Digital Project Draft: Julie’s San Francisco

My original goal for this project was to create a place-based historical experience for the Julie American Girl doll character and books, much like Colonial Williamsburg serves for Felicity. While I still like this concept, the execution has been more difficult than expected.

Julie’s story takes place in 1974 San Francisco. There is a lot happening in San Francisco in the 1970s—environmental movement, women’s movement, disability movement, gay rights movement. However, few of these movements have tangible places connected to them that work as a tour’s or educational material’s focal point.

So, I’ve switched to telling the histories I can with the places mentioned in the books and in places that have similar themes to the books. I am still working on putting all of my pins together—the research and photo finding process has taken longer than expected—but I do have a handful of pins uploaded at the moment. These give a sense of the type of narrative I am writing for each pin.

One thing I am struggling with is how to tie the tour together with a cohesive idea. At the moment it is just a scattering of history that relates to some aspect of the Julie books. This might be the end result, but I think the tour would be more meaningful if it had an overarching thesis of some sort.

One thing that I am considering is developing mini-tours under the overarching Julie tour, specifically one for Chinatown and one for the environmental movement since these are the areas in which I have the most content. However, this would further exacerbate that lack of focus for the remaining pins, so that is to be determined.

The two below pins/topic areas are ones that I want to include, but am currently struggling to find an angle/location. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for them:

  • Haight Street—Julie lives on this street and it is an iconic San Francisco landmark, but I’m really not sure how to approach it. Haight Street was the center of the 1960s Hippie & Free Love movement, which is great and all, but that focuses the narrative on sex and drugs and I don’t think I can do those topics justice in the space that I have.
  • Feminism—feminism and women’s equality is a major theme in the books and an important part of 1970s history; however, there is absolutely no good event or landmark or museum in San Francisco to use as an entry point/place

What’s Next?

  1. Add more pins to the tour and continue to edit the existing pins.
    • Please let me know if you have ideas on titling the pins. I have a mix of things at the moment.
    • Sometimes I struggle with what date to use both because some of my pins span decades of history and because HistoryPin does not allow circa dates. Any thoughts would be appreciated (ex. Ghirardelli and Science for the Future).
  2. Develop an order and overarching narrative for the tour.
  3. Perhaps create supplementary material for the tour. (This seems unlikely given my time constraints, but it could be good to have a lesson plan type document outlining how to use the tour in a classroom and/or as a girl scout activity. It would also be useful to create a marketing flyer/brochure.)

The tour itself.

The Bracero History Archive

The Bracero History Archive (BHA), part of the Bracero History Project, is a “collaborative, bilingual, online archive documenting the Bracero Program, which brought Mexican guest workers to the United States between 1942 and 1964” (NEH Funded Grants).

The BHA functions primarily as a digital repository for oral histories, artifacts, and archival materials, as well as a community collecting initiative. The homepage directs visitors to explore the archive (in Spanish or English) and the mission statement emphasizes the collection and dissemination aspect of the project.

“The Bracero History Archive collects and makes available the oral histories and artifacts pertaining to the Bracero program, a guest worker initiative that spanned the years 1942-1964. Millions of Mexican agricultural workers crossed the border under the program to work in more than half of the states in America.”

The BHA is a multi-organization initiative with many moving parts. It was created by and is currently run by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Brown University, and The Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas at El Paso; the National Endowment for the Humanities funds the project.

There is little discussion on the website on where the collections are sourced from; visitors must click on individual records to view their source. One thing to note when exploring the collection, materials are listed in reverse chronological order from when they were posted. This means that user-posted materials are the first that visitors will see. This information is also not clear on the website. I only found out after watching the introduction to the archive video tutorial.

Note the green bar at the top of the record that states that the item was user-contributed.
For non-user-generated items, the source is found in the metadata. This item was contributed by NMAH.

When the BHA launched in 2007, visitors could add their own historical content to the archive. This part of the project appears to have been removed or gone defunct around 2017. The website still provides resources on how to add content to the project and guides on how to collect materials and conduct oral histories. It is unclear why this part of the project no longer functions and whether it is temporary or permanent.

In addition to the digital archive, the BHA provides three lesson plans on the Bracero Program for K-12 teachers that use the BHA’s collections, as well as a two-part bibliography. The first part of the bibliography is a selection of resources on bracero history; the second part is a full BHA research bibliography. Interestingly, the bibliography does not include the National Museum of American History’s (NMAH) online exhibit about the Bracero Program, which ran as a traveling exhibit on the Bracero Program from 2009-2017. Despite both the exhibit and the BHA being part of the Bracero History Project, there is no mention of the online exhibit anywhere on the BHA. The exhibit did not use source material from the BHA, but it does link to the BHA for further visitor exploration and contribution.

The project’s original collaborative collecting initiative has led to a few problems. First, items uploaded by users lack much of the basic metadata and the metadata that does exist is not “quality” metadata, meaning that it is not consistent, which makes the archive less searchable and sensible. Although the BHA does provide metadata and uploading guides, these guides are inevitably not followed to the letter of the guide, especially since users were inputting the data rather than choosing from a pre-selected drop-down menu.  Second, most user-generated oral histories were uploaded with no transcript or description of the oral history, which forces visitors to listen to entire oral histories for the content. There is also no way to know whether an oral history has a transcription without clicking on the individual oral history record and then clicking on “Switch to Full View”.

The project was initially created with an aim to be bilingual, with content available in both Spanish and English. When visitors first view the site, they are immediately given the option to view the site in Spanish. Although I do not speak Spanish, I chose the Spanish option to see if I could get a sense of how well the website achieves its bilingual goal. My conclusion: not too well. The History, Resources, and Partners pages are entirely in English and the About page is two tiny paragraphs rather than thirteen full-length paragraphs. To the BHA’s credit, the teaching resources and collection material uploaded by “project historians” do seem to be available in full in Spanish, but I’d need a bilingual person to confirm.

In terms of user-generated content and the language barrier, many oral histories are done in Spanish, as one would expect, but the lack of any metadata (and particularly a transcription) makes it almost impossible for non-Spanish speakers to learn from these oral histories (the same goes for English oral histories for non-English speakers). There is no great solution to this problem, but it is worth considering.

For a more in-depth discussion of the BHA and some of its pitfalls, I highly recommend reading the following two articles. I included snippets of the discussions and arguments from the articles, but not everything.

Facilitating History: The Bracero History Archive

Omeka, Collecting, & Crowdsourcing

Questions to consider:

  • Do you have any ideas on how to avoid some of the pitfalls the BHA faced as a community collecting initiative?
  • Do you think the website achieves its goal to document the Bracero Program?
  • Do you think there is enough information about where the materials are sourced from?
  • How would you improve the BHA?

Digital Project Proposal: American Girl

Context

I may not be where I am in life if not for American Girl dolls. I was introduced to American Girl dolls at a very young age and they are a largely responsible for my interest in history. Through American Girl dolls and their accompanying stories, I got to learn about history and culture in a fun, interesting, and relatable context. The history was written both for me and featured a girl like me (girl, aged 7-12). As we learned in Rosenzweig and Thelen’s The Presence of the Past, history has more meaning and impact when it relates personally, which is what makes American Girl dolls so effective. Although they are fictional, they are personal and therefore create a connection to history.

With this project I want to expand the historical reach of American Girl dolls. I will create historical content that adds more depth and context to the history in the dolls’ books, while still creating historical content specifically for upper elementary aged children.

Audience

Girls, aged 8-12. A periphery audience is their parents since parental interest and participation is integral to involving children.

The Project, Itself

I will create a historical tour of San Francisco using the sites and events in Julie Albright’s and Ivy Ling’s stories. Julie and Ivy’s stories are set in 1974-1975 San Francisco and involve the feminist, environmental, and disability rights movements. Ivy’s story also delves into the history of Chinese-Americans in San Francisco.

My aim for this tour is that it can be used solely as a digital resource as well as a resource for exploring the physical place.

Comparison to Other Projects

There are multiple historical sites and museums that use(d) American Girl dolls as a bridge to the history. In 2011, the National Museum of American History offered a self-guided tour called Addy’s World, which allowed “children, ages 8 to 13, to explore the museum and see what life would have been like for the fictional character Addy Walker, a nine-year-old American girl who was born into slavery and escapes to freedom with her mother during the Civil War.” The tour takes artifacts on display in the museum and contextualizes them from Addy’s perspective and makes meaning based on Addy’s story.

Outreach and Publicity

I would hopefully partner with different organizations to get the word out about this resource. In a perfect world, I would collaborate directly with American Girl to publish this resource. Their support and publicity resources would both validate the project and help it reach a wide audience. In a less perfect world, I would work with San Francisco organizations to promote the resource. The specific organizations will depend on what histories I decide to highlight on the tour, but one that stands out at the moment is the San Francisco Public Library. I could possibly try to work with schools, but working with K-12 organizations is always particularly difficult due to various bureaucratic factors.

I’d also create a social media presence. Possibly creating a hashtag for the tour that users can tweet photos of themselves at the different stopping points with or without their own American Girl doll.

Success?

A successful project is one that is used. I will hopefully get social media response to the tour, which will indicate use. I may build the tour using Historypin. If this is the case, Historypin allows engagement directly on the site through comments and it shows how views each pin has received, both of which would be incredibly useful to understanding engagement with the tour.

Print Project Proposal: Virtual Tours

The majority of historic sites and museums make meaning through physical space and objects. The rise of digital tools have enabled institutions that are traditionally so grounded in their built environment to expand their reach beyond their physical boundaries. While digital archives have been a relatively easy and common way to increase a historic sites’ reach and accessibility, digital archives to not address the importance of place for institutions like Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon, which makes meaning through George Washington’s house and grounds, is using digital tools to increase accessibility to audiences who cannot travel to Mount Vernon itself. Mount Vernon has built a virtual tour for students and other audiences who cannot visit Mount Vernon to learn about George Washington and his home. The website calls the virtual tour “the second best way to visit Mount Vernon.”

This project will analyze how Mount Vernon—an institution that primarily makes meaning through physical space—uses the virtual tour to make meaning digitally. I will explore what narratives Mount Vernon chose to include and highlight in the virtual tour and how those narratives and interpretations differ—or do not differ—from those on the physical tour. It is possible (and likely) more people will interact with the virtual tour of Mount Vernon than with the actual grounds and interpreters at Mount Vernon. Therefore, it is necessary to understand and think critically about how a space is interpreted virtually versus physically, and how audiences respond and engage with each—as a substitute for the other? In addition to?

As a point of comparison, I will analyze Mount Vernon’s virtual tour against Monticello’s virtual tour. Both Mount Vernon and Monticello are historic homes and grounds (on which enslaved people lived and worked) of founding fathers (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, respectfully) where meaning is made using the built environment. Since both sites have similar audiences, underlying narratives, and financial resources, a comparison of their virtual tours will allow for a more in depth analysis of how these two institutions use virtual technology from an interpretive standpoint, rather than from a pure image and fact standpoint. I also intend to analyze who their intended audiences are, and if different, how do different intended audiences affect the tour itself and how the tour is marketed.

Virtual tours are a great way to increase a historical sites’ accessibility, but it is not enough to increase accessibility for the sake of accessibility. It is important to understand what impact a digital tool, like a virtual tour, has on an institution’s narrative and interpretation, as well as audience engagement.

Getting Funding For Your Digital Project

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Humanities Advancement Grants (DHAG)

DHAG offer financial support to innovative digital projects that “enhance scholarly research, teaching, and public programming in the humanities.” Grants are available at different monetary levels for projects in three different stages: early-stage planning (Level 1, $10,000-$50,000), development (Level 2, $50,001-$100,000), and implementation (Level 3, $100,001-$325,000). The main part of the grant proposal is the narrative, which requires a detailed discussion of the projects goals, how those goals will be accomplished, and how the project will be disseminated. The NEH highly values project accessibility to the general public and that is apparent in the requirements for every section of the narrative.

THE NARRATIVE — 5 MAIN ELEMENTS

  1. Enhancing the Humanities: How does this project provide intellectual value to both scholars and general audiences?
    • What is the scope of the project?
    • What do you intend to do?
    • What are potential problems in your project?
    • Why does this project matter?
      • The more people who have access to or benefit from this project, the more it “matters.”
  2. Environmental Scan: Is this type of project or a similar project already being conducted by someone else? If so, why is your approach better?
    • You should show awareness for what other work is being done in the field and how your project contributes. Consider other ways this project could be accomplished by using existing resources.
  3. History of the Project: Provide a concise overview of the work that has already been done on this project and any financial or material support that has been received.
    • Include:
      • Preliminary research and planning
      • Previous financial support
      • Publications produced
      • Resources or research facilities available
      • Plans for work that would take place after the period of performance
      • Sources of support for subsequent phases of the project
  4. Work Plan: How will this project be accomplished and who will do the work? How will the effectiveness of the project be evaluated?
    • This section is all about specificity. You need a schedule for important tasks and a detailed account for who will be doing what and when. There should be a discussion on every person who will be involved in the project and how they will be compensated.
    • Identify any problems that may come up and propose strategies to minimize those problems and keep the project on budget and on schedule.
    • Discuss how you will evaluate the effectiveness of your project both in terms of what the project will accomplish and the project’s long-term goals.
    • If your project involves outside participants and/or events, include a detailed discussion on how those participants will be chosen and an agenda for the event.
  5. Final Product and Dissemination: How will you publicize your project?
    • NEH values projects that are accessible to as many audiences as possible. The more accessible, the better.
    • This portion of the narrative should address how project results will be made available to audiences. It requires an explanation for how the results will be made available to individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities.
    • If you are developing a software, consider how it can be made accessible in terms of copyright, distribution, and modification. The “freer” the final product is (i.e. open source software), the better.

Additional Things To Keep in Mind:

  1. Keep your narrative comprehensible to a general audience. Do not assume specialized knowledge. Define all technical terms and do not include jargon.
  2. Address long-term goals.
  3. The most successful projects incorporate multiple perspectives from a variety of disciplines, institutions, and communities.

THE NARRATIVE — AN EXEMPLARY NARRATIVE

James Madison University, Circulating American Magazines, Level II Grant

This is a great example of a successful grant proposal. Although it does not address every component from the NEH’s Grant Guidelines (such as disability accessibility and potential risks for the project), it does address most components. I’ve compiled a selection successful parts from each section that address some of the main components of the Guidelines.

Enhancing the Humanities:

Answers the what:

(1) collect data from rare reports at the Library 
of Congress
(2) compile the data into an SQL database for output
to JSON
(3) design and offer interactive d3 visualizations
of the data for researchers (4)

==> Not just a data collection project.

Answers the intellectual value to both scholars and general audiences:

"Circulation has always been a problem for anyone 
interested in periodicals. From advertisers, who
demanded accurate circulation information for
commercial purposes, to scholars, who struggle to
present accurate information about magazine history
and influence, circulation data has remained difficult
to obtain and verify" (4).

Environmental Scan:

Discusses current projects to digitize magazines (awareness of the field) and their impact on opening up research and educational opportunities. Gives a clear why Circulating American Magazines matters and how it adds to current projects:

“Circulating American Magazines would offer a valuable, 
unique addition to these existing resources by
presenting the most reliable circulation data available,
allowing for a broader and more complex history of
American periodicals to emerge” (6).

Gives examples of research avenues that could be pursued after this project is complete (long-term research impact):

“How did circulation in a given state compare to the 
state’s overall population? Which magazines trended
urban, and which trended rural? What impact did the
onset of the Great Depression have on magazines of
different kinds, of different prices?” (6)

History and Duration of the Project:

The application discusses the motivation for the project, and includes conversations with scholars working with periodicals who support the project. It discusses why the two project heads are interested in the project and the preliminary research they have done (“Hefner made two visits to the Library of Congress, taking 4228 photographs and capturing data for select magazines through the early 1950s,” page 7). It also discusses who is providing technical support (James Hegg of James Madison University’s Center for Instructional Technology) and includes a link to preliminary version of the project. ==> interdisciplinary and more than proof of concept

Work Plan:

Breaks up the project into chunks of time and gives a short overview for the work that will be conducted in that time and who will conduct that work. There is also a breakdown of the staff of the project with their project role and duties.

page 8 — note that this timeline includes what work is being done, how long it should take, and who will do it
page 9

Final Project and Dissemination:

Page 9, This is the full text for this section.

This section includes specific dates for the project’s completion, a testing period, and an outreach period. The final website and data will be free to access and download (AKA very accessible), and the testing period will further increase accessibility by giving tools to use the data and website. Although there is no concrete publicity plan, there is a lead to head publicity and period of time to devote to publicity.

Overall, this narrative gives a clear outline for what the project is, why it will help humanities scholars and students, and a detailed plan for how long it will take and who will do it. Although it uses some technical terms, especially in the Enhancing the Humanities section, it is generally easy to understand to those who are not digitally-savvy. It also shows a clear dedication to producing a highly accessible product in every section of the narrative.