Final Reflection Post

For my digital project, I created a blog using wordpress and titled it dctravelandhistory: The history loving, penny pinching student’s guide to DC sites. I had four goals for this blog: one, to inform others what fun, free sites there are to experience in Washington, DC; two, to teach others about the background history of some of these sites; three, to go and see these sites myself and share my experiences; and four, to inspire others to want to learn and to want to visit these sites. In order to accomplish these goals through my blog, each post contained background history, photos taken at said site (including some of myself), and my experiences and opinions of the site. This was my first attempt at starting a blog. I learned that it is not as hard as one might think to start and maintain a blog. However, I also learned that it is indeed harder than I thought to bring attention to my blog and to get people to actually read it. My intended audience for this blog is the history loving, penny pinching student, like myself. In order to get the content to the intended audience I have been following other blogs and hoping that others follow mine. I have also begun to utilize social media sites to bring attention to the blog by linking the blog up to my twitter page. Since this was my first foray into creating a blog, and since it is still in the beginning stages of the blog, I have not yet reached as many people as I would like to reach.

There are many strategic technical choices that I made with regards to the blog. Why wordpress? I thought that wordpress was the best, and easiest blog site for someone with no digital or blogging background to create a blog. Also, wordpress is a large site so people searching for topics relating to history, travel, and DC will be able to easily find, and then follow, my blog. What about the format? I chose a format that was both easy for me to create and easy for readers to follow. I chose to put the widgets on the right hand side of the text panels because people read from left to right. The widgets I chose were a calendar, a category drop box, archive buttons sorted by date and the amount of posts in each month, and a link to my twitter feed. Originally, I tried out other widgets such as authors and blog stats, but ultimately I decided that those widgets and others did not necessarily work for this blog because they made it more complicated than it need be. I did not want readers to get tied up in cool widgets because, in my opinion, that would have taken away from the meat of the blog, and that is the actual blog posts.

Overall, this was a very neat experience. I enjoyed diving into a digital field that I had previously known nothing about. What was best about this project is that it inspired me to go explore the wonderful, historic city in which I live and inspired me to share my experiences with others. I plan on keeping up this site for the immediate future. Stay posted for any changes, additions, or updates. You can follow my blog at: Enjoy! And, please, share it with others!


Digital History Project Draft:

In the Fall of 2008 I studied abroad in Ireland for four months. Living in a new city full of history, I wanted to see everything historical I could find. However, as you could probably guess I was a broke college kid and I had a tough time finding free things to see and do. I wish I had a better understanding of what I could have seen that was historical, fun and better yet FREE!

Living in Washington DC now, I feel somewhat the same as I did in Ireland. There is so much history around me and I want someone to guide me to the places where I can learn DC history on a limited budget. For my digital history project, I am writing a blog, via wordpress, about great DC sites and monuments that are historical, yet free. Since this is a history minded site, each blog post has background historical information on whichever site I am profiling in a given week. As I am exploring the city, I want others to explore the city with me, and to learn something new.

I have been traveling around the city to different monuments and sites gathering historical information and pictures at sites that are of interest to me. Each week, I have added profiled a new site on the blog. I give background historical information on each site, my perspective on the site, and recommend whether or not people should visit said site. So far, I have profiled the United States Capitol Building, Ford’s Theater, and the National Portrait Gallery. And there is much more to come! I am giving a poor college student’s historical perspective. I want people to get a better understand of what they will see and learn if they choose to heed the advice of a fellow penny pincher like myself.

What is great about using WordPress to help people to decide what to do in a new city and to teach them some history that they might have never known is that it creates a forum for historical discussion. Whether commenting on a blog post or on a photo, crating a dialogue about history is one of the goals of this project. In the digital age in which we live today it is much easier to get history across to many people via the internet, and that is what I am doing here. I am inspiring myself along the way and hope to inspire other people to get out, see their city, and most importantly learn and talk about history!

Through the creation of this blog, I have found that constantly exploring DC and sharing my experiences and photos with others have been very fun and quite rewarding. Thus, I have decided to continue this blog for as long as I see fit. There is not set end date. I do not plan on ending this blog when the digital history course comes to an end in the coming weeks.

Documenting the American South project

So far this semester we have discussed many digital History topics. From the discussions of digitalization of Civil War records in the article Crowdsourcing the Civil War and digital collections during our trip to the library to listen to a lecture from the university’s archivist on searching those collections to Rosenzweig’s article Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in the Digital Era and looks at such digital collections as the September 11th archive and the Wayback machine, we have learned a lot about digitization when it comes to certain collections. One digital collection that I would like to share with everyone is the Documenting the American South Project sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs. The project has been developing for over a decade with the aims of gathering and digitizing all materials related to Southern culture. Most of the collections come from Southern holdings.

The project dates back to 1996 with the Pilot Project to digitize a half dozen highly circulated slave narratives. The project is designed to provide digitized primary materials to researches, scholars, and students. These sources offer a Southern perspective on many parts of American history. The collections included in the project include: The Church and the Southern Black Community, The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, The First Century of the First State University, First-Person Narratives of the American South, Going to the Show, The James Lawrence Dusenbery Journal (1841-1842), Library of Southern Literature, North American Slave Narratives, The North Carolina Experience, North Carolina Maps, North Carolina and the Great War, Oral Histories of the American South, The Southern Homefront (1861-1865), Thomas E. Watson Papers, and True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina.

As a personal note, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War largely with the assistance of the primary sources available in the Documenting the American South Project. This brings up a question that we have discussed in class. If primary sources are digitized these days, then can serious researchers and scholars base their research solely on these digital sources? Or does historical research require scholars to do in person research? This is definitely something that we have to think about in the digital era.

The Corpus of Historical American English and Google Books

The Corpus of Historical American English and Google Books/Culturomics


Let me first start off by defining a corpus. A corpus is a large or complete collection of words and writings. This blog post is about three recently created resources which serve as a corpuses of American English words. The Corpus of Historical American English (COHA), Google Books standard, and Google Books advanced are the three resources that are compared here.

Let me first start by giving a little background on each corpus. COHA was created by Mark Davies of Brigham Young University with funding from the US National Endowment for the Humanities and was released in 2009. COHA contains 400 million words from 1810 to 2009 and is one of the largest structured corpuses of historical English. This online resource allows you to search through more then 400 million words of text of American English. You can see how words, phrases, and grammatical constructions have increased in frequency, how words have changed meaning over time, and how stylistic changes have taken place in the language. You can also download an offline interface to use.

Google Books standard was also created by Mark Davies of BYU. It was released in October 2010. This contains 155 billion words, but does not have as wide a range of searches as COHA. In May 2011, Google Books BYU/Advanced version was released. This new interface allows you to search the same amount, 155 billion words in American English, including 62 billion words from 1980-2009. This new advanced interface is a hybrid of COHA and Google Books Standard version. It is much more advanced than the original Google books interface. You can search by word, phrase, substring, lemma, part of speech, synonyms, and collocates. You can also easily compare the data in two different sections of the corpus. Although this corpus is based on Google Books data, it is NOT an official product of Google or Google Books.

COHA is a lot smaller than both Google Books interfaces but offers an extremely wide range of searches. In terms of exact words and phrases, all three resources give nearly the same results for these searches. COHA is probably sufficient for searches for exact words and phrases.  However, with the standard Google Books interface you get less information on frequency and related phrases than the other two interfaces.  The Standard Google Books interface is also limited with related words and cultural insights, whereas COHA and Advanced Google Books allow you to do more interesting and useful searches like finding all words with the suffix “ism.”

You can also search for concepts, not just exact words and phrases. With COHA and the Advanced Google Books interface you can use built-in synonyms to search for the frequency of concepts. But with the standard interface you can only look for exact words and phrases. COHA and Advanced Google Books also allow you to search changes in meanings, collocates and natural shifts, function of words, grammatical change, and language change and genre.

Overall, the Standard Google Books interface is very neat, but it all it does is allow for the search of the frequency of words or exact phrases over time. Whereas, COHA and the Advanced Google Books interface allow for much broader and more interesting searches. Why are these interfaces important? A comparison of words, phrases, etc. gives us, as historians, great insights into cultural, social, and historical changes in American English throughout different periods of history.  These interfaces are very interesting and provide us with a valuable source of a part of history that many people ignore: the history of words, aka the history of American English. Check out the interfaces and you might just be surprised at what you find!

Digital History Project up and runnin

I wanted to share the link to the blog I started today for the Digital project. My proposal mentioned how I wanted to start a blog for the penny pinching, history loving, travel loving  visitors to DC and students. I wanted to give some history of the things I am profiling along with what you can expect to see as well as other background information. The blog can be found at:  I plan on updating this with new places to see at least once a week, if not more.