Final Project: African American History Digital Resources

Hi everyone!

For my final project I wanted to create something that people could use and benefit from, while also taking advantage of my love for knowledge. Thus, a blog was born. I used Word Press to create a blog for educators looking for resources related to African American History. Each of the six blog posts focus on a different online resource, ranging from websites specifically tailored to educators all the way to huge online archives. The actual writing was easy, but fighting with Word Press took up the majority of my brain power. After figuring out how to format everything and fighting with color schemes, I finally settled on something that I was happy with and was able to focus on the actual content.

I had a lot of fun reading online forums and other blogs by teachers discussing these types of resources and some of the challenges they faced. If I had to start over from the beginning, I would reach out to some of my teacher friends and ask for their opinion about online resources for African American History. I am not an educator, and trying to think of some of the challenges teachers may face was probably one of the most frustrating parts. It would have definitely helped to have other opinions.

I look forward to continuing this project and I hope that over time I can reach out to teachers and students and see what sources they have used and if there are any they have struggled with or don’t recommend.

Final Project

Historypin Practicum

Hello everyone! Keeping with the theme of spatial programs, Historypin is an online platform that allows users to explore historical landmarks and sources using a map feature. Each pin identifies a location on a map that has a connection to the real world, whether that be an actual landmark such as a building, or identifying the space where a specific action occurred. There are seven tabs at the top of the site, but there are really only three that are super important.

Explore Historypin

If you click “Explore Historypin” at the top of the site, it will bring you to this page. On the left is a map of San Fransisco and the little red, orange and green circles are collections of pins. The right hand side shows popular collections related to that area. Each collection is a grouping of pins that are related either through themes or a specific area, and more popular collections are ones that have been created by an institution working with Historypin. Different organizations do this for a multitude of reasons, including collecting images, recordings, etc. for a project, trying to increase awareness about an area, or connecting to a broader audience.

Getting Started

The “Getting Started” page contains a collection of videos related to, you guessed it, getting started using the site. Related to the larger goal to raise inclusivity, the caption on each video are automatically in Spanish. The videos are all easy to follow and are pretty short, allowing users to dive right in to creating their own collections.


The third page brings you to a really beautiful arrangement of pictures, each connected to a collection. Historypin explains that “collections are groups of pins about particular places and themes, gathered by Historypin members.” There is a search bar at the top of the page and the results can be sorted by most popular, newest first, or oldest first. After you click on a collection, you are brought to a page that has different boxes with images and captions beneath them. Some will explain what the collection is, and others will have primary sources connected to a map with an explanation beneath. The site also allows you to comment on different posts.

This is a really interesting site that is relatively easy to use. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the layout makes it easy to navigate to resources or even just browse until you stumble across something that interests you. It is an interesting combination of social media mixed with collection management, and anyone from a business to a teacher can benefit from using this platform.

ARIS Games

Anyone who is familiar with Pokemon Go will understand ARIS. Field Day, the creators of the platform, define ARIS as “a free platform that allows you to create mobile-based tours, games and interactive stories.” An easy way to think about it is that it ties together digital based content with the physical world.

Two Major Components:

Editor- this allows you to create your own maps, interactive stories, etc.

App- only compatible with IOS devices, the app is where you can play games that others have created.

How do you get started?

If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see these three triangles.

ARIS has its own online manual and course that explain how to use the platform. The middle triangles will lead you to the online courses. This is connected to videos that range from basic introduction to the platform all the way to augmented reality and how to create an AR trigger. The white triangle is the manual which provides an in depth exploration and explanation of all the different components that go in to creating a new game.

If you click on “open manual” you will be led to a page that looks like the above image. The tabs at the top left hold all the different pages and the manual is separated into introduction, the authoring tool, links, and tutorials. Based off of the fact that the site felt the need to write “OPEN this navigation!” next to the tabs, it is clear that the manual can be a little confusing for first time users.

What does a game look like?

I wish I could answer this question, but unfortunately the app is extremely glitchy and constantly crashes. From an editors view, it works perfectly on a computer. When the app is opened on an iPad or phone it crashes and does not allow the user to actually start a game. Based on reviews of this app, this is not a new problem. If this could be fixed, this platform could be a powerful tool for educators and the public to connect with historical sites and documents.

Reading Response – “Digital Formats: Factors for Sustainability, Functionality, and Quality” by Caroline Arms and Carl Fleischhauer

Arms and Fleischhauer’s 2004 article, “Digital Formats: Factors for Sustainability, Functionality, and Quality,” goes hand in hand with a website created by the Library of Congress that set out tools geared towards preserving digital media. The article acts as a summary and explanation of what their website’s goal is, as well as providing examples and brief guidelines for those who are interested in preserving digital records. The goal of this blog post is to provide an overview of the article and help readers who might not be super experienced in this field to walk away with a better understanding of what these factors are and how they can be applied. Each bolded title corresponds to a section of the article.

Relationships and Types for Formats

This section got weighed down by technical terms that some readers, including myself, were not fully aware of. The overall argument is that custodians of digital content need to be aware that formats have “versions, subtypes, and dependencies on other formats.” Arms and Fleishhauer make a point to say that PDF and TIFF are not adequate descriptions for preservation purposes. Instead, when creating a means of preserving digital content, people need to create categories and subcategories that take into consideration the lifespan of a file, different variations, and more.

Some Observations

The authors identity “three states in a publishing or distribution stream”:

  1. Initial – while the author is creating it
  2. Middle – while the publisher manages and archives it
  3. End – what is presented or sold to an end-user.

The key take away is that middle state formats are expected to be the preferred formats for those seeking to preserve digital content. Surprisingly, middle state formats have the highest quality which makes them preferable then other formats. The authors do not provide an in-depth explanation as to why this state is so much better than the other.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Formats

The densest piece of this article, this section finally brings readers to sustainability factors and quality and functionality factors.

Arms and Fleischhauer argue that there are seven sustainability factors: disclosure, adoption, transparency, self-documentation, external dependencies, impact of patents, and technical protection mechanisms. Together, these factors take into consideration the format of the digital content, where it is stored, the institutions it is linked to, and how the public can access the material.

While discussing quality and functionality factors, Arms and Fleischhauer use still images as a case study to explore how individuals and institutions might go about creating and thinking about their own factors. The authors explain that their preservation includes four content categories: still images, sound, textual materials, and video. They provide an in-depth look into the factors they consider for still images, but do not discuss the other categories again.

This article is clearly geared towards helping those who are already well versed in preservation techniques, but there are useful notes for a wider audience as well. It would be interesting to compare this article to preservation techniques that are being used today and see what has been successful, as well as what has changed.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Looking at the seven sustainability factors, does their seem to be any missing categories?
  2. How would you define sustainability factors and quality and functionality factors to an everyday person?
  3. Did any of you try to access the website? What did you find?
  4. Do you agree that middle state formats are the best for preservation? Why or why not?

Reading Response- TAGOKOR: Biography of an Electronic Record by Jefferson Bailey

Warning: The original article contains images of wounded soldiers and weapons.

Jefferson Bailey’s article, “TAGOKOR: Biography of an Electronic Record,” focuses on how a historical record has its’ own history. The TAGOKOR file refers to Korean War Dead and Wounded Army Casualties. This file contains thousands of documents on U.S. officials and soldiers who were casualties of the Korean War. Bailey traces the history of this record and uses it as a case study to understand “the interplay of historical event, administrative custodianship, media preservation, public accessibility, and continuing interpretation.” The goal of this blog post is to lay out what the history of TAGOKOR is and provide points of discussion.

Why is it called TAGOKOR?

TAGO refers to the Adjutant General’s Office, the office who originally collected the documents.

KOR is just a shorthand for Korean, since the documents are about the Korean War.


Because the article has a number of acronyms, I have included a list of the most common ones to make everyone’s lives easier.

  • AAD – Access to Archive Database system
  • AERIC – Archival Electronic Records Inspection and Control
  • APS – Archival Preservation System
  • ASCII – American Standard Code for Information Interchange
  • BPI – Bits Per Inch (number of bits stored in an inch of linear track on a disk or tape)
  • CER- NARA’s Center for Electronic Records
  • EBCDIC – Extended Binary-Coded Decimal Interchange Code
  • ERA – NARA’s Electronic Records Archive
  • NARA – National Archives and Records Administration
  • NPRC- the National Personnel Records Center
  • MRU – Machine Record Units


  • 1950s – 109,975 casualty punch cards were created to catalogue all the casualties of the U.S. military during the Korean War.
  • 1964 – the file was converted to magnetic tape and two copies were made. Both copies included a file that was used as a key to decipher the data.
    • one was given to USADATCOM and another to the Army Records Center
    • The ARC sends the files to the AGO’s Data Processing Division and the Department of the Army
    • The Army’s copy eventually ends up at the NPRC.
  • 1989 – NARA acquires TAGOKOR but does not have the equipment to read the file.
  • 1999 – the file is preservation copied by the NARA.
  • the World Wide Web allows the files to be accessed by the public, but at first it is only a fraction of the documents.

Bailey’s main argument boils down to two things: records are not stagnant and they are influenced by wider cultural changes. Whether it is my own bias against technological jargon or Bailey’s writing style, it took reading the article a few times before I could fully grasp what Bailey was trying to say. Although some of it came off repetitive, his ideas do merit further discussion.

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think containers of the file, such as websites or archives, should correct obvious mistakes so it is easier for viewers to understand? Is this a violation of historical accuracy or does the need for accessibility outweigh this issue?
  2. Bailey points out that at multiple points in its history, TAGOKOR was made inaccessible because of technological changes. What are some of the examples he provides?
  3. How did the physical evolution of the record mirror technological changes? Can you pinpoint specific examples?
  4. What are some of the ways Bailey used photographic evidence in his article? (specifically relating to concepts or technologies that would be foreign to college aged students)
  5. Relating to one of the broader themes of the course, do you think the internet has made it easier or harder for historians to document and preserve sources?