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!
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!
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
Full disclosure: this may or may not be me on a fairly regular basis at this point in the semester/quarantine. I am sure many of you can commiserate! I hope that people are still healthy and doing as well as is possible. Hang in there and please continue to take good care!
From Rough Draft toFinal Assignments
From the outset, I encourage you to visit my finalized (for now) ArcGIS StoryMap HERE, and also take a look at my conference poster below:
Since blogging about my project draft, my goals have remained largely unchanged: to create a digital resource that (1) maps+documents+interprets the lynching victims in Maryland that we currently know about; (2) serves as an iterative platform whereby ongoing research committees associated with the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project (I am currently leading research for the Carroll County coalition) can reflect their latest research; (3) incentivizes collaboration & democratized research through open community access, oral history projects, preservation of descendant community artifacts, etc; and (4) gets at one of my primary research questions: what should lynching reconciliation look like in Maryland? The path from draft to final has brought many changes, a few challenges, and yet more work for the future.
In my last post, I said the map was “complete to my liking.” Clearly, I’m a liar. The newest iteration reflects my desire to present concise, pertinent information given the limitations of the mapping software. I do not see the map as a particularly productive medium for extensive metadata; when you click a marker on the map, a clunky window pops up that, in my experience, often malfunctions. Thus, while I did polish the material on the map, I decided against embedding it with important narrative information. See the progression below:
In the draft version, clicking a marker revealed the name(s) of the lynching victim(s), as well as brief location information.
Upon clicking a marker, the newest version now gives location information first–this is a map, after all. The pop-up window also highlights the name of the lynching victim and the date of the lynching, as well as a single image associated with the lynching or the location. I also discovered that this was not the right place for primary sources–primary sources are largely text-based (newspapers, correspondences, etc.), in this case, and they would be inaccessible in such a setting. Thus, the map now displays additional information pertaining to each lynching, without being hindered by the mapping software’s limitations.
The second part of this project–the StoryMap website–was very much a work in progress last time we spoke–it had limited narration, very little archival material, and no sense of navigation:
As you already saw by clicking the link to the final StoryMap (HERE it is again), this part of the project has undergone major changes. See some screenshots of the newest iteration below:
The landing page is more polished, with added navigation. Users can now click on major headings at anytime to navigate to that portion of the page.
The interpretation has been completed and streamlined so as to not be overwhelming for general audiences.
The site remains grounded in the needs of the community and the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project. As such, I have organized the primary source archive by county, and each county section contains its respective lynching victims. Each lynching victim is identified by name, age, race, and other pertinent information where available.
Every lynching event is corroborated with high resolution primary source material; in most cases, newspapers articles. However, my research has led me to other materials too: government documents, correspondences, photographs, etc. These are also embedded in the archive, either as a physical images or as an external link to the materials stored on my Google Drive. In the case of George Armwood (lynched in 1933), I was able to incorporate an oral history podcast I produced last semester with his descendants: Tina Johnson and Kirkland Hall.
Finally, I have made some contact with leadership in the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project. They are on-board for this resource to complement their current website, given that no central archive for lynching research in Maryland currently exists (until now). Going forward, I hope to contact county-level research committee leaders individually, and encourage them to add their own narration and primary source findings to the site. Moreover, I hope to incorporate the community into the project by conducting oral history interviews and incorporating additional descendant artifacts. As I mentioned previously, this project is very much grounded in the needs of the Project & the descendant/black community in Maryland.
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed my project. It has halted the work of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, given that our efforts are intimate & community-based. COVID-19 has already fundamentally changed the field as well. My hope is these changes are for the better–I have seen more academic journals lifting restrictions to access, more community engagement, more digital content, and the like.
As for other challenges: the most pressing problem I faced was the issue of data limitations. Many of the primary source items individually occupy 15mb or more, making my original plan to integrate with WordPress or Omeka impossible. Both platforms have data limits that would have severely restricted the extent of archival materials. In addition, I was unable to embed my map into these other platforms without running into major problems. Thus, my only choice was to use ArcGIS’s site builder: StoryMaps. I was very pleased to discover that ArcGIS StoryMaps appears to have a very high data limit, so I was able to include a plethora of source material. It is also specifically designed to embed ArcGIS maps without losing functionality.
Putting all of this together through ArcGIS StoryMaps does present an additional problem: the software only allows for a single, linear page of content. In other words, I was forced to design a linear resource without the flexibility of navigation panels that take users to separate pages. Although I see this as an iterative project with much work left to be done, I am pleased with how everything turned out.
Goals Going Forward:
Perhaps through funding from the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, correct the linear nature of the current platform by upgrading to a premium version of WordPress/Omeka. If this is not a possibility, embrace the notion that curated narration/interpretation can be just as powerful as user choice.
Continue communicating with Project leadership, research heads, and the community. This digital resource is ready to be democratized, I just need to get it into the right hands.
With these future goals in mind, I am reminded how much we have learned this semester. The most striking lesson I will take away from this course is that digital history is undoubtedly the future of the field, whether the academy likes it or not. As budding public historians, this course gifted us with a foundation to adapt to the changes. Perhaps that change is already here? Or perhaps it is our turn to be the changemakers by embracing new modes of thought, multi-platform research methods, inclusive/open access venues for publication, subversive/experimental niches, and the notion that failure–followed by iteration–leads to important interventions.
It has been a pleasure working/learning with all of you this semester. Thank you for a great course Trevor! Please take care of yourselves and stay in touch.