Final Project and Reflection: American University Project Plaque

When I first thought of creating American University Project Plaque as my digital project, I initially saw it as a way to kill two birds with one stone. The Archives of American University asked for a master list of all of the plaques on campus and I saw this as an opportunity to create a digitally curated collection. While I did not know how many to expect, I’m glad I set limitations of collecting plaques outside and on the main campus. As of today (April 26, 2018; approx. 4:15 PM) this collection houses the information for 64 plaques on an Omeka site. All of the plaques have been transcribed and include their exact latitude and longitudinal coordinates. In addition, all plaques have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and are linked to the collection. If I continue this project in the future, I would create smaller collections for all of the plaques within specific buildings and then on the additional campuses, the Washington College of Law and Spring Valley. In line with the ideas of Kirschenbaum, this project is “done;” however, I look forward to continuing this work in the future.

The next step in Project Plaque will be emailing the Archives of American University with my deliverables. I hope to maintain this relationship to add information to the items in the collection and link corresponding records in the Archives. I am happy with the progress of this project thus far, since I was not sure how many plaques to expect. I also liked working with Omeka and Wikimedia Commons, which I can confidently say I have experience with

. Overall, this project let me explore my campus in a new way and I have tons of new fun facts for when I give tours for the university!  For example:

Most Controversial: 

School of International Service Cornerstone, American University

This plaque revealed that the cornerstone of SIS was set with a traditional Masonic ceremony in 2011 with various members of the AU community present. Too bad Dan Brown wrote The Lost Symbol in 2009, we could’ve had a major shoutout! (However, there is a line about the Tenleytown/American University metro stop…close enough!)


Amelia Claire Jones, Japanese Snowbell on American University Campus


Christine M. Taaffe, Flowering Dogwood Tree on American University’s Campus

As a certified arboretum, American University must have all plant life labeled with their genus and species. However, I found these two to also have dedications to women who have passed away. While these are the only two that caught my eye, it would be interesting to find more!

Military History:

Birthplace of Army Chemical Corps, American University

AU had a part in creating chemical weapons in WWI; this is why the athletes have to be checked every few months since there is arsenic underneath our sports fields and Children’s Day Care. (Proof that knowing History is important!!!)

Mark of Commendation to American University from the Navy

I never knew this about AU, so it was cool to learn!


Joe B. Bullard Memorial Rock, American University


Appreciation of Donald G. Zauderer, American University

During the process of running around and taking pictures of plaques on my iPhone 7, I realized that I did not have my location services on so I would not be able to retrieve the exact coordinates. I then went around (with location services on!) and retook all the pictures. However, I couldn’t find these two again…. This speaks to my feelings throughout this project. Every time I walked somewhere, it seemed like there was a new plaque that I did not have before. Since I took the initial photos shortly after the snow disappeared and a week or so before Sylvia Burwell’s inauguration, I definitely saw an increase in signage around campus since I had my eyes constantly looking out for plaques. Hopefully I will find these again…

My Favorite:

Hurst, “College of History,” American University

Whenever I give a tour, I always point out “College of History” as our oldest building on campus. When I was transcribing this plaque, I found a quote that made me love this building even more; “It is highly proper that our group of noble edifices should begin with the College of History. This science takes the first place… in the development of a great educational scheme – a modern, a complete, and an American University.”


I truly enjoyed working with American University Project Plaque and learning more about my campus. Throughout this semester, I have learned what it means to be a Digital Historian and I am glad to say that I am one–sorta.

Additional Links:

Kathryn Morgan_AU Project Plaque Poster

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