Summary Discussion…wait, we’re done?!

To answer Dr. McClurken’s questions…

1) 3 things I liked about the class:

-I liked the freedom we had to develop our projectafter being given an idea, not something that was already spelled out and left no room for creativity.

-I liked that we had to work in teams. While it was not always smooth going, this project, I felt, was a good idea of what it would be like in a job having to work with other people to accomplish something.

-I liked the balance between group meetings and class discussion.

2) 3 things I might would change:

-I think switching back and forth between the 10-15 minute presentations and 5 minute presentations was hard to jump between. Rather than give a long one then a short one, I feel it might be better to have every group give about 6-8 minute presentations every week. That way everyone gets a chance to talk and give a little insight into what their assigned tasks were for the week, issues, etc.

-Maybe earlier in the semester talking generally about ways to publicize our sites and get the word out there that these sites are for use by the general public, not just a class project.

-Ok, so only two things I would change – overall definitely a different class

3) Topics:

I really think that my comfort level has grown over the course of the semester in working with primary materials. I’ve never been super comfortable around them and have always preferred secondary sources. I think, working so closely with these primary materials is important to help students become more aware of their value and to have a more thorough look at the past. I think any topic where students as a group can delve into a set of papers or images or objects or diaries, etc. and work specificly with primary sources and draw out their value in a website would be great. Focusing on a specific person like Mary Washington or someone who has a connection to our university or Fredericksburg is a great way to get in touch with the local community. Primary source-wise, any president or person with a lot of correspondence would be really cool to learn more about.

4) Advice?

Plan, plan, plan! ahead! I really appreciated the fact that our group pushed ourselves to be done ahead of schedule, so that way when we ran into a ton of issues and got back-logged, we still weren’t late with any deadlines that mattered.

Also, communication is key. Keep talking to your group members, keep in touch with mentors and with Dr. McClurken with issues, otherwise deadlines will creep up on you and you’ll realize that you have run out of time to do anything.

Posted by on April 26th, 2010 Comments Off on Summary Discussion…wait, we’re done?!

Do you remember?

An interesting title for a reflection post, I know. It’s the song I am currently listening to though. It is kind of fitting, for before sitting down to write this blog post I did spend a few minutes reflecting and reviewing the contract that my group members and I wrote at the beginning of the semester (how long ago it seems!) I would like to first congratulate all of the groups on the completion of their projects, I know we all worked really hard this semester and everyone deserves some recognition for that.

In regards to our contract, I remember feeling at the beginning of the semester our group having all these fantastic ideas of what we could accomplish. The goals that actually made it into the contract I still had a few concerns at – the volume of the work we had set ourselves seemed (in January) to be almost insurmountable. I settled down to a tough semester. And in all honesty, in addition to my other classes, it was a tough semester. Not just with the amount of work from our James Monroe Papers project and other class workloads, but with working a job as well. Overall, though, I really feel that we adhered to our contract and fulfilled all the requirements we set ourselves at the beginning of the semester.

In regards to milestones, for the most part we were able to stick to our due dates. One that I know that we ended up tweaking was the due dates of the summaries and transcriptions. Instead of splitting up each year among the four of us, we split it up differently and thus completed them all at the same time, versus completing 1795 first then 1796. All other milestones were completed on time. We had a few loose ends to fix and tweak the weekend prior to our major due date, the 20th; however the bulk of our site was completed by our own due date, the 16th.

In regards to the overall goals of our website, we wanted to: 1) make available in an easy-to-access format the letters of James Monroe to the Secretary of State 2) create transcriptions and summaries to assist in the readability of the aforementioned letters 3) provide context of Monroe’s letters through research, exhibits, an interactive map and an interactive timeline. I believe that we accomplished all of these goals. Our website is aethestically pleasing, easy to navigate and includes a ton of information regarding Monroe’s letters including the letters themselves – which was the focus. I think that an informative and valuable digital archive has been added to an ever-growing cumulation of history available online for the use of the wider community, not just a limited academic one.

A note about group work, there are ups and downs in every group. We were no exception. One thing that I have learned though is that it is absolutely essential to have good communication with every group member and to ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times. This provides for a more effective and desirable group climate!

Posted by on April 21st, 2010 Comments Off on Do you remember?

How about that..

Yesterday, Monday, was Research and Creativity Day. An interesting day for me because I’ve now been battling a cold for almost a week and with two presentations yesterday and hardly any voice, I thought it was going to be a rough time of it. The audience luckily was able to hear me (as far as I know) because it consisted of my fellow group members, Dr. McClurken, the chair and the psychology group presenting. All the same, it was nice to be able to tell some people other than my lovely classmates (who have been listening to us graciously all semester) about our project that we’ve been working all semester on.

Technical difficulties – we could not stay connected to the internet. I know we will be presenting in the Great Hall again come Symposium Day, so I can only hope that the internet will be working because it is kind of essential to our project. Something to keep in mind come Symposium day, though it may not be ideal, a powerpoint with snapshots of webpages might have to suffice in the absence of a decent internet connection. Though no one would be able to show off the interactivity that we’ve all been working so hard on, hopefully people after hearing about these four projects would be willing to go check out the websites themselves; especially when they have spiffy business cards that we all have provided them.

It’s hard to believe that we are now in the home stretch of working on last minute details and finishing up our websites, and I hardly want to say it is anticlimatic; however it does not really feel like the end of the semester is upon us. It will be interesting definitely to see what the final websites look like after we have all put in so much of our effort, frustrations and probably more than a few choice words. 🙂 Good luck everyone on this home stretch!

Posted by on April 13th, 2010 1 Comment

Responses to Perspectives Online

The first article I read was “Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Wiki(pedia) by Christopher Miller. I almost felt like this article could have been very similar to our own digital history class…all one had to do was substitute the words ‘digital history’ for ‘wikipedia.’ While I am generalizing a bit, this professor talked about how his disdain for wikipedia turned into one of interest and finally centering a class around using it as a resource for students while also making sure they saw not only the positive side of it but also the negative aspects of using wikipedia as a source and reliable encyclopedia. I know Professor McClurken has changed some things around since he last taught this seminar, and I am sure the next time he teaches it he will have learned more and be able to improve upon this seminar. I guess I had always thought that history doesn’t really change…but one of the more thought-provoking quotes was when he wrote, “a way to expose them to the idea that history is “created” rather than “discovered.” This got me to thinking about the distinction between discovered and created – history is written by those who are in charge, who have won. While more sources might come to light that haven’t before, history is something that is written and made; not discovered like a new mineral or cure for some disease. It puts a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?

Another article, H-Net: Digital Discussion for Historians by Matthew Gilmore provides an interesting insight into how historians can keep in touch with new technology. I think this is a great idea, because what better way to utilize something and not become outdated but to have the chance to contribute in a big way to something that is quickly making other technology obsolete?

Posted by on April 5th, 2010 3 Comments

html coding for interactive timelines

1. <div>
2. <a ex:href-content=”.imgURL”>Image</a>
3.   </div>

**You can change the title (Images) to whatever you’d like.
Hope this helps!

**In order for the actual code to show up in the post, I put numbers in between, but you really just need <div> code </div> to make it work 🙂

Posted by on April 1st, 2010 Comments Off on html coding for interactive timelines

Omeka…in a whole other language

So, in my ever-growing frustrations of trying to make our lovely beginnings of a timeline interactive, I came across an interesting tidbit of information…

‘Omeka’ means ‘to display or lay out goods or wares’ … in Swahili. How cool is that? Just something that I thought y’all might find interesting, why the name ‘Omeka’ was given to this particular tool we are using.

Back to my frustrations, I am currently in the process of trying to make a link clickable in the actual timeline. I figured out how to embed a hyperlink into Google spreadsheets, but that does not help me out much, because it doesn’t translate onto the website.  (An aside, to embed a hyperlink, in a cell:

1) =hyperlink(“url”,”title”)

2)the url is the image url that you have

3)the title is what you want to have show up

When I do this the title shows up in the bubble under “image url” but it is not clickable. Now, I’m wondering if this is possible? In communication with DTLT to find out. Anyone else have better luck, or did y’all decide that you wanted to just keep the url so they can copy/paste into a new tab? (confusing and such to a potential user of our site…) I will update when I make more progress.

PS – in case you need a dance break

Posted by on March 31st, 2010 2 Comments

Reflections on this new digital age

I was reflecting while in class yesterday and afterwards about this digital age that seems to have already started among the general population and is slowly making its way into the classroom and academic circles. I will be one of the first to admit that I much prefer conferring and bouncing ideas off one another face-to-face versus using the internet. I understand that there are times when it is not possible; especially when the people involved are not able to meet in a timely manner. Thus, I see the usefulness of the internet, blogging and ways to “meet” virtually.

I think we are still a long ways off, though, from completely transferring our use from actual books to the internet. After watching the ‘did you know 4.0’ video, one of the points of interest was how by 2020 it is predicted that the medium through which people will access the internet will be their personal cellphones. It is kind of mind-boggling, however one only has to step into a crowded area to see the number of iphones, blackberries, etc. that are already in use. Is it old-fashioned of me to still only want a simple cellphone that sends text messages and maybe has a camera? Is it old-fashioned of me that while I absolutely love the use of databases the fact that I still love even more being able to look up books and put them physically in my hand? Not that I desire to return to the age where internet has not made things easier (according to most) … I would rather say different. Just like when cars were invented and people began using them versus their own two feet or a carriage and buggy; a different mode of transportation had been born.

On a slightly different tangent, or perhaps a return to my original point of this post, I am marvelling at the ability that audiences of digital historical collections through the use of blogs, forums, etc. can bring together people from all over the world with different perspectives, ideas, cultures, etc. The first example of this that popped into my head was facebook groups. For groups that identify with a core purpose, you get all kinds of people joining and while some have no idea what they are talking about, sometimes genuine, intellectual conversations can occur. This is what the digital age is for  (or should be)- an expanding of ways in which we can share knowledge with ever-expanding audiences.

Posted by on March 24th, 2010 Comments Off on Reflections on this new digital age


Now that our transcriptions are finished and we’re working towards compiling information to upload to the site (hopefully to start soon,) we are working towards compiling/building our timeline.

We’ve decided to simplify it a bit due to time constraints and I’m having trouble working with simile. Any suggestions? I’m planning on going to DTLT next week to try and get a tutorial.

I feel while our group still has a ton of stuff to get done prior to our deadlines, we are moving along. I’m really excited to see what all the sites look like when they are done. I know we are all working really hard with all our other classes and obligations. Do not be discouraged! The end is in sight.

Posted by on March 18th, 2010 Comments Off on Simile

Going digital

A word first, congratulations to the images group for launching their site. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks great.

A second word about technology use – I think its good that we are moving into the internet age. I’m in the process of re-scanning a few pages of letters that are missing and while fighting with the microfilm scanner last night I was thinking about how obsolete (within the next few years) that that will be. Databases and archives are all getting digitized onto the internet and is trying to build an online encyclopedia and soon our frustrations will all be over. Or will they? Maybe new frustrations down the road will become more clear, but all I can say for now is that I won’t miss loading microfilm reels onto a scanner that doesn’t like to cooperate.

Posted by on March 16th, 2010 2 Comments

A whole new world in “wiki-ing”

So, I’m really glad I listened to Jimmy Wales explain how wikipedia started and the ideas/thoughts behind it before I started exploring the actual website.

I’ve heard so many different people who either love or hate wikipedia. Because editing pages is available to anyone, many think that the over-all quality of the website cannot possibly be worthy of use in academic or intellectual circles. After watching that video though, I am more sold on the quality of wikipedia. Though it is not really accepted yet for use as sources, I think that many do put a ton of time and effort into making something that can be used in the future as it continues to grow. If anything, one can use the academic sources at the bottom of each article to continue their research.

To be honest, I am still trying to gain a better sense of how the history part of wikipedia works. There is a link where one can compare different edits, but I get html when I look at it and it does not make a whole lot of sense to me. In the discussion part, though, the articles have classifications. I wonder if that is how people work with these articles or volunteer to watch over them. Something that I’ve been thinking about since hearing Jimmy Wales talk about wikipedia and looking through wikipedia articles is the punitive actions (if any) that are taken against vandals. I realize the goal is to build an encyclopedia available to the world and made by the world, and by barring users for vandalizing acts the goal is defeated; yet how does one prevent someone else from repeated acts of vandalism? Or is this something that Wales and the wikipedia community have resigned themselves to constantly policing until they’ve completed their project?

Posted by on February 15th, 2010 1 Comment