Over the course of this semester, we have seen and read different sources and practicums designed to take history into the digital world. Slowly but surely, historians are embracing this new platform and using it to connect with different audiences. The practicums we studied showed me how vast the field of digital history is and the different tools that exist. As museums, institutions, schools and other forums for history start to embrace the digital world these tools are available to help curate content and reach broad audiences.
I found Twitter to be a fascinating realm for digital history. Professionals are starting to use social media to communicate with each other and the general public. I had not seen this trend on social media until I started graduate school. It was continuously communicated that Twitter is a great step for emerging professionals.
After I interviewed the nine Twitterstorians, I made my own professional Twitter. I wanted to start making connections and developing my own network of historians. My interviewees also addressed how they handle trolls and hate speech on Twitter. They recommend using the block feature to create a respectful community, which I intend to use as well. I am excited to become a Twitterstorian and start to establish myself among peers. Though, I will note that I am using mine to listen, watch, and seek occasional advice. I have already asked for advice and gotten really helpful feedback, Twitterstorians are a supportive community. After this project and my brief time on professional Twitter, I would recommend if you have not already you make a professional Twitter.
Digital history is a more accessible and oftentimes more engage forum for audiences. As the field embraces the digital world, it is our job as emerging professionals to use the resources available to us.
Thank you all for a great semester! If you are on Twitter follow me @agallagherhist 🙂
The first practicum I am going to review tonight is https://scalar.me/anvc/scalar/ The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture’s publishing function SCALAR. This is a free forum to write and publish scholarly work. They note it is as easy as blogging, which is an important distinction because structuring and writing a book honestly sounds terrifying. It is great for collaborative work and makes it easy to structure an essay. One of my favorite functions is the built in annotation help. It allows you to embed media into an annotation and create media content in a book.
They also support a wide variety of media types including, JPEG, PDF, WAV and others to make all different formats of media possible. One of my favorite benefits of writing online or reading online is clicking links to jump to different pages, chapters, or tags. Scalar makes this simple by offering two structures, the path and the tag. The path is essentially following chapters, reading the work in a linear structure. The tag is content based, content is tagged and if you click a tag it takes you to the content in that tag. They also have their own API (Application Program Interface), which makes it easy to build your own visualizations or work with an already existing one. Their user guide explains how to use the API, but it essentially allows you to pull in existing visual designs and incorporate it into your book or you can create a completely new one.
Readers are able to provide feedback and start conversations about the work with the author and other readers. However, most interestingly there is a sidebar feature that can be opened on any page which allows readers to comment on and discuss as they are reading any page. Scalar emphasizes a visual interface and encourages authors to create engaging photos and covers to attract readers, their user-friendly interface makes this possible. You can find their projects and the different categories under the showcase tab. You have to request a registration key and have a university or cultural institution email, as well as, explain your request to receive the key. Then you can make an account and download the software.
Press forward is a wordpress plugin that creates a one stop shop website. It creates content but is also an RSS reader, which means it directly pulls RSS articles for you to review and include. These articles are pulled together by Pressforward so you have easy access to them, which gives you the opportunity to analyze them and decide if they fit with your website content. You can structure it so all of the publications with content related to your website come directly to you for review. They allow for tags to easily organize items but also mark them as read or saved so you know where you left off. You can add comments (and allow other editors to comment) to organize which articles you want to add to you website. Once you’ve decided to include content, Pressforward sends it to wordpress and you can design and publish it from wordpress.
Digital Humanities Now is an example of how this can function. They have organized and structured the content to be easily accessible and reviewed. Users can suggest different articles to be included and editors have a login button to review the different suggestions. As you can see below, they organize the content in different categories. They show three options to access right away, but if you click the title it pulls up all of the articles under that tag. You can subscribe to different feeds (such as new post or editors content) included on the website and be notified of new additions. They list all of their subscriptions with descriptions to make it easy to read and decide. This a great example of the different uses of Pressforward and some of the really interesting things it can do.
Digital History and Librarianship is a community resource that features different articles, resources, and social media feeds. Users can suggest content and sign up to be an editor. They utilize tags such as job postings, posts, CFP, and events. Clicking these links pulls up the relevant posts or resources. It is through pressforward that the site can curate the content and find the articles to include. The Pressforward plug in makes it easy to find and review content to include on your site.
These two resources are great for creating and organizing content. How do they fit into the conversations of digital history and our course conversations? What are some ways you can use these resources in your scholarly work? Could you see yourself using either of these sources in your personal or professional life? Would love to hear your thoughts about these!
Over the past month I surveyed 9 Twitterstorians to learn about their connection to Twitter. I am compiling their responses into a paper to situate their responses in the scholarship of digital history. The survey was very successful and informative. I was able to survey a wide variety of historians. I have attached photos of the survey questions below.
All of my respondents included their Twitter handles, so if you want to connect with any of them you are able to (just mention this project)! As you can see above, I did not ask any of their historical interests, only their current positions. Most of their Twitter bios include more information about their interests but I have included their jobs with their Twitter Handle:
Francisco Mamani-Fuentes @fmamanif – Phd student
Mary McAuliffe @MaryMcAuliffe4 – Asst Professor in Gender Studies
Amber H. Abbas @AHASouthAsia – Associate Professor of History
Ashley Preston @DrPreston1913 – Lecturer
Alexandra Nicole Hill @A_N_Hill – Professor of Humanities
Jake Newsome @wjnewsome – Educator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Eric Gonzaba @EGonzaba – Assistant Professor of American Studies, Cal State Fullerton
Shirley Tillotson @stillots1 – Professor emeritus, retired from Dalhousie University
Matthew Gabriele @prof_gabriele – Professor, Virginia Tech
I have attached a draft of the paper. This a draft, there are definitely some grammatical errors and sentences that will be deleted or added. I relied very heavily on quotes from the survey for this paper because I wanted to focus on the Twitterstorians’ words. Please look it over and let me know your thoughts! Thank you!
What lies beneath us? Thousands of forgotten cemeteries–mostly African American–that were sold and destroyed for development exist beneath neighborhoods, stores, parks, etc all across the United States.
For my practicum project this semester I am working specifically with the Columbian Harmony Cemetery. This was a cemetery in Washington D.C. that opened in 1825 and closed in 1957 after the owners went bankrupt and had to sell it. The cemetery was the first all-black cemetery in the city and held great community value. Most of the bodies were carelessly put into a mass grave and some bodies were not moved at all after it was sold. Currently, there is a parking lot, metro station, and retail spaces on the former cemetery. The cemetery has been widely forgotten, though there are recent movements to memorialize it and the people who were interred there. Because of this project, I want to create a resource that helps people identify forgotten cemeteries.
The Columbian Harmony Cemetery is one of many cemeteries across the United States with this tragic ending. For my digital project, I am proposing a digital, interactive map of the forgotten cemeteries across the country. This map would exist on a website (it could eventually be developed into an app or even a third-party extension onto google maps). The website would feature an actual map of the United States with pins to designate where the cemeteries are located. Then a viewer could click a pin and it would zoom into the location and they would see photos of the current landscape. It would also display information about the former cemetery, such as name, the years it was opened, notable people buried there, and why the cemetery closed–if that information is available. The user would also be able to search for a cemetery by name on the website.
A comparable project is findagrave.com on this website users can search by cemetery or name to find people’s burial sites. It does not include a map and users can contribute to it so there is an ever-growing resource. My project would focus on only forgotten cemeteries and would not include a feature to search by individual person since the records for these cemeteries are usually incomplete. However, findagrave.com is a good model for my project because it has a user-friendly interface but is also a vast resource.
This project can engage a wide range of audiences. Tourists who are interested in exploring the history of the United States can use this map on their travels. Historians and archaeologists can use it for memorialization projects and as a reference for their work. Students can study the map to learn about the history of the country. Also because many of the cemeteries were majority African American the cemetery map can be used in conversations about racial injustice. Schools would be the initial target for publicizing this website. There are numerous ways to incorporate this tool into a classroom and it can be useful from elementary school through graduate school. This project will be evaluated by website usage and effectiveness. Since teachers will be the first people targeted to use the website, the developers will stay in contact with the teachers for feedback about its usage in the classroom and student feedback. As the site grows, it will be evaluated through internet traffic and historians often review sites such as the one I am proposing so those reviews will be used for feedback as well.
I am looking forward to hearing your feedback or if you know of any cemeteries that could be included in this project.
Historians have made Twitter a forum for education and engagement. They coined the term Twitterstorians to describe the growing community of historians on Twitter. Museums and other historical associations and businesses also have Twitter pages. This allows the general public to engage with sites such as the Smithsonian and see their events but the personal accounts of Twitterstorians allows for them to use the platform as a medium for conversation and debate. It is used to promote projects and books and to collaborate with or seek advice from peers. The digital world has many opportunities for historians and those interested in learning about history. Twitter offers a unique platform for anyone to participate in and learn from the discussion. Historians are taking advantage of it and I am interested in understanding how they use it and what they are learning from Twitter.
There are also subcommunities within the broad Twitterstorians, for example, the hashtag #BlckTwitterStorians is used to help African American historians to connect and engage with each other as well as discuss how their cultures and identities interact with their work. These historians are creating the space they need for themselves to show their research and share their experiences as historians of color. Should there be other hashtags for other identities, such as female historians and female historians of color? Twitter has the medium to establish these other threads that do not have to interfere with the others but can be connected, providing a space for intersectionality.
From my inital observations, Twitterstorians do an excellent job at using the platform to connect with each other and create connections. However, I noticed that both professional organizations, such as the Smithsonian, and Twitterstorians do not use Twitter to its full potential in connecting with the general public. There are many ways to engage in conversations and promote educational infromation and events. Without doing any in depth research or having conversations with Twitterstorians, I believe they could take more advantage of what Twitter offers to its users. As it is argued in, “Why Wasn’t I Consulted?” by Paul Ford, people want to share their thoughts and feel like they are contributing to the discourse about topics in history and Twitter is a useful tool to do so, it is free and widely accessible to the general public. I do believe there should be a space to connect as professionals, without directing it towards broader audiences but Twitter offers the opportunity to do both on one platform. Should Twitter be said platform? Is there something else more accessible and better designed for historians?
As emerging professionals, we have all been encouraged to create Twitter pages to participate in these conversations. For my project, I am proposing interviews with Twitterstorians and analysis of their use of the platform. I want to ask them about why they use Twitter and if they believe it is effective for their work. Do they think Twitter engages the audience they are trying to connect? What do they feel are the downsides to Twitter? Twitterstorians can also offer advice as to whether emerging professionals should be participating in the conversations and what it can do for their careers. I would interview a few Twitterstorians but also create a survey that I could share to reach a broader audience of historians. My questions would include book recommendations, advice for emerging professionals, and reasons why they use Twitter and its effectiveness. Twitterstorians are proof of the growth of the digital world in the field of history and ways professionals are capitalizing on the new mediums available.