Final Project & Reflection: Commemoration at Gettysburg National Military Park Tour

Tour Link:,-77.236417,11/bounds/39.650157,-77.384275,39.980322,-77.088559/paging/1/pin/1105331

Well here it is: the final result of my tour of the Commemorations of the Battle of Gettysburg.  What began as a tour of the battlefield quickly shaped into a more specific way of approaching the battle: through the commemorations of states, individuals, and moments of the battle itself.  Looking into the aspects of the battle that people have deemed worthy of recognizing for eternity presents what I feel is a representation of how the Battle of Gettysburg is remembered in the past, present, and future.

My tour, made with and presented on HistoryPin, ended up having 36 stops along the way.  I began to narrow the hundreds of monuments on the battlefield by choosing monuments to specific states involved in the conflict, and then I moved on to include some of the more notable figures involved.  I chose a few other monuments based on their importance to the war, to the area, and to all of American history to round out my work.  This can possibly be executed as a walking tour, but given the size of the battlefield, I would suggest taking a bike or a car.  And bring your phone too- that’s the best way to access the tour!

I ran into a few obstacles with my research of the commemorations and these monuments.  Not only were there few resources available regarding the monuments themselves, but there was next to no information on the actual commemorations other than dates, and in some cases, who funded the project and a bit on why it was made.  This made things difficult in a way, and I relied on providing background information on the states, people, and events in each description as well as a brief overview of the commemoration itself.  Hopefully, the information I have found is enough for my visitors, and I intend to continue to research this and update the pins as possible.

I also ran into issues with HistoryPin, or rather my expectations of the website, as I continued my research.  A problem occurred when I needed to delete a pin from a tour I had created, so I contacted Jon, who is the Strategic Partnerships Director at HistoryPin, who was able to fix the problem not just for me, but for any user on the website.  I ran into another issue where, once you’ve made a pin, you can’t change its format from text to picture or vice versa.  This issue has proved to be a little more difficult for my new friend Jon, but it is something that he is still working on.  You can also only have one picture to a pin, which made me choose more current pictures over some historical images so people on the tour would know what they are seeing.  These troubles led to me making several different collections and tours, but in the end my final project was still completed, and the help from the HistoryPin operators was key to this.

Even with these issues, I feel that my final product is a success by any means.  HistoryPin, despite its few flaws, proved to be a very valuable tool to use given its ease for people with little computer skills (ME) to use and the ability to contact the operators quickly and effectively, plus it’s free to use!  I feel like I was able to present a tour that makes sense geographically and that has content that is both informative and interesting.  This hopefully provides a free alternative to the government run tours or the paid tours of the battlefield that anyone with a mobile internet device can use.

That being said, I still have some work to do to make this project as effective as possible.  I plan to post the below flier around some of the historical sites in Gettysburg to serve as a grassroots advertising campaign, and then after a few months, I’ll go back and conduct some research at the battlefield to see if anyone has heard about my tour.  I’d also like to add more stops to the tour since there are many, many more monuments at the battlefield, and maybe even start a Facebook page for direct feedback from tour-goers.  Hopefully, these steps can be completed in the not too distant future.

Overall, I feel that this experience has helped to teach me a lot about digital history and about myself as a digital historian.  I learned that the sources and resources that you use are not always going to meet your needs/desires.  I also learned that communication and interpersonal relationships between people working in the field & on a project are key, as others with different skills and ideas are able to help you on your journey.  I learned that constructive criticisms & suggestions are very important to improving your product, both on my work and on the website I used.  I learned a bit about what my colleagues in the Public History program have to deal with in creating exhibits, although nowhere near as detailed, and I feel like I got a glimpse into that aspect of history as well.  I feel like this was a worthwhile experience that has produced a final project worth looking into if you’re ever in Gettysburg.

So that’s my project. Let me know what you all think!  I can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with!


Project Rough Draft- Commemorations of The Battle Of Gettysburg Tour,-77.236417,11/bounds/39.650157,-77.384275,39.980322,-77.088559/paging/1

For my final project, I chose to complete my digital project in which I have selected several memorials and monuments to individuals, groups and events commemorating their significance to the Battle of Gettysburg.  I have narrowed my tour from significant sites at Gettysburg to commemorations in order to show how it is we remember this battle & who/what we’ve chosen to remember, providing a different approach to touring the battlefield.  I have also expanded my original idea of twenty to twenty-five sites to thirty-six total sites, including monuments and memorials to people, states, events, and groups from both the Union and the Confederacy.

In terms of advertising and evaluating, I still intend to accomplish this through a grassroots program.  I will be making fliers, though after in-class discussions I think I will simply provide access to the website’s link & not a QR Code- they’re ineffective, as we’ve discussed.  But I do think providing this to people at the site is the best way, and I may still reach out to reviewers and tourism groups in the Gettysburg area once it is completed.  My main evaluation format will come from Facebook and in-person field research conducted in the area after the fliers are put up.

So far, I have completed several of the pins/tour stops that will be included on the tour.  This was a process, as I found out that HistoryPin does not allow you to change a Pin from a text-based to a picture-based format (Attempt One), nor does it allow you to remove a pin from a tour once it has been added (Attempts Two and Three).  So this is my fourth attempt at setting this up, with two sets of pins and multiple tours established for this one project (go to my profile on HistoryPin- found by clicking on my name on the tour’s home page- if you don’t believe me).  Each pin consists of the name of the monument, the year in which it was dedicated, a picture of the monument, and a brief 200 word description of the contributions made by the honoree of the monument to the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.  I chose this short format so as to not lose the visitors’ interest, and while I am giving up some information provided, I feel like more will cause the visitor to lose interest.  In addition to completing the pin, I have organized the tour to make sense geographically so that a visitor can progress on foot, bike, or car (likely car- it’s a big battlefield) and enjoy their tour.

This having been said, I still have work to do to complete my project.  I will have to complete the pins that are still unfinished, as well as completing the fliers that I intend to hang up around the battlefield at likely tourist stops in order to draw attention to my tour, plus the poster for our in-class presentations.  I also think that I might add a longer description of my tour which would include a works cited to provide credit for the photos and information provided within my pins.  This aspect of my tour will be completed in the coming weeks before the end of the semester.  Then, during the summer, I intend to travel to Gettysburg and hang my fliers and begin to conduct field research to receive feedback on my tour at desired intervals (unsure yet what these intervals will be) and determine if my tour has been successful in reaching a broader audience.

What do you guys think? Any suggestions for me to make over the coming weeks or months? Let me know!

Practicum: Jamestown Adventure and Cotton Millionaire

Let’s pretend for a second we’re all back in elementary or middle school, and your history/social studies teacher just told you it’s your class’s day to visit the computer lab.  Besides the fact that you know you’ll have access to the internet during the school day, you likely have the opportunity to play video games instead of doing actual work in class.  Does life get any better than this?

What many children who have been and continue to be in this scenario don’t understand is that these video games are teaching them relevant material, and it’s possible that they’re learning more than they would be in the classroom environment since they’re actually having fun and not even thinking about the educational aspect.  The two games analyzed in this practicum, Cotton Millionaire and Jamestown Adventure, fall into this mold, and while it’s less likely that you’ve heard of these than some of the more popular history video games on the market, their value is undeniable.

Cotton Millionaire

In Cotton Millionaire, a game presented by BBC, you assume the role of a Victorian Era British businessman at the outset of industrialization.  Your goal is to maintain your money stacks and prove that you could succeed as an entrepreneur while avoiding debtor’s prison.

Success in the game is marked by a collection of coin stacks that surround your businessman’s icon, and depending on your decisions throughout the game you either lose money or gain it (it is much more likely that you will lose your money).

Once you begin, you are presented with a number of multiple choice questions about the cotton business you are beginning.  Among the questions asked are where to locate your business, whom to employ (women and children or men), what type of power to use (water, steam, or homeworking), and future investments to make (better machinery or improved work conditions).

Sometimes, as is true in business in any time and place, not exclusively Victorian England, even when you make the better choice among your options, it still ends up costing money, as can be seen below in “only” losing one money stack.

If you don’t optimize your business, you are presented with an option to return to the beginning of the game and play again to avoid sending your businessman to jail.  Once you finally reach a goal where you have success in the industry, you reach the screen that follows below, which makes a wise decision to lead you to a game that ties into the next period of history- industrialization.  In that way, BBC has created a system in which the player can continue to learn about history simply by clicking on the next game in the series.


Jamestown Adventure

Our next game is very similar to Cotton Millionaire, but this one takes things a step further as far as historical research and presentation.  In The Jamestown Online Adventure, you assume the role of Captain of the Jamestown Colony during their initial journey to the New World in the early 1600s.

Like Cotton Millionaire, Jamestown Adventure relies on a multiple choice question approach to move the game forward.  Among the areas that you must address as leader of this quest are where to land and establish your colony, how to interact with the Native Americans, what kind of structures to build, which colonists will work to build them, what to search for in the surrounding area (hunting, fishing, gold), and what crops to grow/how much of each crop to grow.  However, in addressing these questions, you receive a little assistance from other parties.

The first person you can consult with is a colonist, who speaks from the role of an upper-class Englishman who has come to the New World to expand his fortune. (I found it’s almost always best to ignore him.)

The next person to be consulted is a member from a local Native American tribe, who often will provide useful information on what the terrain and environment is like in the surrounding area.

Finally, and what may be the most brilliant inclusion in this game, you can consult the charter.  However, this is not any old charter.  The game developers made the wonderful decision to include the actual Instructions for the Virginia Colony, written in 1606 for the Virginia Company’s voyage to the New World.  Certain sections are highlighted for the player to consider when making their decision what the traditional role of the British would have been not only in the game, but in real life.

Once you have successfully answered your questions and established your colony, you are presented with a report card of sorts, telling you how effective your decisions would have been in the early seventeenth century.  If you’re lucky, you may even be promoted to Governor of Virginia!

After reading through your report, you have the opportunity to see how your decisions match up with the decisions made by the Jamestown colonists themselves in a “Now We Know…” section.  This provides very useful information to the player and provides an insight into the minds of these colonists.


Personally, I feel that both of these games are successful for what they are: games intended to be used in a learning environment to supplement a lesson plan made for young students.  That being said, of the two I did prefer the Jamestown Adventure game for its use of actual documents and more detailed presentation/comparison of results at the end of the game.  What do you think about these games?  What is their value, and is this value greater or less than mainstream video games that dabble in history instead of these which are rooted in it?  Let me know what you think!

Digital Project Proposal- The Historian’s Tour of Gettysburg

If you travel to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, you will find yourself in a city that treasures its historical identity.  It is the location of the northernmost battle of the American Civil War, as well as the site of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.  Those looking to tour the battlefield, and the rest of the town for that matter, have any number of options available to them.  However, of these tours, there are very few that are available for free besides the tour provided by the National Parks Service, and those that do exist online are either hard to find or incomplete.  My planned digital project involves the creation of an online tour of the Battle of Gettysburg and some of the aftereffects & commemoration in Gettysburg on HistoryPin.  By creating this tour, I believe that I can give people a free, non-government organized option that is accessible from a cell phone with an internet connection from the perspective of someone who has studied history.

With this project, I intend to target people looking to tour Gettysburg for the first time, those seeking an alternative to the National Parks Service tour and other paid tours, and perhaps most importantly, those with access to mobile devices with internet access.  I would also like to try to make this accessible to everyone regardless of age or level of education, yet still make it informative for everyone who might be interested in this tour.  Other tours today, as I’ve mentioned, are either government constructed (meaning a potentially skewed narrative is presented), private and paid (making it costly and unclear of the merits of the tour beyond Yelp reviews), or incomplete (as can be seen in almost every HistoryPin tour regarding Gettysburg).  I believe that my project fills a definite hole in the marketplace that would benefit everyone.

Here’s where this gets a little tricky- the specifics of the project itself.  I will begin my project by presenting an introduction page for my tour where I will provide an explanation of the tour, how it works, and a brief description of my credentials as justification for people to feel more secure in their choice of tour.  I want to include at least twenty to twenty-five pins on HistoryPin directly reflecting the location of specific locations related to Gettysburg battlefield.  Included in these sites are historic sites/sites where significant events occurred during the battle, the locations of major memorials, and the sites of significant moments that occurred after the battle that were still related to it.  Along with each pin I intend to provide a picture, either historical or from present-day, and a brief statement regarding the historical significance and justification for the site’s inclusion in the tour based on research that I will conduct.   While I am presently unsure of the sites that I will use in my tour, possibilities that I have considered include, but are not limited to: McPherson Ridge, Little Round Top, The Peach Orchard, The High Water Mark, the Monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Devil’s Den, Lee’s Headquarters, Meade’s Headquarters, and various state, army, and regiment memorials. (Unclear about what these sites are? Take the tour once I post it!)

In order to get the word out on this project, I intend to do a ground-level campaign to promote this on a more individual basis and then rely upon word-of-mouth.  I want to attach the link of my tour to a QR code, then put both the link and the code on fliers and post them across Gettysburg, including in significant locations like the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, the Gettysburg Heritage Center Museum, and the Jennie Wade House.  Then I hope to have this tour included in several review sites and possibly make a Facebook page dedicated to the tour that might provide web hits while searching for “Gettysburg Tours” online.

In terms of evaluation of my project, I will rely on the kindness of strangers to provide feedback while also conducting a few observations in the field myself after the project’s completion.  HistoryPin has a feature that shows how many views a tour has and how many people have commented on it.  I will rely on this to see how many views my project has, as well as searching online reviews and Facebook to see if people are discussing it & in what way it is discussed.  At certain intervals (to be determined) after posting my tour and my promotional fliers I will visit Gettysburg National Military Park and see if there are people using their phones for tours rather than following a tour guide and conducting brief field interviews to gauge if they are using my tour and if it is successful.

I think this is what my final project is going to be, so please please PLEASE be critical of this- I want to make sure this is as successful and polished as possible.  Thanks in advance!

Print Project Proposal- What was Jefferson Thinking?

For my print project, I plan to use macroanalysis to find broad themes in the existing documents/writings of Thomas Jefferson to show what ideas and themes were most prominent throughout his life.  Jefferson, one of the most significant of the founding fathers, has more than 20,000 of his writings filed within the National Archives and available digitally.  For this project, I will not use documents written for governmental purposes, such as the Declaration of Independence, as these texts were written to reflect the ideas of many individuals and the majority of the government rather than the ideas of Jefferson himself.  By focusing on Jefferson’s ideas, I believe that major themes in early American politics and history can be seen given his prominence as an integral member of the earliest American politicians.

I intend to break down the pieces of Jefferson’s writings into several subfields to show the manner in which Jefferson would write to different people and about different subjects.  Jefferson was one of the more active political figures in Early America, and in each of his roles he would have had different concerns plaguing him.  As a result, I believe that an effective manner of breaking down his works chronologically would be as follows: Colonial period, Works as a Founding Father, As Minister to France, As Secretary of State, As Vice President, As President, In “Retirement.”  In addition to a chronological breakdown, I believe that a division based on the audience of each piece would be beneficial, as it is likely that pieces were written differently for different individuals.  As such, I feel that a breakdown of three categories would suffice in this regard: Texts Written to the Public; Texts Written in Private, Personal Correspondence; and Texts Written as Public/ Political Correspondences.  With these different categories, I believe that a more accurate portrayal of Jefferson’s mindset during different periods can be attained.

In order to achieve my intended goal, I will utilize macroanalysis tools and programs to input the necessary data from Jefferson’s writings and produce presentation methods that I will then analyze with historical research about the time periods in question.  I believe that, as these texts are available online from the National Archives, Voyant Tools is an appropriate program to use to accumulate these texts and form a corpus.  I will input a certain number (to be determined at a later point due to the abundance of sources during different periods) of sources into the site and develop visual representations of this information, likely word clouds.  I will then use these word clouds as launching points for research into these time periods, and after conducting this research I will determine what events and topics Jefferson was talking about, the frequency he discussed them, and potential reasons for these frequencies.

Within this project, there are a few limitations that would have to be addressed in order to make this an effective project.  For example, for the purposes of time I will be unable to input every single piece written by Jefferson, as inputting over 20,000 pieces would prevent any outside research in this semester.  There are also a great number of sources from some periods in Jefferson’s life and substantially less from others, which will create some issues in the aforementioned breakdowns.  Determining which writings belong in which groups will be a challenge, as will determining how many correspondences to a given person to include to prevent a bias in continued conversations.  I am also unclear of the efficiency rate of Voyant Tools, which would have to be mentioned within my final report to be as forthcoming as possible about potential problems.  Despite these, I believe that each of these issues can be overcome within the scope of this project and could produce a very interesting end product.

Let me know what you guys think!  I welcome all criticisms or suggestions on this since I’m still in the early stages of planning this project.