down in text. Thanks to Google Mymaps I was able to address the first problem as most potential audience members will have familiarity with Google Maps and understand how to navigate the points. In order to address the second issue I had to keep my text blocks as sparse as possible while still conveying the vital information. Building the WordPress blog helped with this problem as I was able to include generalized information in a single place that helped provide context for each person’s experiences.

 

This project gave me the chance to further pursue my interests regarding race and immigration in the United States. It stemmed from my undergraduate capstone project in which I examined the motivations of Japanese-Americans that volunteered for the US Army. Through this project I was able to further consider the immigrant experience and the role that race plays in domestic relations in the United States. My biggest takeaways from this project are the importance of the digital medium as a means to both make history more accessible/interactive, but also to consider non-traditional mediums (not solely text) when conducting research and creating projects.

 

During the poster session I received a wonderful idea that I could transform this project into a crowd-sourced project, enabling friends and family of those affected by internment to map the journeys of those they knew. If I revisit this project or take any inspiration for the future from it I intend to do just that, create a centralized database in which many different people are able to collaborate and share stories. The result would be huge project that demonstrates the varied experiences of Japanese-Americans during this time, further complicating and benefitting our understanding of history.