I feel like I have learned half a lifetime’s worth of information this semester. I learned there’s so many other ways to be involved in history that don’t require you to have a PhD or a fancy job in academia. The world of digital history is vast and full of unique opportunities that I want to take advantage of. I’ve been a little bit discouraged lately thinking about my future. The job prospects in academia are dismal, leaving me wondering if I will ever get to do something I’m passionate about as a career. Opening my mind up to all the digital tools I now can use, I feel like there’s going to be a place for me. Through blogging for this course and my project, I’ve become more comfortable and dare I say confident about my writing extending into academics and beyond.

The Final Project

Learning Python was a lot harder and more time consuming than I initially thought. It would take me sometimes 2-3 weeks to understand a single concept. My largest initial struggle was the text editor. Using BBEdit is not super user friendly for beginners and the other program recommended by the Programming Historian is no more (not compatible with newest MAC OS update and is no longer being maintained by the company). That was my largest setback and I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to overcome it, but I did. I did not get as far as I had planned by the end of the semester, but I’m proud of the work I’ve put in. Right now I have 4 blog posts up and I plan on continuing the Python series as well as adding posts on other topics.

One final plug for my blog:

Digital Project Update/ draft

Click here to go to my blog

            For my digital project I currently have two blog posts up, My goal is to get 3 more up before the end of the semester. I am still working on building community on my blog, but I am getting web traffic, just not much interaction like comments or subscriptions. Some of the lack of engagement stems from my various insecurities about widely sharing the project, but the more I write and post, it gets a little easier. I also am working on building up other parts of the website, not just the blog posts. I am still trying to nail down what exactly I want my “brand” to be and how to best represent that on the blog, but I do have several ideas and goals in mind.

           For blog post 3 I plan on discussing ChatGPT and how I have used it to help me with python. In this post I will also explore the other resources I’ve been using to help me learn. Learning python has been slightly more difficult than I initially thought, but I’m slowly navigating it the best I can. I feel like this is something I want to continue after the class for sure because at the end of the day, it’s kind of fun.

– Ava

The Mall, Museums, and Adornments

This week I will be reviewing three different resources and demonstrating how to use them.

Mall History

This is an interactive website that provides a map with both commonly known and unique stories of the national mall. This website comes from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media with funding from the NEH. The map is the highlight of the website with 346 different pins. The website is meant to be used either on mobile when you are at the mall or on desktop to explore from the comfort of your own home.

Mall History Interactive Map

First, click on the Maps tab at the top of the page. Let’s pick a pin to look at. Since it’s Cherry Blossom season, let’s click on the Jefferson Memorial. There are 3 pins in this category, I’m going to select “Cherry Tree Protest at Jefferson Memorial Site” At the very bottom of this page there is a view more info button, which gives you additional detailed information, including citing their sources.

Cherry Tree Protest Pin

There are several other features on the website. Under the Explorations tab there are a collection of questions answered in blog style responses or activities like scavenger hunts. Under the People tab , there are photos with names of people who have historical connections to the mall like singer Marian Anderson who gave a concert in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The fourth and final tab is the Past Events Tab. This provides a timeline of events that relate the the creation of the mall or significant events that occurred on the mall.

Overall, this is a really fun resource for Mall History that gives you commonly known info and some off the beaten path histories. The map element actually works quite well on mobile, which is a huge plus. This project is no longer updated as of 2014, so any events after that would not be included (like Jan 6th, for example).

Will to Adorn

The will to adorn app is companion to the project The Will To Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity, which documents and preserves the diversity of African American identities as they are presented through various adornments such as clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles. This project comes from the Smithsonian folklife festival of 2013. The app provides a space for people to share their own stories about their personal style and how it represents them. The app is no longer available for download but the website provides a brief overview. From what I gathered you can record your own voice answering questions and also listen to others who have provided recordings. There was also the opportunity to upload photos as well.

Museum on Main Street

Museum on Main Street is part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. This service brings thoughtfully designed exhibits to small town America. The website provides all kinds of resources for educational outreach in rural areas including acting as an online archive which documents the stories of those who live there. There are starter kits that provide a pre-constructed exhibitions or an opportunity to collaborate and develop your own.

Example of a Starter Kit for an exhibition on labor history

There’s a lot of content on this website which makes it a standout resource. The last things I will mention is the Road Report Blog, which tells stories from the traveling exhibitions. There’s also a podcast which features stories from rural America, both of these resources, while fascinating, don’t appear to be maintained, hopefully a revival of these resources is coming in the future.

Link to Blog

Hi everyone! As I mentioned last week, I have set up my blog and my first post is up! If you want to follow along here’s the link:

I would love to hear any feedback too, so feel free to reach out. My site is still very skeletal, so not everything is up and running quite yet. If you have any suggestions or favorite blogs, posts, website designs you really enjoy, please send them my way! After I have a few more posts up I would like to start building a community on the blog, so feel free to join in!

Ava learns Python (and tells you all about it)

For my digital project I would like to blog by experience learning and applying Python to historical research and projects. The final product will consist of two things: a digital blog detailing my experiences and methods of learning enough python that will allow me to complete a brief analysis of my dataset. The data set I plan to use is the text of all of the state of the union addresses. This data set already exists in CSV which would allow me to perform any number tasks to visualize and analyze the data. Since I do not need to create my own data set, I will have time to focus on learning python and updating the blog with my progress.

The data set I selected can be found at here from Kaggle, an online community of data and computer scientists. The site allows you to upload your own data sets, or browse for sets that someone else has posted. The site also allows you to practice running your own codes with selected data.

How am I actually going to learn python? I think the best place to start is The Programming Historian. The website is entirely free and provides peer review lessons on how to learn things like Python. The lessons are organized by difficulty and topic. I know I would need to start at the very beginning since I don’t have any experience with Python. Once I have a basic grasp on that I plan on working through several sets of lessons and hopefully by the end of my experience I will be able to apply what I’ve learned to the data set I’ve selected.

My goal for this project is to chronicle my own story learning how to use more advanced digital tools to analyze history. I want to show people how to use these digital tools in the discipline of history. I’m someone who has very little experience with coding and no experience with Python. I figure if I can do it then so can other historians. The result of this project will be less focused on product and more on the journey. The final component will be me posting a practicum using my selected data set as an example.

At the end of this project, I hope finish with a grasp on how to use and apply python into my own historical work. This is a skill I see myself using in my own research, particularly with online and digitized material.