DC Education and Immigration Project

When I began working on this project, I was interested in identifying school district materials related to bilingual education in El Paso, Texas (something I hope to work on in the future) and to house them on a website for my use and for others. However, that didn’t seem feasible for this project, so I directed my attention toward the District of Columbia Public Schools. Before starting this project, I wasn’t aware of the Charles Sumner Museum and Archives, which is an incredible resource that houses DCPS documents going back to 1804 and is one of the most comprehensive public school district archives. I was able to visit this archive twice before the Covid-19 crisis, and found the Museum Director, Kimberly Springle, to be incredibly helpful. She provided guidance on how the archive is organized and gave me specific leads. I am very happy to have shifted to focusing on education for immigrant-origin students in D.C., and I plan to continue this project and to explore how DCPS has and continues to serve immigrant-origin students. 

Two things that stood out to me from the class that have helped me better understand are the principle of Respect Des Fonds and questions of responsibility for maintaining digital projects. I had initially thought to call the website an “archive,” but now know that it is totally a collection! I also never really thought of maintaining this and what happens to it if I don’t. What I take from both of these is that I really can just put in time and thought and make a website that hopefully others will find useful. One aspect of digital items and projects I really appreciate is the preference for tinkering and “iterating” – I can just update the website as I see fit. That said, I did hope to identify, and digitize and upload more documents, which hasn’t been possible because of Covid-19. 

Since I posted a draft version of the project webpage, I wrote more background to try to better express what I see as the significance of the project. Trevor mentioned in his feedback that more explanation about the project would be helpful. I think this has greatly strengthened the project. I know why I think it’s important, but I wasn’t really conveying that to those who might visit the website. I plan to continue to tweak this background section as I (hopefully) do more research on the topic of bilingual education in schools. Once I do finally get more items up on the webpage, I would like to approach the Sumner Archives about potentially coordinating outreach to potential site users. I also read that the archive hosts summer research seminars, so if I am able to get this built out by Spring, 2021 I might try to apply to participate in that. 

I’ve also identified the three focus areas I’d like to start with and plan to make collections for them. This includes The Webster School, which was an Americanization school, the DCPS response to the 1968 Bilingual Education Act, and gentrification and bilingual education programs. Once it is safe again, I hope to return to the Charles Sumner Museum and Archives to locate items relevant to these. I’m hoping that will be before 2022…

Thank you all for a great semester! I learned so much for Trevor and all of you during discussions and from your posts! I am looking forward to reading and using all of your final projects. I hope that you and your families and friends are safe and well. 


MLA CORE: Practicum

Hi everybody! I hope you and yours are well! 

The MLA CORE is part of the MLA’s Digital Commons (“the scholarly network for MLA members”) and serves as a central repository for digital projects, code, articles, manuscripts, syllabi and more. MLA CORE serves as a tool for increasing the impact of research that might not “count” otherwise in academia.

First, MLA CORE sends out “community notifications” to members of digital groups the author is a part of. The site also addresses a more logistical challenge of trying to grow the audience for one’s work by creating unique identifiers (DOIs, or Digital Object Identifiers) that facilitate citation of them in scholarly works. The ability to select the appropriate licensure is embedded in the MLA CORE, which also serves as an archive of the objects submitted. Overall, it’s encouraging to see an academic association providing tools that help address the problem of only a few types of projects and work counting toward scholarly success.

A pretty wide range of collections…

There are a few ways to explore the items that are part of this collection. You can choose browse or search within one of their collections or you can search the whole repository. Within both the collection and whole database search, you can search by author, subject, tag, or title. I found it interesting that the most commonly uploaded items are articles and book chapters, which might highlight that these are still the most (I believe) valued forms of scholarly by many. I did notice that there were 33 datasets in the repository. Some of these looked very interesting (titles ranged from “Tweets Database-US President Power” to “Foucault’s Toolbox Master Spreadsheet 2019-4”)!

Different browsing options.

To start off, I started to explore The Comics Collection because that sounded fun. It was! This also contained a pretty wide range of materials. Some submissions were conference posters while others were comics themselves. I perused a course syllabus that was included in the comics collection because students of the course were assigned a comic analysis and visual language analysis. It was a fascinating way to organize materials that otherwise not seem very related at all.

I thought it was notable that the website made sharing on social media pretty simple.

Overall, I think this looks like a great to for growing the audience of perhaps less traditional academic work. I noticed that people shared work from a wide range of disciplines. I wonder if this predominates with scholars of English because of the association with the MLA. I noticed that in the AHA Guidelines for the Professional Evaluation of Digital Scholarship by Historians (https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/digital-history-resources/evaluation-of-digital-scholarship-in-history/guidelines-for-the-professional-evaluation-of-digital-scholarship-by-historians) the authors recommended that the AHA create a “curated gallery of ongoing digital scholarship so that historians can learn directly from one another as they conceive, build, and interpret new forms of scholarship.” I found some interesting resources for doing Digital History on their site, but didn’t find a curated gallery of dighist projects.

DC Education and Immigration Project

I hope that everyone is safe and well! Here is a link to my webpage: https://dceducationandimmigration.omeka.net/items/browse! As I have mentioned before, I hope to create a digitized collection materials from the DC Public schools archives. Because of this Covid-19 situation, I was only only able to visit the Charles Sumner Museum and Archive twice. The documents that I digitized while there were meant to be starting points as they are mostly minutes from DC Board of Education Meetings. Before everything shut down, I had just begun the process of viewing reports and documents mentioned in the Board of Education minutes. Regardless, I still think the documents I have been able to digitize are valuable.

Before moving to adding materials to my Omeka.net site, I created deliverables à la Brown’s Communicating Design. I especially found creating a super simple persona and competitive analysis helpful for determining core components of the site.

Behind the scenes…

Given my inability to access the physical documents in the Sumner archive, I’ve been thinking about including relevant newspaper articles. However, I need to look into copyright issues before doing so. Besides that, I am planning to create as many relevant collections I can (I had bigger plans for this and still plan to add more once I can access the archive again). Any and all suggestions for changes/additions/something else would be greatly appreciated!

Collaborative Cultural Heritage Preservation

This week I took a look at two tools — Museum on Main Street (MoMS) and The Will to Adorn — for collecting and preserving stories and cultural practices from people across the U.S. Both of these (MoMS’ “Stories from Main Street is not longer an app) are part of Smithsonian programming. Each facilitates co-facilitation by community members and has some ability to connect the stories that participants submit to place.

Museum on Main Street is a Smithsonian program that sends traveling exhibits into small, rural communities across the United States. The program has visited over 1,600 communities of 500 to 25,000 people since 1994. MoMS has a “Stories from Main Street” (SfMS) feature to “enable participatory collecting” of experiences of people who attended a traveling MoMS exhibit and beyond.

The SfMS is currently collecting stories from folks on three campaigns (see above). I thought that it was interesting that the project is aiming to include stories both from people who visited an exhibit and those who had not.

They also include guidance for stories, formats, and inspiration to those who wish to submit. To contribute, you first need to create an account, then the website walks you through the submission process. Notice that “location” is a feature of the submission form.

This is the second page of stories included in the “Life in Our Town” collection.

On the other end, there is a repository of stories which you can filter by topic or theme. You can also use the search function, but it malfunctioned a few times when I attempted to use it. One last feature I found interesting was that there are lesson plans and ways that teachers can have classes contribute or use stories collected as part of this project.

I also took a look at The Will to Adorn (which is still an app!) which is a product of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The project primarily consists of an app that allows cultural preservationists to share and explore “the diversity of African American identities as expressed through the cultural aesthetics and traditional arts of the body, dress, and adornment.” Unlike MoMS, the website for this was really buggy — it’s definitely all about the app. The website does contain a pretty comprehensive research guide that contains tons of helpful guidance about different methods of data collection. Here’s the link: https://willtoadorn.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/WTAResearchModulesResearchGuide_TheWillToAdorn.pdf I read in the research guide that the name of the project comes from a Zora Neale Hurston observation “that ‘the will to adorn’ is one of the primary characteristics of African American expression.”

The app is pretty simple – you first select whether you want to share a story or listen.

When I chose to listen, it started playing a random selection. By clicking “more” you can filter by question, region, gender, or age of the storyteller.

It’s pretty easy to share a story too. You decide which question to answer and include information about location, gender, and age. (I didn’t actually share one).

These are the questions you chose from.

These are both really interesting examples of digital platforms for collaborative cultural preservation. I thought it was interesting that the Stories from Main Street grew out of physical traveling exhibits and The Will to Adorn website mentioned that traveling physical exhibits might be in the project’s future.

Do you know of any other apps or platforms that cultural heritage organizations use to co-collaborate? Questions about how this works? Do you think you would use either of these for leisure? Would these be useful for researchers?

Kirschenbaum. (2012). Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination.

In his book, Mechanisms, Kirschenbaum writes about the materiality of electronic texts. One of the primary questions he works to answer is, “In what, I then asked, does the materiality of electronic texts consist?” Part of how he answers this question is the distinction he makes between forensic materiality and formal materiality. He describes forensic materiality as “rest[ing] upon the principle of individualization (basic to modern forensic science and criminalistics), the idea that no two things in the physical world are ever exactly alike.” (10) “Formal materiality thus follows as the name I give to the imposition of multiple relational computational states on a data set or digital object” (12). He builds on these ideas throughout the first three chapters of the book.

In chapter one, ‘‘Every Contact Leaves a Trace’’: Storage, Inscription, and Computer Forensics, he delves deeper into explaining the physicality of electronic texts. Kirschenbaum starts the chapter by describing DoD guidelines for handling digital media to highlight their materiality. He positions this in contrast to academics’ focus on the “ephemeral” aspects of electronic texts. This is at the core of the chapter – pushing back on “Screen Essentialism,” or “the prevailing bias in new media studies toward display technologies that would have been unknown to most computer users before the mid-1970s…” (31) Throughout, he comes back to his central focus on physical reality of what seems only virtually represented. He makes his argument across many fronts. He discusses computer forensics, MFM (which helps us understand what he calls the “bit-level individualization” (68). To illustrate how developments in storage capacity and mechanisms have contributed to greater sense of abstraction, he tells a story about how he modified floppy disks so he could save more images of koalas. 

Kirschenbaum spends the next chapter outlining the significance of the hard drive to explain what makes it a writing machine. He argues that the hard drive is often perceived as a black box because it is not visible, which is also evident in the language used to describe how we interact with hard drives. He says, ‘[t]he commonplace is to speak about writing a file to a disk.. because we cannot see anything on its surface, the disk is semantically refigured as a volumetric receptacle, a black box with a closed lid. If we were writing on the disk we would be able to see the text visibly, like a label” (87). He ends his discussion of hard drives with a story about the first time he remembers saving something to a computer for the first time, which, he argues, made it a more “individualized entity” (109). He says this shift to saving items to a device revolutionized how we interact with electronic texts. 

He then turns his attention to the question, “Can theory or criticism of born-digital objects benefit from attention to the minute particulars of archival data, and if so, in what do those details consist?” To answer this, he explores a disk image of the online game Mystery House, to do a forensic analysis. This is where Kirschenbaum gets even more technical. He started his walk through of the program using the program FishWings to look at the Apple II disk image and is able to show every byte on the disk. He goes into much greater detail, ultimately to show that “computers are unique in the history of writing technologies in that they present a premeditated material environment built and engineered to propagate an illusion of immateriality” (135).

What did I miss? What other insights does Kirschenbaum’s focus on the materiality of electronic texts provide? I found this text challenging – forcing me to consider the electronic devices and tools I use on a daily basis in new ways. Given the ongoing pandemic, I have had a difficult time focusing on work and coursework. Wishing everyone safety and health – please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you wan to chat.