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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Final Meme

Before Adventures in Digital History vs. after Adventures in Digital History:

I hope everyone is staying safe and well! Good luck on finals!

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

The Final Product

The semester has nearly come to an end, and so has our digital history project. You can visit the Peirce Letters Collection site to view the work we have done this semester. Our presentation of the Jerome Peirce Letters project was unconventional, seeing as we all sat in our own homes while presenting, but it was effective. See our video below summarizing and concluding our semester-long project. There are still edits that my group and I plan on making to the site, but I am proud of what our group accomplished, especially considering the extraordinary circumstances of this semester.

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ePortfolio

Other Coursework

I have taken multiple courses while in college that have not been in the field of my major, Historic Preservation, but have nonetheless given me valuable skills and knowledge that will be useful in a wide range of fields.

Literature

I have taken a couple literature classes, notably Shakespeare and Popular Culture and Global Issues in Literature. In both I completed projects in which I analyzed texts and formulated an argument based on the readings and on outside sources. You can view a sample from Shakespeare and Popular Culture here and a sample from Global Issues in Literature here.

The most important skill that these courses taught me was to think critically. Reading and analyzing literature taught me how to ask the right questions and how to search for the answers. This is especially relevant to Historic Preservation due to the amount of research that is done in the field.

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ePortfolio

Historic Preservation Coursework

The courses I have taken for a Historic Preservation major include an The American Built Environment (architectural history), Introduction to Museum Studies, Documentation and Field Work, American Archaeology, and Adventures in Digital History.

Museum Studies

The most notable paper I wrote in Introduction to Museum Studies was an analysis and evaluation of one museum exhibition, titled Exhibition Review. What was the goal of the exhibition? Overall, did the exhibition accomplish this goal?

Evaluating an exhibition at a well-established museum gave me the ability to see what does and does not work in an exhibition. Looking at an exhibition and a museum from the outside makes it much easier to see flaws and limitations in design. That is more difficult to do when designing an exhibition, but it is important to try to look at an exhibition objectively to try to see it through the eyes of the average visitor.

This is a very important skill that I will utilize in my future career. It is most relevant to museum work, but objective reflection of one’s own work or field of study is a valuable skill that is useful in many fields.

Documentation and Field Work

In this course, I gained skills to research and document buildings. Two significant projects that I completed were a historic narrative of a property in Fredericksburg, VA and a series of architectural photographs taken of a structure in Leesburg, VA.

The Historic Narrative required me to research information in a way that I had never done before. I never thought I would go to the courthouse four times or scan so much microfilm for any project, but Historic Preservation has proved me wrong. Doing historical research is more than just doing online research. It requires time and effort spent going to different locations to find the information needed to produce a substantial report. The information found at these locations, however, is very historically and culturally rich, and is invaluable to the field of historic preservation.

I learned a different set of technical skills in completing the Architectural Photography assignment (sample pictured above). Preservation is often associated with the state and federal governments, therefore there are standard procedures for conducting many preservation-related projects. The main program is HABS, the Historic American Buildings Survey. HABS has guidelines for all forms of documentation, including photography. I learned what those standards were and, even with limited equipment, created a series of architectural photographs that followed those standards.

Archaeology

In the course American Archaeology I have studied methods of preservation-related archaeology in North America. This usually includes the excavations of historic and precolonial structures. The main project that I completed in this course was titled Garbology. I recorded the things I threw in the trash over three days and analyzed the data as if I knew nothing about the individual. I practiced the use of different archaeological principles and used them to objectively analyze a fictional individual. This recalls the skill discussed earlier of objective self reflection. It is a challenging but important skill to have in any career.

Adventures in Digital History

I have never taken a class like this one before. This class has tested my ability to learn new skills very quickly and adapt to changing circumstances. It has also been valuable for building my confidence in working as part of a team. While the course is still in progress, my group and I have been creating a digital archive of the letters that were written by and about Jerome Peirce, a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War. The most presentable work I have from this class so far has been my blog. I created this blog for Digital History and it has given me the chance to start creating a digital identity. Having a digital identity is becoming more and more important in today’s digital society. It is invaluable to have the skills and knowledge to create and maintain a digital identity. You can view my blog posts from Digital History under the category Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020.

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ePortfolio

Introduction

I am a Historic Preservation major and a Museum Studies minor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, and I would like to have a career in a preservation-related field. That could include working in historical societies and museums (which is currently at the top of the list), working in cultural resource management, or even having a career in archaeology.

I am currently finishing up my second year in college, so assuming I graduate in the planned four years, I am half-way done. The courses I have taken in college, both within and outside of my major, have given me valuable skills that will be useful in a wide range of jobs. The purpose of this ePortfolio is to showcase those skills with examples of my work.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Civil War Letters Update

As we head into the final month of the semester, we are thinking more seriously about the steps we will need to take to finalize the project. Last week we started uploading the letter scans to the Omeka site last week, in addition to establishing guidelines for inputting metadata. We have been keeping records of all letter metadata throughout the project, which will make inputting it much easier. With the timeline mostly finished, our other main focus is working on the StoryMap. As we continue uploading letter scans and working on the StoryMap, we will be considering details such as the theme and appearance of the site.

To see our full group update, see Group Update 4/2/2020 on Erin Andrewlevich’s blog.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Digital Identity

In the modern age of technology, social and professional networking have taken on a new, digital form. Digital identity is how people perceive you in online networks. It is not something that forms over night. It is a complex entity that one creates throughout their social and professional lives, both intentionally and unintentionally. There are multiple different actions that we do online that are part of our digital identity, including what we post, who we associate with, and how we interact with people.

Professionals and those in academia can intentionally create digital identities by maintaining professional networking accounts, such as LinkedIn, or by creating a blog. Many professionals frown upon blogs because of the reputation they have for being juvenile and unsuitable for academic and professional purposes. The tone of a blog however is entirely dependent on the person who writes it. If the person who writes it is childish or wants to sound childish, then the tone of the blog will be childish. When done well, blogs can be a good way to start a discussion online about important topics and improve develop your digital identity.

Creating and maintaining a positive, well-established digital identity can be a daunting task. Anyone can access your information online with just a few clicks of a mouse. Employers will often do research on digital identities, and may make a decision whether or not to hire someone before they even show up for the interview. A digital identity is not something to fear, however, as long as you take into consideration the effect that your actions have on the way you are perceived by the online world. And there are many resources–such as this one–that can help you build a reputable digital identity.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

History in the Digital World

As our world moves further into the digital age, we are seeing changes in every aspect of our lives, including academia. History is no exception. In reading through articles about this shift to digital methods, a few key themes came to light.

One of the greatest differences between digital history and traditional modes of history is the former’s intersection with public history. With millions of resources available on the Web for anyone–professional, student, curious citizen–to find and use, historical narratives are more accessible than ever before. This expansion of accessibility has a few implications of its own. Because public digital history projects could be used by anyone and everyone, they have to be designed so they can be used by anyone and everyone, with people of all abilities in mind. While it is important that digital history projects be accessible to all, it is also a good idea for the creators to identify target audiences, people who would benefit the most from a particular collection of resources. Public digital history projects must also be centered around public history. This means that they don’t just focus on the famous, white men and the events they are associated with. They must include discussions of the lives and histories of ordinary citizens of all backgrounds.

It is also important to note the impact that the advancement of digital history has had on education. The rise of the digital age has had many effects on our education system. For example, remote learning is now not only possibly, but necessary due to the current pandemic. Many educators who had not already changed their syllabi to keep up with technological advancement are now forced to do so. I think that we will see a lasting change in the ways people are educated, with more of an emphasis on digital approaches to education in all disciplines, including history. As aforementioned, historical resources are far more accessible than before thanks to the Internet. History educators now have the ability to require their students to utilized both primary and secondary resources. The utilization of digital approaches to history education opens many new possibilities for teaching and learning. The next step is learning how to best utilize these resources.

Overall, digital history has proved to be successful in expanding the reach of historical thought throughout society. One new problem that digital historians are facing, however, is digital preservation. Not all resources are digitally stable, and they break down over time. Therefore, that is one of the biggest challenges facing the discipline today: figuring out how to preserve online resources so they can not only be accessible to people of the world today but also to future generations.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Civil War Letters: Week 11

The new unprecedented circumstances we are now all facing have forced us, like everyone else, to make changes to our original plan for our project. Sadly, we did not get all of the letters scanned in the Digital Archiving Lab before we had to leave campus, so we will not have a full collection of letter to give back to the NPS. Hopefully, others will be able to continue and finish the work in the future. What that means for our Omeka site is that we will either have to use the jpeg scans provided by the NPS of the letters that we did not get to scan, or just exclude the letters that we did not have time to scan. If we decide on the former, we have to make sure to include the appropriate citations and give credit where credit is due.

While we figure out what to do about the letters, we are continuing to work on the timeline and StoryMap. Both are coming along well and should be close to finished very soon. The next step is to start embedding the letter files in our Omeka site. Our plan is for everyone to practice uploading one letter to the site by Thursday and compare what we did. Using that, we will establish a standard method of embedding and entering in metadata.

To see our full group update, see the post “Group Update 3/24” on Erin Andrewlevich’s blog. (shown below)

Group Update 3/24

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Civil War Letters Week 7 Update

So far the group has been focusing mainly on scanning. We still have a little over 120 letters to scan, so we are a little behind schedule. We were trying to be finished by Spring Break, but we should finish scanning soon after break. We are behind because of some obstacles that we have encountered, such as missing letters or letters that were out of order. While we are scanning we follow specific guidelines for organizing and labeling the scans that we outlined at the beginning of the process. Attached is the spreadsheet that we have been using to keep track of the letter scans. This will make them easier to find and access for us when we need to integrate them into our Omeka site, and also for when we send to the NPS for them to have in their digital archive.

We have also started to plan and work on the Timeline and Storymap. Erin and Dennis will be collaborating on the Timeline and Hunter and I will be collaborating on the Storymap. We had a hard time figuring out how we would collaborate on the Storymap because it is not possible for two people or accounts to edit the same map. The solution we came to was creating an email account for the whole group, which we used to create a Storymap. We all have the credentials to the email, so we will all have access to it. After break, even though we will still be scanning the letters, we should remain on schedule in regards to the elements of our site.