Final Project and Reflection: American University Project Plaque

When I first thought of creating American University Project Plaque as my digital project, I initially saw it as a way to kill two birds with one stone. The Archives of American University asked for a master list of all of the plaques on campus and I saw this as an opportunity to create a digitally curated collection. While I did not know how many to expect, I’m glad I set limitations of collecting plaques outside and on the main campus. As of today (April 26, 2018; approx. 4:15 PM) this collection houses the information for 64 plaques on an Omeka site. All of the plaques have been transcribed and include their exact latitude and longitudinal coordinates. In addition, all plaques have been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and are linked to the collection. If I continue this project in the future, I would create smaller collections for all of the plaques within specific buildings and then on the additional campuses, the Washington College of Law and Spring Valley. In line with the ideas of Kirschenbaum, this project is “done;” however, I look forward to continuing this work in the future.

The next step in Project Plaque will be emailing the Archives of American University with my deliverables. I hope to maintain this relationship to add information to the items in the collection and link corresponding records in the Archives. I am happy with the progress of this project thus far, since I was not sure how many plaques to expect. I also liked working with Omeka and Wikimedia Commons, which I can confidently say I have experience with

. Overall, this project let me explore my campus in a new way and I have tons of new fun facts for when I give tours for the university!  For example:

Most Controversial: 

School of International Service Cornerstone, American University

This plaque revealed that the cornerstone of SIS was set with a traditional Masonic ceremony in 2011 with various members of the AU community present. Too bad Dan Brown wrote The Lost Symbol in 2009, we could’ve had a major shoutout! (However, there is a line about the Tenleytown/American University metro stop…close enough!)

Unexpected:

Amelia Claire Jones, Japanese Snowbell on American University Campus

and

Christine M. Taaffe, Flowering Dogwood Tree on American University’s Campus

As a certified arboretum, American University must have all plant life labeled with their genus and species. However, I found these two to also have dedications to women who have passed away. While these are the only two that caught my eye, it would be interesting to find more!

Military History:

Birthplace of Army Chemical Corps, American University

AU had a part in creating chemical weapons in WWI; this is why the athletes have to be checked every few months since there is arsenic underneath our sports fields and Children’s Day Care. (Proof that knowing History is important!!!)

Mark of Commendation to American University from the Navy

I never knew this about AU, so it was cool to learn!

Oooops:

Joe B. Bullard Memorial Rock, American University

and

Appreciation of Donald G. Zauderer, American University

During the process of running around and taking pictures of plaques on my iPhone 7, I realized that I did not have my location services on so I would not be able to retrieve the exact coordinates. I then went around (with location services on!) and retook all the pictures. However, I couldn’t find these two again…. This speaks to my feelings throughout this project. Every time I walked somewhere, it seemed like there was a new plaque that I did not have before. Since I took the initial photos shortly after the snow disappeared and a week or so before Sylvia Burwell’s inauguration, I definitely saw an increase in signage around campus since I had my eyes constantly looking out for plaques. Hopefully I will find these again…

My Favorite:

Hurst, “College of History,” American University

Whenever I give a tour, I always point out “College of History” as our oldest building on campus. When I was transcribing this plaque, I found a quote that made me love this building even more; “It is highly proper that our group of noble edifices should begin with the College of History. This science takes the first place… in the development of a great educational scheme – a modern, a complete, and an American University.”

 

I truly enjoyed working with American University Project Plaque and learning more about my campus. Throughout this semester, I have learned what it means to be a Digital Historian and I am glad to say that I am one–sorta.

Additional Links:

Kathryn Morgan_AU Project Plaque Poster

Final Project and Reflection: American Cold War Nuclear Sites

When I set out to accomplish this particular digital project, I was excited and a tad anxious about how the final would turn out. Having not been particularly “tech savvy”, I was excited to find that once I dove into my project, learning as I went came along with the process, and I was pleasantly surprised with my results. The idea of nuclear arms plants within the United States is a fascinating and relevant topic today. These plants were created as part of Cold War armament that dictated American policy for decades. They brought steady employment to the regions involved, built the nuclear arsenal of the United States, and were the precipice of many scientific breakthroughs in the field of nuclear physics. But they also brought countless environmental catastrophes, harmful environmental carcinogenic toxins in the air, cost billions of dollars to clean up and dispose of harmful materials, and continue to this day to have effects, both physical and on the environment, that are still unknown.

It is within this paradox that my digital project retains its relevancy. By highlighting the importance of these plants, this topic becomes educational and significant to future generations, who will in fact feel the effects that this generation does not even know about yet. Most of the plants that I have noted in my digital project are still in existence today. Although many are Superfund sites, their primary focus now is on environmental cleanup and studying the effects that the plants have on the environment and beyond. This begs the question, “is this too little, too late?” or is there serious research being done at these sites to try and find out just how much of an effect they had on the environment. As is shown through my project and poster, with only a small sampling of plants, it covers most of the continental United States. Having a digital component that places these sites in one location truly shows the extent that the Cold War created these plants that were initially designed to promote safety and security of Americans, while polluting the very world those Americans occupy. This was a fun and educational project for me, having had interest in Cold War history, specifically on nuclear arms policy. Although the interface of HistoryPin can be somewhat frustrating in what it allows me to see at once, I am pleased with the process of the project, and the final result.

Below is the link to my HistoryPin:

American Cold War Nuclear Sites

Final Paper

Paper Poster

This is definitely not the paper I was planning to write when I started it.  That paper would have drawn on a variety of video games, reaching across genres and including producers from the United States, Europe, Russia, and Japan, and would have contemplated how they all approached some of the darkest material human history has to offer.  I’m still interested in writing that paper at some point, but I’m glad I focused in on the Call of Duty franchise.

 

What I found was that Call of Duty has a history of undermining many of the themes video games in general and first person shooters in particular have often been accused of thoughtlessly propagating.  Starting from the earliest games of the series, it has been made clear that the one man army player avatars which are common in other games are simply not a worthwhile way of engaging with military history, and the idea that America single handedly won the war, present and uncriticised in a great deal of media holds no water.  Interestingly, these changes from what had been the norm in video games up to that point not only resulted in a more accurate reflection of history, but seem to widely be credited with making the game more popular.

 

Later games in the franchise would move to directly criticizing the aggressively interventionist foreign policies which America has implemented throughout both the Cold War and the War on Terror.  The most striking example of this is the second Modern Warfare game, in which the main villain is an American general seeking to further militarize American society.  Given that the game ends with the player killing him, I’m quite surprised in retrospect that the game did not attract more criticism.  In fact, were it not for the Call of Duty’s central place in gaming culture, it seems unbelievable that games with plots like theirs could be made without attracting no end of attacks from those who support such policies.

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

Tour Link:    https://www.historypin.org/en/commemoration-at-gettysburg-national-military-2/geo/39.815438,-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!

 

Same-Sex Attraction: Katie Krumeich’s Final Project

Same-Sex Attraction

In the above link, you can find my project: Same-Sex Attraction. This body of work was explicitly designed to show how a  biological fact—that attraction between people of the same sex occurs naturally in human populations—has been interpreted, celebrated, but never absent in human cultures around the world. With material ranging from 5th century BCE to 1920, and geography from Australia to Africa, the broad scope of the project is something that can only be made possible in the digital format.

Rather than an exhaustive look at all the examples of same-sex love, sexuality and attraction in history, which would be impossible in the scope of this course, I instead focused on a variety of examples from disparate cultures showing how different people viewed the same human instinct across different cultures and times.

This project is very similar to the ethos of history pin—that is, proving that every place has a history, and attempting to bring those histories together in short, sporadic, often almost random ways.

My intention starting out on this project was to build something huge, something near exhaustive, and something digitally and visually complex. The hardest issue I faced was relying on a friend to do the coding for the project, which fell through when he found he didn’t have the time to help me. I was scrambling, trying to figure out how I could create something interesting and intellectually similar with a lot less resources.

What I settled on, in fact, was a little odd. It may not be instantly obvious to you, but that website I made is actually a video game. I used an open-source video game designer called Twine, and repurposed it into something that wasn’t a video game at all. It was, instead, a website with some odd functionality built into it, like undo and redo buttons instead of separate pages.

The most important takeaway I have from this attempt of mine to build a digital project is that sometimes, using the resources you have is better than trying to fit your work into a technology that is more expensive, and sometimes, it’s okay to let your project go when there’s still a great deal more things that could be on it.

Even now, as I’m sitting here, things like the trial of Oscar Wilde or more famous examples of Japanese nanshoku art, or the Cut Sleeve story in Pu Songling’s 17th century work Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, haunt me—there’s far more history than I added in!

That, however, appears to me to be the end result of digital projects in general: there’s always something more that can be done. The most important thing isn’t that the project is truly and fully complete—especially a project like this—or that it looks anything like the original vision you had for the project. Certainly, the clickable historic map I was intending is nothing at all like what I’ve created instead.

The most important thing is that your project fulfills the aims it set out to do in a way that’s potentially meaningful to the audience you intend, in my case, queer youth of color.

I believe my project, in its relevance to youth and its ease of finding and navigating, does this adequately.