Standing Around – by Vincent Gonzalez

As I enrolled in Digital History 677, I was unsure what to expect and had not anticipated how relevant the coursework would be. The course has shown me how digital history is the future of public history as the world moves past physical text and brings history to the public at its fingertips. The mediums of historical education are moving from textbooks and museums to videos and presentations on the Internet.

My project fully embraced bringing static physical history in one of the most secure and iconic government buildings to public audiences everywhere. Standing Around is a series of short videos recorded by public historians working for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society in the U.S. Capitol. These videos are short 1 to 2-minute presentations about the statues held in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall collection. We have unique access to the Capitol and its National Statuary Hall collection because we are chartered by Congress to present Congressional and Capitol history. This project sought to fill my responsibility to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and to my Public History MA program at American University.

Over the course of the semester, I produced and directed a small sample size of what the Standing Around Series would look like successfully. I accomplished my goal of learning how to edit audio and video files to create a finished product I am proud of. Prior to this class, I had no experience in video editing and only had a mental image of what I pictured the videos to look like. Although I still have much to learn and hope to improve as I film more videos, I am proud that I took on a new challenge that will expand the U.S. Capitol Historical Society’s audience by tagging state and federal representatives, state historical societies, and other relevant audiences of the state statues presented.

I utilized the knowledge already being presented on Capitol tours by our tour guides in short-form videos that will practice public history and raise the profile of this unique historical society. My methodology was to record unscripted video presentations of statues of the guide’s choosing intercut with B roll recorded after the video highlighting the aspects of the statue talked about. Due to the noise volume in the Capitol during public hours, I chose to use our audio recorder usually used to record oral histories to substitute the distorted audio recorded by video. I then would take both files and overlay them in ClipChamp. The process of uploading these files into SharePoint made me tackle another digital challenge of learning how to find alternate routes when file sizes are too big or connections are slow. The skills gained in learning more about editing, uploading, recording, and producing videos will continue to be used in future projects for coursework and in historical roles.

Unfortunately, a huge road bump I had in producing these videos was that the audio capabilities on my laptop crashed and still have not been fully repaired. This immediately put a halt to video production, though luckily, I recorded and produced enough content to have something to show. Below is a link to my previous blog post with the videos I completed. I plan on having interns help with video production to consistently post videos on a regular basis when I am unable to due to other work responsibilities. The posts can follow themes based on chronilogy, months dedicated to certain histories, or relevance to current politics presented by people from those states that statues are from. Presenters could even include current Members of Congress as a collaorative product between Congress and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

3 Replies to “Standing Around – by Vincent Gonzalez”

  1. This project is so great, I know initially you were worried about your video/audio production skills, but you have come so far this semester, now you have some great stuff to add to your resume. I think this project really helps publicly highlight the individual state histories at the Capitol. Consider this my former request for a Minnesota statue video!

  2. Vincent, I think it’s awesome how you were able to incorporate digital tools learned from this course and apply them to your job. These videos are so professionally tied together and I am impressed by your editing skills. The concept of having the US Capitol’s Historical Society detailing the history behind each statue is really neat! Although there are only so many statues in the Capitol, you could expand “Standing Around” later to include paintings and other interesting art around the Capitol building. There’s definitely interest in videos like this on social media, so I believe this will receive a good amount of attention.

  3. Hi Vincent! This project is so fun! It’s a really good way of bringing these objects and histories into the public, making their existence and histories accessible to a ton of folks who can’t necessarily travel to DC, and even if they did wouldn’t necessarily go on this specific tour since there’s so much to do in the city. It should also be a good tool for the Historical Society itself, since the format can share info and draw people in while still being inherently limited compared to actually coming on the tour and seeing everything in person. It’ll basically work as a natural advertising resource! It also definitely has a framework that can be scaled up to cover different sorts of artifacts and histories, so I’m glad you’ll be able to keep it running after the class has ended!

    Hopefully you can get your laptop issues worked out soon, I can’t wait to see how this project continues to go!

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