Practicum: Cleveland Historical, Wordclouds.com, and Historypin

Hello everyone! I hope that your weekend is going well so far. Today, I am going to be walking you through the practicum for this week, which are Cleveland Historical, Wordclouds.com, and Historypin. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, weren’t we supposed to be doing PhilaPlace and Wordle?” We were supposed to, but unfortunately, those two websites are not working, so instead, we will be looking at Cleveland Historical and Wordclouds, which function similarly to those two.

Cleveland Historical

This is a website which allows you to discover a variety of historical locations in and around Cleveland, Ohio, learn about the history of these landmarks, and find out which of these locations offer tours.

Front page of the Cleveland Historical Website.

To begin using Cleveland Historical, you first interact with the Google Map on the front page. On the map are circles which indicate the number of historical sites in that part of Cleveland. As you click on the circles, the map zooms closer until it reveals pins on the map, which give the name of the sites.

Zooming in reveals the pins for the historical sites.

When you click on a pin, it will open up an article about that historical site. For example, I chose to explore the page for Grays Armory. There, I learned that the armory served as the headquarters for the Cleveland Grays, a local militia, but also served as a venue for military balls and orchestras. Additionally, the page gave me information about the address of Grays Armory, images, the official website, and links to tours which included the armory.

Article for the Grays Armory.

Overall, the website is a great resource for finding historical locations in the Cleveland area. The interactive map can help you discover where the historical sites of Cleveland are concentrated, and the articles that are associated with the pins gives enough information for the reader to learn about the sites, and if they choose, arrange to tour them.

Wordclouds

Wordclouds is a web tool that allows you to create tag clouds, which are stylized collections of words that make up an image. The way that you make a tag cloud is by either copy/pasting text into its word processor, pasting a website URL in, or by uploading a file to the website, such as a PDF or a Word document. Once you have entered your desired text, it will randomly generate an image out of the text you have chosen, with word size being based upon the frequency of occurrence that a given word appears in the entered text.

This is the dropdown menu where you upload your text/file of choice.

Webcloud gives you a number of tools to customize your tag cloud. Take, for example, the tag cloud that I made, which was done with text from the Emancipation Proclamation. Initially, the shape and font style that it formed was random. However, I wanted my tag cloud to fit the text that I submitted better. To change the font style of my tag cloud, I went to the dropdown menu called “Font,” and changed it from block letters to a form of cursive. Next, I changed the shape that the cloud formed to resemble the United States, which I did from the “Shape” menu. Finally, I added a “Mask” to the cloud so that an outline of my shape would be visible behind the tag cloud. Here was my result:

My tag cloud, formed from the Emancipation Proclamation.

And your options are not limited to these either. There are other tools which let you change the aspect ratio of your tag cloud, the zoom-level of the image, the color, etc. My take-away from interacting with Wordcloud is that it’s a fun tool for making aesthetic and creative images, and which gives the creator a number of different possibilities for customization.

Historypin

The final website we’ll discuss today is Historypin. This website is very similar to Cleveland Historical, in that it lets you discover historical sites through the usage of “pins” on a map. However, where Historypin differs from Cleveland Historical is that it allows online users to create pins, photos, articles, and collections for historical locations. Clicking on a map pin for a given location will open the collection of pins for that area. For example, below is a collection of pins for my hometown, which were created by my town’s historical society.

A collection for my hometown. Pins and collections can be found either by interacting with the map on the left, or by typing in a location.
Here, I am creating a pin on the map. In this case, I am making one for my local park, which I do by typing in either the name of the area, providing an exact address, or by dragging the pin around the map.

To begin making a pin or a collection of your own, you will first need to set up an account with Historypin, which can be done through your email, Google account, etc. Then, in the top right corner of the screen, you will click on your name to access your account, and then click on where it says “Create a Collection” or “Pin Something.” To create a pin, you will need to upload either a photo, video, audio, or text of your choice. Then, you need to name and describe the place you are pinning. You also have to choose your license of choice, which essentially dictates how other people are allowed to access and use your content. Finally, provide a date of the location you’re pinning, a location for your pin, and then lastly, pin it to the map. Add any tags you might be useful for people to find your pin. Once you have done this, you are all set, and your pin will be created.

Historypin is a great tool for discovering historical places both in your area, or even outside of it, especially ones which might otherwise be difficult to find. Going back to my town, I was able to find pins for historical churches, cemeteries, and monuments, dating back as far as the 1790s. Because pins can be created by anyone, anywhere, historic sites which might otherwise be overlooked can get recognized and explored by anyone who is interested.

12 Replies to “Practicum: Cleveland Historical, Wordclouds.com, and Historypin”

  1. Hey Raphael! I’m curious, after using the Cleveland Historical and HistoryPin do you have a preference? Both seem similar enough, though it seems with HistoryPin account holders can contribute to the collection of pins while Cleveland Historical only has what’s already pinned.

    1. Hi Claire. I agree with you that both websites function similarly, especially with the incorporation of pins, and articles associated with those pins. Honestly, I’m on the fence in deciding which one I have a preference for. On the one hand, I love that Historypin allows anyone, anywhere, to bring visibility to the historical sites they love. On the other hand, Cleveland Historical is curated by historians, and thus, you can expect that the information being presented is reliable, which isn’t always the case with Historypin. For instance, a pin that was made for the town over from me, Yorktown Heights, stated that the town was the site of the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War, even though that battle was not fought in New York, but rather, in Virginia. As such, the lack of moderation that comes with Historypin makes me lean more in favor of Cleveland Historical.

  2. Hi Raphael, thank you for these demos! HistoryPin and Cleveland Historical both seem like such an interesting tool I hadn’t thought of. It’s really beneficial that they add the historic sight information, tour information, etc. on to the google map interface to save people time from random google searches for things like “museums near me” (something I do frequently I must say. These seem like great tools for tourists, and it would be interesting to see if more cities have implemented tools such as this.
    In addition, I love the inclusion of WordClouds. Last semester I used a WordClouds.com to generate a word cloud that displayed the transcriptions of my oral history project. It was a really engaging way to display information visually and it’s a tool I hope to use in further Public History work.

  3. Hi Raphael! I really enjoyed reading about these tools and while I was a bit familiar with WordClouds, I had not heard of the other two. Of the three, I was particularly intrigued by Historypin. I did some searching around the website after reading your practicum and I was impressed by how much had been contributed to some of the placed I searched. I think someone could do a really awesome project with a tool like Historypin as it gives the user a lot of freedom and ability to contribute information to parts of a place’s history. I was surprised that my hometown, Indianapolis, Indiana, had a pretty robust collection of sources, from university pages, to a page by the Digital Public Library of America, to people’s personal contributions, to many others.

  4. Hi Raphael–
    I’m really intrigued by the HistoryPin demo that you explained. It seems like a really accessible way for organizations or cities to map out the historical points of interest. I could see this being really useful for a city department of tourism. It could easily be put into a website on what to do in an area. It also seems user friendly, which is great for users of the website.
    After clicking around on the website myself, however, I wish that there was a way to view the “pins” as a tour – to give the option of a guided experience to those who want one. If there was a “tour”, so to say, it could also then double as a guide for someone embarking on a physical tour, perhaps? An intriguing idea to get multiple uses from a single tool.

    1. Emily, I hadn’t thought about the possibility of a tour function for Historypin. I think it could be possible, given that the website uses Google Maps, which has a function for walking directions. However, part of the issue might be that such a function might not work as well for privately-owned historical sites as it would for publicly-owned ones, since Google may not have the necessary access to configure walking directions.

  5. Raphael–thanks for writing about these tools! Similar to others, I have heard of WordClouds, but I have not heard of Cleveland Historical or Historypin. Applying some ideas from the Cohen & Rosenzweig reading, Cleveland Historical and Historypin have several of the positive qualities of digital media/tools discussed in the Introduction including capacity, accessibility, flexibility, manipulability, and interactivity. I think both tools–but Historypin especially–highlight the collaborative and participatory nature of history and the democratization of knowledge and knowledge production that is really at the core of public history. By allowing pins to be created by “anyone, anywhere,” Historypins is a digital tool “sharing authority” with its users!

    1. I was going to ask if there seemed to be any inaccurate pins on Historypins. Sounds like there are– one of the “quality” dangers mentioned in the readings.

  6. Hi Raphael,

    I’m glad the Cleveland Historical site was included in this post. I find that technology, mainly the melding of Omeka and Curatescape to be simply fascinating. The ways in which you can embed detailed articles, images, and other metadata on one map pin is astounding and makes me very excited for the future of the field. I recently viewed another site that uses this same format and I was again blown away by the depth of it.

  7. Raphael, thank you for the great rundown on these tools! All of these look excellent, and I can already imagine how I might use these in the future. It could be a fun activity for schools to use famous documents like the Constitution in Wordcloud and have students make conclusions based on what words are most commonly used.

    The Cleveland Historical and Historypin present an interesting contrast. Both are similar, with one being more focused. The Cleveland Historical seems to be more thoroughly research, providing sources for its articles, while Historypin appears to allow anyone to make pins, even without sources. I like the increased access of Historypin, but I worry that the lack of sourcing may make it easy for falsehoods to spread too easily. To the rest of you, what might be done to keep Historypin open, but ensure that it remains factually accurate?

    1. Shaan, to answer your question, maybe there could be an indicator added to the pins that shows when a historian or historical group has verified the information being presented. That way, users still have the freedom to post what they like, but also allow some oversight, so readers can make better decisions as to whether the information being presented on a pin is well-informed or not.

  8. Hi Raphael! Thank you for sharing your experiences with these three resources. I was familiar with Cleveland Historical from my time living in Ohio, and I was excited to read about your experiences with it. Like Josh, I checked out another digital project that incorporated a similar format through Omeka and Curatesescape: the Emmett Till Memory Project. I liked seeing how the resource could be used for a variety of purposes since Cleveland Historical focuses more on place/locations while the Emmett Till Memory Project was more biographical.

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