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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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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.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Wikipedia and Copyright

I have never done an in-depth reading of Wikipedia. I do what most people probably do: skim page for the one piece of information I need and then pretend that I got it from a “more reputable source,” denying that I ever visited Wikipedia. I put “more reputable source” in quotations because many of the articles found on Wikipedia are very well edited and monitored. Of course, Jimmy Wales champions the reliability of Wikipedia because it is his organization and he is, as he puts it, its monarch, but it is also apparent by the open forum editing process that each article undergoes.

I looked at the Talk and View History tabs on several different history-related Wikipedia articles with varying levels of controversy. Discussions in the Talk tab were usually very detailed and constructive, with some exceptions. They all varied in length and content, but something that I found in many of them was a discussion of bias and objectivity. It is important for creative commons to be objective in order to provide information that is as close to the truth as possible.

The View History tab allows viewers to see past iterations of both the Talk page and the article itself. I was surprised to see that most of the articles had been revised within the last month. I thought that this could have been because the topics I looked up were major historical events, so I searched for a more obscure topic. That article had still been revised only a few months ago. It showed that creative commons can be very well maintained.

It is unclear what role copyright will play in our Civil War Letters project. The letters and the transcripts are likely the only aspects of our project that will be subject to copyright procedures because they are really the only materials we have to work with. We will have to discuss copyright procedures with the NPS because they are responsible for the letters. After we have that discussion, we will incorporate any copyright requirements into our project.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Civil War Letters Week 5 Update

This week we finalized our group contract by making it more specific. The aspect that we were having a little trouble deciding on was what to do for accessibility options. The main things we will focus on will be color contrast and alternative text for documents and pictures.

We are making good progress on scanning the letters. We have run into a few obstacles, such as missing letters or letters that were in a weird order, but we have been able to work through those things with the help of Angie and Luisa from the NPS.

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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Civil War Letters Week 4

This week we drafted our group contract for the project. We have a realistic prospective timeline of milestones that we need to accomplish. The most important thing we are focusing on right now is digitizing the letters. In terms of division of labor, we will all be scanning as many letters as we can each week in order to get them done by the end of the month. We will all be working on different aspects of the website as well. One of the things that we are not sure about is how many extra features, such as topic modeling, we will have time to incorporate into the website. As the project progresses, we should get a better idea of what we will be able to include in the website. We will start working on the website and planning out how we are going to design it soon once we get a little further along in scanning the letters.