Standing Around – by Vincent Gonzalez

As I enrolled in Digital History 677, I was unsure what to expect and had not anticipated how relevant the coursework would be. The course has shown me how digital history is the future of public history as the world moves past physical text and brings history to the public at its fingertips. The mediums of historical education are moving from textbooks and museums to videos and presentations on the Internet.

My project fully embraced bringing static physical history in one of the most secure and iconic government buildings to public audiences everywhere. Standing Around is a series of short videos recorded by public historians working for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society in the U.S. Capitol. These videos are short 1 to 2-minute presentations about the statues held in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall collection. We have unique access to the Capitol and its National Statuary Hall collection because we are chartered by Congress to present Congressional and Capitol history. This project sought to fill my responsibility to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and to my Public History MA program at American University.

Over the course of the semester, I produced and directed a small sample size of what the Standing Around Series would look like successfully. I accomplished my goal of learning how to edit audio and video files to create a finished product I am proud of. Prior to this class, I had no experience in video editing and only had a mental image of what I pictured the videos to look like. Although I still have much to learn and hope to improve as I film more videos, I am proud that I took on a new challenge that will expand the U.S. Capitol Historical Society’s audience by tagging state and federal representatives, state historical societies, and other relevant audiences of the state statues presented.

I utilized the knowledge already being presented on Capitol tours by our tour guides in short-form videos that will practice public history and raise the profile of this unique historical society. My methodology was to record unscripted video presentations of statues of the guide’s choosing intercut with B roll recorded after the video highlighting the aspects of the statue talked about. Due to the noise volume in the Capitol during public hours, I chose to use our audio recorder usually used to record oral histories to substitute the distorted audio recorded by video. I then would take both files and overlay them in ClipChamp. The process of uploading these files into SharePoint made me tackle another digital challenge of learning how to find alternate routes when file sizes are too big or connections are slow. The skills gained in learning more about editing, uploading, recording, and producing videos will continue to be used in future projects for coursework and in historical roles.

Unfortunately, a huge road bump I had in producing these videos was that the audio capabilities on my laptop crashed and still have not been fully repaired. This immediately put a halt to video production, though luckily, I recorded and produced enough content to have something to show. Below is a link to my previous blog post with the videos I completed. I plan on having interns help with video production to consistently post videos on a regular basis when I am unable to due to other work responsibilities. The posts can follow themes based on chronilogy, months dedicated to certain histories, or relevance to current politics presented by people from those states that statues are from. Presenters could even include current Members of Congress as a collaorative product between Congress and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

Standing Around – Vincent Gonzalez

Over the course of the semester, I have made great progress on my digital project consisting of short videos presentations of statues part of the Statuary Hall collection in the U.S. Capitol. Below is the introductory video to the series presented by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society Director of Programming and Scholarship, Samuel Holliday.

As I started the project, the amount of video and audio editing was daunting to me as I had never previously edited videos and was unfamiliar with editing software, ClipChamp. The idea for this series was to cover every statue in the collection presented by different employees of the USCHS based on their own home states. Additionally, the series would highlight certain statues during the months dedicated to the history women, African-Americans, indigenous people, and more.

The process started by recording video on my cellphone and recording the audio using a recorder. I would then later overlay the better quality audio, captured using a microphone on the presenter’s collar, on the video recorded by phone. I instructed the presenter to start the audio recording followed by a clap of their hands to sync the start time on both the audio and video.

I also found an option on ClipChamp to insert titles that can be placed anywhere on the video and for how long I wanted. I used the title graphic to introduce the presenter and their title. I enjoyed this creative aspect of video editing and started inserting titles in each video. The above video covers one of the two Hawaiian statues that will most likely be one of the first posts since it is one of the most popular statues.

The original idea I had for the videos is to present the statues in a fun way that would grab and keep the viewers attention. After recording the video and audio, I would then take B roll highlighting the statue itself and some of the details that are pointed out in the presentation. I would also attempt cover up breaks in or fumbling speech but haven’t quite figured out how to edit the audio file into separate files skipping over the fumbles. Below is a sample of the B roll taken for one of the statue videos.

As I started to record more videos, I frequently had trouble figuring out how to get the video files off of my phone and into SharePoint where the USCHS stores its files. The videos are too big to be emailed and possibly too big to upload into SharePoint on the mobile app. After attempting to upload, it would show that the file uploaded successfully, but no new files showed on the website version. The long way around the size difficulties I found was to upload from my phone into my Google Drive and then downloading those videos onto my computer before then reuploading the files into SharePoint. After the files were safe in SharePoint, I would then delete the downloads off of my computer and phone to save space.

Although this is my first time editing and producing videos, I still am frustrated that the finished products are not as good as I want them to be. I find the longer videos with our Public Historian, Steve Livengood, are too long and tend to drag on. This could be more easily solved by having him write a script to follow rather than riffing which often leads to loss of eye contact with the camera and a tendency to stumble for the next words. Below is one finished video of such example.

Again, I enjoyed the creative aspect of using title graphics to both introduce the speaker, the statue, and the state they represent. I also enjoy the idea of splicing in B roll of statue closeups, but feel adding too much distracts from the flow of the video. It’s best to interrupt the video by cutting to close ups detailing the aspects of the statue highlighted in the presentation.

Charisma and comfort begin filmed also effect how successful the videos are. There is no doubt Steve is knowledgeable about the subjects, and his Capitol tour is the best I’ve taken, but the method and rhythm he presents does not pop on camera as well as Sam’s videos. In the future, I will give more instruction to “direct” the presenter on the best methods to present the statue’s history. Below are more examples of other videos I have recorded of Steve. In the second video, we can see how a script would be beneficial as Steve seems to run out of information to speak about concerning the statue. That video is an unedited clip I did not use, but am presenting here as an example.

I feel the series has great potential for success beyond the semester’s class as I become more comfortable with producing and directing the videos. I also have found the best times to record these videos are outside of visitor hours, either in the morning or afternoon, as the distraction and background noise disrupt the speaker. I am hoping to upload these videos onto the USCHS social media sites, but am holding off on posting because I am concerned about the frequency of posting I can keep up with. There is a deal of scheduling the speaker to record the video, giving them notice to rehearse and research the statues, and then downloading, uploading, and editing the clips.

As this is a project and not my primary responsibility with the USCHS, I am not able to record and edit as many videos as I’d want. I have a handful more videos I have not gotten to yet and so far it seems recording the videos is the easiest part as the videos are only about a minute long. Below are more B roll videos of statues I plan on cutting in on the longer videos recorded.

Progress has also come to a halt because in the past week my computer audio has completely stopped. I am still working with our IT partners and Dell to sort out the software issues after establishing the hardware is working correctly since a technician replaced the computer microphone. The software issues I experienced with getting the files onto the computer to edit them and the audio disaster were naively unexpected as were the ease of which I though this project would run. Once the audio issue is fixed, I will again be able to download the audio recording off of our recorder and into ClimpChamp to sync with the video. Below is an example of one of those audio recordings.

Digital audio: Oral history and sound studies (Feb 22)

Oral History and the Digital Revolution:

Toward a Post-Documentary Sensibility

Michael Frisch

The first reading was published in 2004 and serves as an introduction to the potential oral history that will soon become. As it is from 2004, it is dated but much of the predictions of what oral history would be were accurate. Oral histories, like everything else, became widely available and accessible as a result of the information and technology boom of the late 90s and early 2000s. The author, Michael Frisch, writes to share all the ways recorded histories can be reinterpreted and constantly relevant using digital search and cataloging tools. He briefly talks about the difficulty archivists face in how to catalog and indexing oral histories.

He argues that the oral history field was previously dominated by documentaries as the primary mode of utilizing oral history, but with technology, that authority will be quickly democratized. His prediction of rapidly developing technology moving from tape to CDs to begin fully digital was completely accurate. He mentions the start of digitization of oral histories began as archival projects uploaded to websites such as Holocaust survivor histories and other university-led efforts to broadly share stories. He argues that researchers did not have the tools to quickly evaluate oral histories as audio recordings and preferred text transcripts that can quickly be looked through. Again, he predicted the emergence of digital tools such as time stamps to quickly reference moments in audio recordings. Although dated, this is a very good Oral History 101 for the 21st century that thoroughly predicts the potential impact digital tools will have on returning the value of audio and video recordings.  

Designing an Oral History Project:

Initial Questions to Ask Yourself

by Doug Boyd

The second reading is very straightforward “How To” guide for conducting oral histories. The author, Doug Boyd, takes the reader through every step of preparing, conducting, and preserving oral histories. He goes into preparation for the “point” of the interview. What do you want to get out of it? What is your project? Questions like these will narrow your outlook and questions when conducting the interview. He also goes into the importance of audio and visual recording equipment, the compatibility of each with the other, and the budget limitations for the best available equipment. Each section starts with a different header or questions prompting the next step in conducting oral histories. He also touches on the importance of digital storage and working with an archive to preserve the file for future use and comments that the importance can often be underestimated. Finally, he discusses using caution during and after the interview as you are handling sensitive and personal information. Ethical questions must be asked on how it will be used and if the subject is comfortable with it.

Digital Video Preservation and Oral History

by Kara Van Malssen

The third reading is highly detailed descriptions and guidance on how to choose your camera, how to save your files, and what all of those letters at the end of file names mean (yes, they actually mean something). If you are not familiar with file names and sizes, this reading will be very difficult to understand and should be used as a reference for future problems with files. The reading goes into the details of how best to save files and discusses the different levels of quality of the file when using the camera, types of files, and method of storage. I will not pretend to thoroughly understand the nuance of files and all that it encompasses and hope that I will not need to know it in the future. However, as we live in a digital age and will most likely encounter issues caused by not heeding the advice in this reading, its importance cannot be understated.


Jonathan Sterne

The fourth reading starts by contrasting MP3 files with WAV files, noting that MP3 dominates cyberspace as the optimum file for audio because it is more compacted. It also details the benefits of compression as it rids the file of unneeded audio details to optimize the recording and saves space. The reading then goes into the history of saved audio and the progress its made since the 20th century. It examines the development of audio files from a traditional military focus to a corporate capitalistic view. The reading defends MP3 as the dominant file for audio files and goes on to predict that although it has been continually challenged by competitors, it has stood the test of time and, at the time the reading was published, still remains the go-to audio file. Whether that remains true to this day in the midst of streaming services and sites like YouTube, we will see.

HiPSTAS and Grant Proposal

The fifth reading is of the High-Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship (HiPSTAS) website and their NEH grant proposal in 2013-2014. The site’s goal is to make audio recordings that predate the digital age readily available and relevant to ongoing and future research. Audio files are becoming decreasingly utilized as scholarship shifts towards the seemingly endless modern audio and visual files. With their decrease in popularity, the chances of preserving dated audio files also decreases leading to the HiPSTAS mission. The site offers tools and software to assist researchers in accessing, preserving, and contributing to audio file research. The grant proposal is to conduct two rounds of academic training and recommendations on tool development in support of digital scholarly inquiry in sound. The proposal is very thorough and outlines a lot of the same information found on the sites’ “About Us” page. Their effort is to promote the use of sound collections by current and future scholars including graduate students, librarians, and other professionals who might be interested in learning more about the subject.

The amount of details set out in the proposal is also interesting to observe for anyone considering writing a grant proposal. It sets clear objectives, methodologies, and audiences in a comprehensive fashion that ultimately was successful. The project set out to preserve sound recordings and was successful enough to build more tools such as Adaptive Recognition with Layered Optimization (ARLO).

Digital Ethnography Toward Augmented Empiricism: A New Methodological Framework


The next reading focuses on the subject of ethnography, particularly the emergence of digital ethnography. Hsu is an ethnographer that started her journey by observing and recording cultures by examining them in person, however, with the emergence of technology, ethnographers’ subjects are now easily accessible through social media. Social media allows ethnographers to broaden their research to include virtually everyone in the world. With this new technology comes a shift in the academic field which allows it to grow into a digital branch. Like other readings, this one has been quickly dated as it was published in 2014. Academic fields grew at a slower pace than technology so Hsu recognizes this by arguing the viability of digitalization as a tool to support methodology and theory. At the time of her writing, the field was still assessing how best to use this new digital tool so Hsu provides her opinion on how it can best be used.

Hsu focuses on computers as tools for scalability and Intermodality (or multimodality). Scalability is the ability of computers to identify and calculate trends at a scale never before possible. It can be used as a filter and tool “to rethink how we sample culture”. Intermodality is the convergence of different contexts and data to discover new patterns and relationships. This previously would have been extremely difficult to accomplish without the help of computers. Digital maps are an example of how you can track similar trends or relationships in things like music and location. The combination of scalability and intermodailty is what she terms, augmented empiricism, the closest thing to empirical precision ethnographers can discover to make sense of huge amounts of data that can then lead to the most impactful questions.

Digital Project Proposal – Standing Around

My Digital Project Proposal for Digital History 677 is creating a virtual tour and public education program of the Capitol, the Statuary Hall collection, and general Capitol history for the United States Capitol Historical Society titled “Standing Around”.

Statue of Congressman-Elect John “Jack” Swigert

The project will be to create new and elevate existing social media presences of the USCHS and adhere to their Congressionally chartered purpose of “educat[ing] the public on the history and heritage of the U.S. Capitol, its institutions and the people who have served therein.” Where the USCHS usually only posts daily “on this day in history” facts, this more active and in-person series of videos would be hosted by Society staff, tour guides, and volunteers as supplemental content. The Society’s social media presence on Instagram is limited to pictures of static and dated oil paintings and disconnected themes. By starting a series with a consistent medium, length, setting, and personality, I believe it will make the Society’s presence current, enthusiastic, and relevant. Where new statues are being added and old ones replaced, the history of the Capitol is still being added to. In a world where a social media presence is paramount to elevating notoriety and access to the broad public, historical institutions need to adapt to practice public history.

Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol

The key to creating a successful series is deciding the parameters of the project beforehand. The first is deciding in what order the statues will be presented as the Statuary Hall collection consists of two statues from each state not including donated pieces from citizens and Congress. It could be ordered chronologically from the oldest statues to the newest or in reverse order, thematically focused on commonalities such as Women’s History Month or Black History Month, by state (maybe in order of statehood), or even alphabetically. What is evident is that the first post must be a popular, well-known, interesting statue to set the tone for future posts to come. I would have a main personality to explain the history and significance of the statue in a short 30-second to 1-minute video, with occasional guest hosts consisting of tour guides and staff members. This way, the variety of personalities encourages viewers to have favorites and stay tuned for who will be hosting next.

Statue of King Kamehameha in the Capitol Visitor Center

Another logistical issue would be to have a pre- and post-production schedule for planning posts timing, content script, and editing to remain consistent. We could also break from the consistency by highlighting important anniversaries or current issues in combination with rotating hosts. I believe by presenting little-known histories of the Capitol in a modern, enthusiastic approach, we can raise the profile of the USCHS and public history.

How are you using digital history? How should you be using it?

Here are some nontraditional ways history is presented and discussed:


YouTube Videos



Social Media Accounts

Movies/TV Shows

D-Day as photographed during the attack

I would want to analyze a single aspect of World War II, an event, object, or person, and how it is presented or reviewed across digital platforms. If someone uploaded a YouTube video about, say D-Day, how does it fair against a subreddit post about D-Day? What is the level of discussion in the comments, how do they review the posts? Do they contribute, add, or detract from the validity of the history discussed?

D-Day as depicted in the film “Saving Private Ryan”

I believe surveying how people share the same history and examining the levels of popularity may answer questions on which method is most effective. I also want to examine how such a popular topic in history is expanded on. The greatest hits of history are played, shared, and discussed at nauseum, but new aspects of the same covered topic are being presented. I believe a YouTube video on a channel such as “The Operations Room”, where popular battles in history are demonstrated using computer simulators, tells the same story of D-Day in a comprehensive new way. The same subject may be presented in a videogame or movie, only from different perspectives. What liberties are taken in video games, movies, or shows vs. subreddits, YouTube channels, or Instagram accounts? Who bears more responsibility for being historically accurate and why is that?

By examining the metrics available such as views, comments, likes, downloads, and commercial success, we can analyze the levels of engagement and approval. This may suggest an overall trend in “good history” past written and physical text. As digital history is the future of how history is taught, historians have a responsibility to vet which sources can be taken seriously vs. which are inaccurate and unreliable.

But this project isn’t simply to trash “bad history”. What is most important to remember is, so long as history is continually being reviewed and discussed, it shouldn’t matter where that is or who is doing it. It’s only natural coming generations will opt to use digital tools rather than historic texts. What would normally be covered in hundreds of pages in countless books could now be covered in a 10-minute video. Is that bad? Is it good? Hopefully, this project will instill hope and excitement about how history will be enhanced by visual and audio tools never before possible and how much more accessible learning and discussing history can be.