The Mall, Museums, and Adornments

This week I will be reviewing three different resources and demonstrating how to use them.

Mall History

This is an interactive website that provides a map with both commonly known and unique stories of the national mall. This website comes from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media with funding from the NEH. The map is the highlight of the website with 346 different pins. The website is meant to be used either on mobile when you are at the mall or on desktop to explore from the comfort of your own home.

Mall History Interactive Map

First, click on the Maps tab at the top of the page. Let’s pick a pin to look at. Since it’s Cherry Blossom season, let’s click on the Jefferson Memorial. There are 3 pins in this category, I’m going to select “Cherry Tree Protest at Jefferson Memorial Site” At the very bottom of this page there is a view more info button, which gives you additional detailed information, including citing their sources.

Cherry Tree Protest Pin

There are several other features on the website. Under the Explorations tab there are a collection of questions answered in blog style responses or activities like scavenger hunts. Under the People tab , there are photos with names of people who have historical connections to the mall like singer Marian Anderson who gave a concert in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The fourth and final tab is the Past Events Tab. This provides a timeline of events that relate the the creation of the mall or significant events that occurred on the mall.

Overall, this is a really fun resource for Mall History that gives you commonly known info and some off the beaten path histories. The map element actually works quite well on mobile, which is a huge plus. This project is no longer updated as of 2014, so any events after that would not be included (like Jan 6th, for example).

Will to Adorn

The will to adorn app is companion to the project The Will To Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity, which documents and preserves the diversity of African American identities as they are presented through various adornments such as clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles. This project comes from the Smithsonian folklife festival of 2013. The app provides a space for people to share their own stories about their personal style and how it represents them. The app is no longer available for download but the website provides a brief overview. From what I gathered you can record your own voice answering questions and also listen to others who have provided recordings. There was also the opportunity to upload photos as well.

Museum on Main Street

Museum on Main Street is part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. This service brings thoughtfully designed exhibits to small town America. The website provides all kinds of resources for educational outreach in rural areas including acting as an online archive which documents the stories of those who live there. There are starter kits that provide a pre-constructed exhibitions or an opportunity to collaborate and develop your own.

Example of a Starter Kit for an exhibition on labor history

There’s a lot of content on this website which makes it a standout resource. The last things I will mention is the Road Report Blog, which tells stories from the traveling exhibitions. There’s also a podcast which features stories from rural America, both of these resources, while fascinating, don’t appear to be maintained, hopefully a revival of these resources is coming in the future.

Digital History Practicum: Digital Archives

For our practicum this week, we’re looking at four digital archives to go along with the readings about digital archival practices. 

9/11 Digital Archive

This archive was created with help from New York institutions like CUNY and the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, as well as the Roy Rosensweig Center for History and New Media. It was created shortly after 9/11 and was accepted for preservation by the Library of Congress in 2003. While it has been updated a few times since, it definitely seems outdated compared to other things we see on the internet today. Here is a quick overview:

  • As you can see from the above image, When you first look at “items,” it is just a list of everything in the archive with no real way to filter it.
  • They have featured collections that include still images, scanned documents, and video testimonies. This at least helps to group things together.
  • The search function can be helpful, but you really need to know what you’re looking for. There is no advanced search option, only sorting the search. 
  • There isn’t a lot of information or metadata for a lot of the items so some things are definitely missed. 
  • Only images have a preview with the search function, as you can see here:

Overall, it’s a really great repository, but it’s maybe not the easiest resource for research.

Bracero History Archive

This archive is also part of the Center for History and New Media, along with NMAH, Brown University, and UT El Paso. It is dedicated to collecting oral histories and artifacts related to the Bracero program. Because people in the community contribute to it, a lot of items don’t follow the best practices. Some things about the archive:

  • It offers a video tutorial for navigating the archive and conducting oral histories, which make it user friendly. It also has a lot of great teaching resources and suggested reading.
  • The search function does not work super well. There is an advanced search option, but that depends on information being filled in on the items. Also, once it brings up search results, you can’t sort them.
  • Oral histories don’t always have transcripts or metadata.

It is a good archive to browse and learn. It can be a really good teaching tool. 

Shelley-Godwin Archive

This is an archive of select manuscripts of the Woolstonecraft/Godwin/Shelley family of writers. It has a lot of university partners as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is useful for the very specific purpose of analyzing the writing process. 

  • The archive has an introductory video for that shows you how to navigate.
  • It has manuscripts and transcriptions to track the drafts of Frankenstein, among other works. The image below is an example of what it looks like.
    • However, some are just images of the manuscripts with no transcript.
  • You can go page by page and read the manuscripts and see where changes were made.
  • Each of the works has a detailed description and includes a lot of metadata.
  • There is currently no search function.

I think this is a really fun tool to play with, and can be a good teaching tool, but may be difficult for research.

Rosetti Archive

Like the Shelley-Godwin Archive, it preserves the complete writings of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a 19th century Italian poet and artist. It is run by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at UVA. 

  • You can sort alphabetically or chronologically, and there is a timeline view of  his work, as seen above.  
  • For each item there is context and description of the work. They include a lot of metadata that make things easy to find.
  • The archive is kind of hard to navigate and involves a lot of clicking and scrolling. It also keeps opening new tabs.
    • The manuscripts are sorted by individual page, which makes them hard to read.
  • Search has a lot of categories and can be very helpful when looking for specifics. However, you can’t sort or filter the results.

Again, this can be very interesting for a Rosetti scholar and as a way to get an overview of his works. 


Audacity is a free, open source audio editing and recording application that was initially released in 2000 and is still being very actively updated today, most recently updating to version 3.2.4 on January 7, 2023. Although it isn’t necessarily the nicest looking audio editor compared to paid applications like Pro Tools or Adobe Audition, it is completely free and has the same level of quality and functionality. Audacity also has a level of available support and community contribution that makes it simple to figure out if you’re new to working with audio, and to improve with outside plug-ins that can be easily found and downloaded through the Audacity website.

The home screen of the Audacity website

Once you get to the home screen, to download Audacity you can either click the button down towards the bottom or use the dropdown menu at the top to select the correct operating system. From there, simply install it like any other application, it doesn’t require an account or anything like that to download or use. Once it’s downloaded, open it up and it will look like the image below.

This is what an empty Audacity window will look like before anything is imported or edited. At the top there are controls for playing and recording audio, editing audio, and tracking input and output volume levels. At the bottom are various timecodes to know where in the audio you’re at.

If you’re recording audio to edit in Audacity right away, you can record a new track of audio through either your built-in computer microphone or an external mic by pressing the red button at the top. If you’re importing audio you’ve already got to edit, you can do through the “File” dropdown or with a keyboard shortcut.

Once you have audio imported or recorded, there are a ton of tools that can be used to cut, remove, add effects to, and otherwise edit. At times, some keyboard shortcuts for can be hard to remember or intuit, but practice will certainly make perfect the more you play around with the application, and all of the dropdown menus show applicable shortcuts next to the specific action. The “Edit” menu shows simple clip editing tools like copy, paste, and splitting or silencing clips. The “Tracks” menu is the simplest way to add and sort your audio tracks. The “Effect” menu contains the same types of effects that would be found on any paid audio editing software. The newest update has also separated these effects into clearly defined, standard effect categories instead of having them in one long list, making them much easier to find.

To see an example of what a basic multi-track sound edit can look like, the gallery below shows different stages of an oral history clip that I cut together. There are several tracks with separate titles, that can be color-coded and edited together across tracks or while one continuous clip using the envelope tool.

If you’re new to audio editing and don’t know how to put things like these effects to good use, there are manual and quick help options in the application’s “Help” drop-down, as well as forums and guides on the website.

The Audacity forum contain several categories and subcategories that questions and discussions can be housed under, the main umbrellas being: help, discussion, special interests, and programming.

These forums offer a space for users to help each other out in a bind, but also—since Audacity is open source—space to discuss changes and additions that folks have made on their own that could be implemented in future updates. The main Audacity website also encourages community contribution, stating on the home page that “All are welcome to contribute to Audacity by helping us with code, documentation, translations, user support and by testing our latest code” and guiding users, developers, and translators to pages that provide more details on how they can help Audacity continue to improve. One of the most visible sites of outsider contribution is the Audacity Plugins page, which can help expand options available to audio editors of all types by making new effects created by others easily downloadable. This is especially helpful for people doing more heavy duty sound recording and editing for music, audio dramas, and sound design for videos and films. This page is a great resource once you get the hang of the more than adequate set of effects that come with Audacity upon downloading if you feel an itch to play around with more complicated or specific effects.

All in all, Audacity is an easy-to-learn audio editing application that has the same level of functionality as similar paid, industry standard programs with a remarkable price tag of $0. For basic work especially, it is simple to record, import, edit across tracks, and export your audio, and it has the capacity to be used for much more in-depth detailed work if you want to get the hang of the effects and other tools that are available. That it has been so actively updated for over two decades means that it also on track to continue improving basically indefinitely. The community support functions facilitate continual improvement to the program, the creation and sharing of new add-ons by outside users, and active forums that can help users learn from each other. While it may not be the most *aesthetic* of programs when you first open it up, the available effects and other tools provide a professional experience with a nonexistent price tag.


SoundCloud is a music and audio platform—initially launched in 2008—that is mostly used for music, but also features things like podcasts, demos, and any other audio that users and artists would like to upload and share. Audio can be streamed from their website and through an app that can be downloaded on phones, some smart TVs, and Xbox One, and anyone can make an account both for listening and uploading audio. To make an account, as a listener and creator, all you have to do is click on “Create Account” at the top of the home screen. You can enter any email you’d like to tie to the account, or sign in through a Facebook, Google, or Apple account.

The home screen on the SoundCloud website

While an account can be made and used for free, there are also several different paid plans available for the streaming side or for enhancing your ability to utilize the platform as a creator. The SoundCloud Go ($4.99/month) and SoundCloud Go+ ($9.99/month) plans are streaming-focused, and help contribute to their unique payment model for artists. There are three types of accounts for creators – Next (free), Next Plus ($2.50/month), and Next Pro ($8/month).

The paid plans allow for more track uploads, eligibility for payment, easier distribution with streaming platforms, opportunities for promotions, and advanced analytics, profile customization, and track management. The extent of these tools depends on what tier you decide to stick with.

The different creator plans on SoundCloud

When you create an account, it will automatically be on the free Next plan, so no need to worry about surprise charges or anything! Once you’re signed in to this free account, you can begin uploading by pressing the “upload” button towards the top right corner of the screen. From there, you can upload audio clips one at a time or at the same time to automatically turn them into a playlist.

The “upload” page on SoundCloud

There are a few things to note on this page. First, you can immediately choose to make a playlist of several clips as you upload them, and you can also easily select the privacy settings for the audio before you even upload them. Above the uploading window, it also notes how much of the 3 free upload hours you’ve already taken up, giving you the option to upgrade your plan or simply budget those three hours as you continue to make and upload clips. At the bottom of the window, it also notes the audio file types that are best for audio quality, which will help inform the recording and editing process in the first place.

You must add basic identifying info like a title when going through the uploading process, and afterwards you can head to the “Your tracks” tab to see everything you’ve uploaded and add more detailed descriptions and metadata, all depending on the level of detail you’d like to provide. Once the audio has been uploaded (if it’s been made public), it can be streamed directly through SoundCloud, but there are also many other sites that allow for adding specific SoundCloud uploads and playlists to be embedded onto their website, making SoundCloud a useful tool for not just posting audio on one sharing platform, but also for use on other platforms that aren’t themselves built for audio hosting and sharing.

For example, Word Press itself has a block type that is specifically for sharing SoundCloud clips, all you need to do is add the block and copy in the link for whatever specific clip you’d like to share. The clip to the right is one that I made for an oral history project I worked on in the fall, which I uploaded to SoundCloud after I finished editing it so it could be added to a StoryMap as the media tied to each pin. StoryMap is also an example of the benefit of using SoundCloud to upload your audio to, as StoryMap didn’t allow me to directly upload my audio clips or use links to them on OneDrive. They do, however, easily allow for copying in a link to a clip saved on SoundCloud.

A clip from SoundCloud as a block on Word Press

While it also isn’t necessarily the most important thing for us to consider about the platform, SoundCloud’s unique compensation structure for artists who’ve monetized their work is much more fair to artists than other streaming platforms like Spotify. SoundCloud pays based on the streams of their own work rather than creating an all-artist pot that gets put together and redistributed based on streaming share, leading to more direct compensation from consumers to their favorite small artists. While this may not play a role in our work directly, this payment model also shows SoundCloud is at least a more ethical streaming platforms than others, which is always worth considering!

Ultimately, SoundCloud is a very helpful distribution tool that is quite easy to use, whether you’re only interested in basic uploading and sharing functions, or are a creator planning to monetize your work directly through the platform and do more in-depth audience engagement and distribution. The free account is useful and straightforward on its own, and the process of uploading and sharing links to clips and playlists is incredibly simple. If the free account is not enough support as a creator, the paid accounts are also incredibly affordable, with the highest level plan coming in less expensive than most streaming services and other similar storage and file sharing subscription services. For oral histories in particular, if uploading and using short clips, SoundCloud is a tool that can easily be used to use your audio in non-audio based platforms like Word Press and StoryMaps, or even just to send samples of your work to others over email or text.

Practicum- Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond

This digital collection is part of the Library of Congress and it presents a long history of the academic exploration of the Universe. The collection was built on the foundation of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan archive, but by including many other historical works it situates Sagan and others within a historical context. This archive has a wide variety of both physical collection items that have been digitized for easy access, and articles and essays from both Sagan and a variety of other authors.

The starting page of this collection is actually one of the three top tabs used to maneuver through the archive. You start out in the “collection items” area of the archive but you can use these tabs to go to the “articles and essays” section or “about this collection”. However, if you stay in the collection items you can refine your search using the categories on the left. These include the format, date, and location of the item, what collection is the item part of, the contributor, the subject, and the language. Looking through all this I went to Subject and under that I clicked on Extraterrestrial Life. I then scrolled down until I saw a manuscript called “The Evolution of Interstellar Space Flight” by Carl Sagan.

Image not found

This was made by Carl Sagan in the mid 1940s, when he was around the age of 13. It describes a few of the early developments in space travel including the Nazi V-2 program and the early American and Soviet efforts to get into space.

If you leave collection items and go to articles and essays there are three subject areas to explore, Modeling the Cosmos, Life on Other Worlds, and Carl Sagan and the Tradition of Science. You can move through these sections to read essays about different aspects about the development of science in respect to space exploration. The section on Life on Other Worlds also gives a cultural viewpoint on what people were thinking about space in the past. I uses paintings, maps, and movie posters to show what people have thought about when looking towards the stars.

This digital collection also includes teaching resources and expert resources which can both be found by looking to the left sidebar. These include advice for lesson plans and primary sources while also giving easy links to some of Sagan’s papers. As well as the digitized printed material, this collection also has audio and visual materials that you can search by using the search function at the top of the page.

Overall this collection is somewhat intimidating by its size and scope and it forces visitors to explore the collection in order to figure out all the search tools. I think that the overall layout could be improved to make it more user friendly. For example, instead of just having the start page be the “collection items”, a page giving links about general subject areas would be helpful. Having an opening page with a site map and links to general subject areas like Carl Sagan’s work or the history of astronomy would make the collection much more accessible to visitors.