Walk it Out! Digital Project Proposal

For my digital project, I am proposing what I hope can be the “longest historical walking tour in D.C..” This tour will take history fans through the city as they learn about the rich history of the District of Columbia. This tour will jump wildly in both notoriety and chronology to instill that the world around us is filled with a vibrant history if you know where to look. The goal will be to visit all eight wards to present a true walking tour of the District that does not focus just on the greatest hits but also on the history that is not widely known outside of the city.

The audience for this project is two-fold; the first audience group is the tourists who come to the District of Columbia; this project will be hosted on google maps using the My Maps feature and will be posted on the course blog as a searchable resource. Tourists will be able to jump in at any point in the walking tour if they choose to enjoy only a snippet, or can attempt the entire tour if they are feeling up for an adventure. The second audience for this project will be the history community of TikTok; the second deliverable will be a video blog or Vlog of myself attempting to complete the entire tour in one day. This will then be posted to TikTok as an interesting way to present local history while watching someone suffer.

The final deliverable will be the completed tour with a summary of the historic locations visited, and the TikTok post of what completing the tour looks like. These will be posted on their respective sites and the course blog. A third possible deliverable is a plaque from the Guinness Book of World Records for creating and completing the longest history walking tour of a single city (they give awards for anything if you pay them); this adds nothing to the project other than notoriety.

The final evaluation of the project will consist of looking over the historic sites visited to ensure an inclusive and diverse range of historical locations. This is important as D.C. history is far more than the monuments and museums; making sure those narratives are included will present a history that the general public might not be familiar with. I will also be examining the comments left on TikTok to see if the target audience of history enthusiasts have been hit and if the project was well received by the larger TikTok community.

It’s all Greek to me!: Print Project Proposal

My proposal for a print project is an analysis of depictions of ancient Greek figures in video games. In particular, this project will focus on the Assassin’s Creed franchise, a series of video games that are notorious for featuring real historical figures in their open-world role-playing games. But what can those depictions tell us about how popular culture perceives these figures? This paper will focus on the depiction of Socrates, Alcibiades, and Herodotus in the titular Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a game that takes place in ancient Greece and brings to life many of the key figures from that time. The paper will highlight how the figures are characterized through their dialogue, quest lines, and “lore pages” to determine what aspects of the real historical figures are being highlighted.

A key aspect of this paper will be to determine what real-life sources are being used as the base for the characters. Many of the quests given by these historic figures tie into the real-life achievements and lore surrounding them. I will analyze these quests and find the source material the developers used to determine how “realistic” the depictions are. These three figures also have in-depth lore pages which espouse the “real” history of the character; it will be important to note what source base these pieces of information come from and what information about the figure they chose to highlight.

Another possible angle this paper could have is analyzing the reactions to these depictions on the internet. After its release, many historians reacted on their blogs, in videos, or in podcasts to the depictions of these figures and gave their personal opinion on the subject. Understanding how historians in the field of ancient Greek study felt about the depiction it could provide valuable data on both how accurate the depictions were, but also how they were received by the history community.

The goal of the paper will be to determine what aspects of the characters are being highlighted, what source base the development team used as their foundation when building the characters, and how historians have reacted to the characters. This should create a detailed examination of how these ancient figures are being perceived in popular culture, and perhaps some of the historic misconceptions or tropes that have permeated the popular notion of ancient Greek life and the role these figures played.

Introducing: Austin Bailey

Hi everyone!

My name is Austin Bailey and I am a second year MA student in the public history program here at American University. I am originally from southern Ohio, however to help people understand what that means I usually just say I am from Kentucky and West Virginia as well. I have much more in common with someone from Lexington than someone from Cleveland. I completed my undergrad at Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia with a BA in history and a minor in anthropology. I finished my degree in May and by June 1st I was packed up and moving to D.C!

For this class, I hope to better understand how to use technology to connect with the public outside of traditional methods. Full transparency, when it comes to museum work, nothing can replicate the feeling of walking into a building and knowing you are sharing a space with authentic artifacts and actual pieces of the past. But I hope to get a greater appreciation for what the digital world can do to help bridge the gap between those who can enter the space and those who can only visit virtually.

Outside of my professional bubble I do try and be social, I play dungeon and dragons with members of my cohort when we can all find the time. I also enjoy snowboarding when we aren’t in the midst of the hottest winter I can remember and I have become a local D.C tour guide when friends and family come to visit. I am looking forward to getting to know all the new faces in this class and if you have any questions I am an open book!

I insist on using a film camera when friends come to visit.

Practicum Wikipedia Talk Pages

Wikipedia, a bastion of support to struggling freshman everywhere, but Wikipedia has much more to offer than proving a friend wrong regarding an obscure fact, or writing the worlds most cookie cutter report on some vague founding father. Talk pages offer a fascinating view into how Wikipedia both keeps articles accurate, who is making the edits to these articles, and how articles are prioritized.

To locate the talk page all you have to do is click the link on the top left of the page, highlighted in the example below. For my example I have chosen everyone’s favorite crime solving dog, Scooby-Doo.

Looking at the article we can see that it is rated as a B-Class article that ranged from mid to high importance for Wikipedia.

You can see what all that entails below. 

Jumping from Scooby-Doo to Saturday Morning cartoons we can see that this is defined as a “start class” article. Meaning “An article that is developing but still quite incomplete. It may or may not cite adequate reliable sources.” What this is stating is that the article provides as a way to learn more about the topic, but is not a complete source for the history of Saturday Morning cartoons and mainly works as a good starting point.

Finally we can also look at who has edited the article previously using talk pages. Looking at the producer of my personal favorite Scooby-Doo series A Pup Named a Scooby-Doo we can see that Tom Ruegger has edited his own Wiki page, noted by the staff. Noting these connections is important to building the credibility and trust that Wikipedia has cultivated.

With the talk page also comes the page history. You can find this tab located on the talk pages right hand side.

If we use my now good friend Tom as an example we can see some interesting things about the history of his page. For instance we can see who the top editors are from his page.

So at least we know that Tom is not obsessing over his Wikipedia page. But more importantly you can use this tool to see who is making edits to the page and to track who those people are. Biases are can be difficult to see, especially in a faceless entity like Wikipedia. But being aware of who is making edits can help cut through that anonymity.

Overall Wikipedia is a useful tool in the right hands, and exploring how it functions and the human force behind the knowledge giant can not only teach us more about how history exists in the digital world, but also who is curating that information.

Practicum By the People

Library of Congress’s By the People program allows the public to work with the LOC’s archival documents to provide a more accessible database to both researchers and the general public. By the People was launched in October of 2018 as a pilot program from the LOC’s digital innovation unit. Since this initial launch they have released 831,000+ pages for transcription across 35 campaigns. With the who and what out of the way how does this resource actually work? 

To begin here is the basic guide provided by the LOC.

  1. Read the instructions on transcribing and reviewing transcriptions by other volunteers. You can get back to this guide and all instructions at any time by clicking “Help” at the top of any page. See abbreviated instructions while transcribing by clicking “Quick Tips” below the page image.
  2. Create an account (if you want!) Anyone can transcribe, you don’t need an account, but registered volunteers can also review and tag pages. Make your account here.
  3. Choose what to transcribe. Explore our campaigns featuring many different Library of Congress collections. When you find a group of documents that looks interesting, click through to a page. To transcribe, look for one labeled “Not Started” or “In Progress”. Use the colored status filters to narrow down to just those pages.
  4. Once you’ve chosen a page, transcribe what you can into the box on the right. Transcribe lines in the order they appear and preserve line breaks. If you see multiple pages, transcribe all of the content in the order it appears. Have questions about transcribing something tricky? Revisit the instructions.
  5. Click “Save” as you go to save work in progress. If you decide a page isn’t for you, that’s ok! You can move on, just make sure you click “Save” before moving on. Other volunteers will be able to help out with a page you started.
  6. Click “Save” and “Submit for review” if you have transcribed a whole page and think it is ready to be reviewed. If you are transcribing anonymously (without being logged into an account) you will be prompted to verify you are not a bot.
  7. After you’ve transcribed a few pages, try out review! Review is the crucial final step before transcriptions are marked ready for publication. All registered volunteers can review other people’s transcriptions. Learn more by reading our How to review instructions.
  8. Try out tagging. Tagging is an experimental feature. Read our tagging instructions then try it out on any page!

While this will get you started with the tool, it is not the whole story. To demonstrate what this process looks like I looked into one of the more recent campaigns “”To Be Preserved”: The Correspondence of James A. Garfield” You can find where to start under the campaigns tab on the top right tool bar. There are three different ways to use the We the People resource. You can start something brand new, pick up where someone else has left off, or review another completed transcript. Here is an example of what an in progress transcription looks like.

You can edit what has been typed or add to the document. Now I can’t read a lick of cursive, it’s truly my greatest weakness as a historian, so I won’t butcher any of these historic documents. But luckily the LOC also has resources on conducting transcribing activities for communities such as transcribe-a-thon so I don’t have to pull my weight. This event has a local community, school, or historical association work as a group to transcribe documents relating to a theme or campaign.

If you need extra help or more resources there are active forums to discuss issues and ask for assistance, a very detailed how-to guide, and a contact-us page to assist with any questions one might have. This can be found under the “discuss” tab on the main page.