A Tale of Two Projects

In a week’s time, the semester and by extension the DH Fellowship will come to an end. As such, it is time for the end of the semester blog post. IN the time since my last blog post, I have had divided my time into two projects associated with Digital Humanities Now. The first project (Web Scraping) was focused on the content published by DHNow while the second (Web Mapping) focused on DHNow’s Editors-at-Large base.

Web Scraping

Over the years, Digital Humanities Now has published hundreds of Editor’s Choice pieces. For 2014 alone, roughly 165 Editor’s Choice articles from numerous authors were featured. Such a large corpus of documents provided a ready source of data about the publishing patterns of DHNow. In order to translate the documents into usable data we needed to format the Editor’s Choice articles into a usable format, namely machine-readable text. The task, then, was to go through each Editor’s Choice article and scrape the body text down into a .txt file. I had never scraped a website before, so this project was going to be a great learning opportunity.

I began the project by reading through the Beautiful Soup web scraping tutorial on Programming Historian by Jeri Wieringa. It uses a Python library called Beautiful Soup to go into a website and scrape the data. During my rotation in the Research Division last semester, the three first year Fellows had quickly worked through the Beautiful Soup tutorial but I needed a refresher. However, I made a switch from Python and to R. This change came from the suggestion of Amanda Regan who has experience using R. As she explained it, R is a statistical computing language and would be a better resource in analyzing the corpus of Editor’s Choices than Python. After downloading R Studio (a great IDE) and playing around with R, I found it to be a fairly intuitive language (more so for those who have some background in coding). I came to rely on Mandy and Lincoln Mullen when running into issues and they were both extremely helpful. Learning R was fun and it was also exciting as R is the primary language taught and used in the Clio Wired III course, which I plan on taking the next time it is offered.

In order to scrape the body text of each post, I relied on the class names of each html tags containing the text. I imported in a .csv file of all the Editor’s Choice articles and search each website for a specific class name. When found, R would scrape all the text found in that tag, place it in a .txt file whose name corresponds with the articles ID number. Finding the class name was a hang up, but I was able to use the Selector Gadget tool to expedite the process. It essentially makes your webpage’s css structure interactive allowing you to click on items to view their extent and class names. I learned a lot about website structures in while identifying each body text’s class name. In the end, I was able to scrape 150 of the 165 Editor’s Choice articles.

You can find my code on my Github account here.

Web Mapping

The second project I was fortunate to work on was displaying our Editor-at-Large spatially on a map. My undergraduate work is in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) so this project in part came out of my interests and prior experience. In association with this project I am writing two blog posts for the soon to be DHNow blog. The first will detail the process of developing and designing the map while the second will delve into what the map is “telling us.” For the sake of the Fellows blog, I will instead reflect on my experience in creating the Editors-at-Large map and will link to the other two blogs when they are published.

It had been almost a year since I devoted any real time to cartography. I decided to use the same model I went through in my undergraduate capstone class on web mapping. To being with, I needed a dataset that I could use on the web. During my undergraduate, I used ArcGIS to convert a .csv into a geoJSON file that could be used on the web. However, since coming to GMU and the Center, I have embraced Open Source (both by choice and by financial force) and instead relied on Quantum GIS (QGIS). I had no real experience with QGIS so this project provided me an opportunity to become familiar with the QGIS platform. This was an added benefit that I both appreciated and enjoyed. In the end, converting to a geoJSON format was fairly straightforward.

To render the web map, I used Leaflet, which I was introduced to in my undergraduate coursework. While as an undergraduate, I found Leaflet somewhat difficult to use but this is probably because I was simultaneously learning HTML, CSS, and Javascript while working with Leaflet. Returning to Leaflet, my impression was how easy it was to use and its fairly intuitive design. I attribute this change in attitude to the training in and supportive nature of the Research Division as I was exposed to Python and other coding languages. In the end the map turned out pretty good and my work on the project has reignited my passion for cartography and all things spatial.

In the final days of the Fellowship, I feel both excited and melancholy. I am sad that the fellowship is coming to an end and I am moving out from the Center. It has been a wonderful experience working with great people on interesting and engaging projects. Yet, it is exciting to think back to myself on the first day of the Fellowship and realize how far I have come in my digital work.

Final Reflection

Since posting my midterm reflection, I’ve been continuing to work on the Papers of the War Department and the 9/11 Digital Archive. Anne and I produced Episode #112 of Digital Campus in March, which featured three of the hosts discussing current trends in technology, including the demise of Internet Explorer, the Apple watch, and the new one-port MacBook. On behalf of the DH Fellows, Amanda Regan coordinated Micki Kaufman’s brown bag presentation on her dissertation, Quantifying Kissinger, which I briefly blogged about and live tweeted.

Papers of the War Department (PWD)
For the PWD I’ve been creating user accounts, monitoring the wiki page, and protecting and exporting transcribed documents. I’ve also written several “transcribe this” blogs describing various documents: one discusses the fever in Philadelphia; another mentions the state of affairs in the Ohio country; and my final post will be published next week that concerns the appeal for the creation of a school for Native American children. I’ve also written the community transcription updates for the months of March and April. In addition to blogging, I’ve populated the PWD Twitter with links to documents needing transcription that appeal to a wide audience. Some of these tweets cover such topics as George Washington’s presidential agenda; Washington’s 1792 speech to the Five Nations; a resignation of a brigadier general; a 1795 American expedition into Florida; and death in Early America.

The September 11 Digital Archive
After completing the review of the Sonic Memorial Project Collection, I wrote a blog post for the 9/11 blog that highlighted the various types of items housed within that large collection by going through the history of the physical space the World Trade Towers inhabited. I also reviewed the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) Interview Collection, which is a group of over seventy interviews of Arab-American and/or Muslim Americans that were conducted by the Graduate Center, City University of New York between 2002 and 2003. Currently I am drafting a blog post that describes that collection.

In addition to my work on those projects, I also performed user testing for the newest version of Omeka.net. In addition to my current work on 9/11, I also used Omeka in Public Projects last semester while working on describing the items in the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings Collection, so I was already familiar with the user interface, adding content, and describing items. By testing the latest version I learned much more about how the content management system works as well as the purposes for all Omeka plugins, and I was successful in finding a few minor errors. Also: the LC-Suggest plugin is so incredibly helpful and useful!

My work this semester in Public Projects has taught me to engage with wider audiences that are not necessarily scholastic in nature. I’ve been able to choose PWD documents to tweet or blog about, and I chose to review the MEMEAC collection for my final 9/11 blog post. My blogs and tweets are meant evoke public interest in the projects, and as such the subjects of each must be compelling and interesting to scholars and non-scholars alike. In addition to understanding and reaching out to various audiences, I’ve also gained a greater understanding of the two platforms both projects are built on: MediaWiki and Omeka. Before working on the PWD I had never worked with MediaWiki, so I had to acclimate myself to the interface. I also now have a great appreciation for Dublin Core metadata after reviewing various items and collections within 9/11. I have greatly enjoyed my time in the Public Projects division, and am amazed at how much I’ve learned over the past nine months. At the end of August last year, I came in with very limited technical knowledge and was baffled as to what exactly digital history encompasses. Working at the Center as a Fellow has allowed me to broaden my technical horizons, engage with programming languages including Python, have first-hand experiences with the frustrations of American copyright laws, make history accessible to various audiences, and learn the intricacies of Omeka.

Live Tweeting a Day of Work

Last semester I was able to live tweet the 20th Anniversary Conference for RRCHNM. It was a lot of fun and really interesting to pass information around on the Twitter-verse about the various talks and sessions. My overall impression hasn’t changed about the usefulness of twitter for professionals an academics. In the time since creating my twitter account, I have had several people ask me for my opinion on twitter and I have been able to expound on its usefulness in academia. As I have developed my online presence, I have become sensitive to what type of presence I am “putting out there.” From the beginning, I have tried to separate my personal/family life from my professional life. One way I have tried to separate the two is by using Twitter for my professional life and keeping my Facebook account for family or personal use. While some cross over does exist (posting articles or conference material on Facebook or about the Red Sox on twitter), my impression of Twitter is very academic.

I chose to live tweet Monday, May 4th (May the 4th be with you…) because I knew I would be engaging in a multitude of projects. This week I am the Editor-in-Chief for Digital Humanities Now so I would be reading through the nominated material to prep for Tuesday’s posting. I also would be working on drafting a write up for my Editors at Large Map discussing the process of making the map as well as the various ways to use the E@L data in a spatial platform. Additionally, the DH Support Space takes place on Mondays to help students working digital projects. We were expecting higher traffic with the Support Space as Clio II’s preliminary drafts of their websites are due tonight. Compared to my live tweeting of the conference, Monday’s live tweeting was a very different experience.

Live tweeting a work day meant that my tweets were not all centered on a specific topic. Live tweeting the conference was more of a collaborative effort as each tweet was tagged with the conference’s designated hashtag. Thus all tweets were focused towards a single collaborative narrative or focus. Tweeting my work flow for Monday allowed me to tweet about DHNow in the morning and then about  Leaflet and mapping in the afternoon. At first it felt a bit scattered in my approach but I would attribute that to my still limited proficiency and experience with tweeting.

Fellowship and Mentorship

During my first year at RRCHNM, Ben Hurwitz served as a guide and mentor to me. As we have described previously, the first year of our fellowship involved an intensive 6 weeks in each division at the center. Ben and the other second-year fellows, Spencer Roberts and Amanda Morton, provided technical support as we worked on projects in each division and advice as we progressed through the program.

Beginning this year as a second-year fellow, I looked forward to being useful to the first-year cohort as they made their way through the center. In a blog post last fall, I described the experience of mentoring the first-year fellows while I was working in the Education division. We worked together to gather multimedia content for videos for the 100 Leaders project, completed some user-testing on the 100 Leaders website, and developed a guidebook for National History Day. I worked to organize the time we spent on each of these activities so that there was a balance between working collaboratively and working on projects individually. I also tried to talk through the challenges that we faced in each of these contexts. For instance, copyright and image rights was a frequent subject of discussion. The process was useful for me in conceptualizing what it entails to organize collaborative projects with a group of people with different interests and skills.

Across this year, I’ve worked most closely with Jordan Bratt, my mentee. As joint producers of the Digital Campus podcast, we’ve worked to schedule the podcast and to research stories for discussion. We’ve used this opportunity to discuss current issues and to share articles of interest, fostering a broader discussion of DH issues and concerns. Outside of this task, Jordan and I converse regularly with regard to his program of study and larger educational goals. Having completed the required courses Clio I and Clio II), I have been able to discuss and advise him on assignments and advise him with regard to course schedules and requirements. We share research interests and our collaboration has led us to fruitful discussions about coursework and research. Jordan comes to GMU and RRCHNM with considerable knowledge and expertise in the field of geography and geographical computing techniques. He has been able to share some of this with me and I can see opportunities for further collaboration in the future.

The mentorship program is useful in several ways. It provides an initial introduction between cohorts and encourages collaboration between them. It provides a sounding board for both groups and encourages us to work together on projects of interest. Working together, across the cohorts, on the Support Space is also useful in enabling us to interact as peers and scholars. The Support Space, described in previous blog posts, provides guidance on digital projects to students from across the program. As they approach us for help, each member of the fellowship program is able to provide assistance. Problems are often resolved collaboratively and this process encourages us to learn from one another even as we aid others.

My First Year Fellow Experience in the Education Divison

My first semester in the Education Division of RRCHNM has been an interesting and educational experience. Since January, I’ve been lucky enough to work on the 100 Leaders project for National History Day and played a major role in adding up leader votes in different ways and then uploading them to the 100Leaders.org website.  What made the project so interesting was that (after 100 days of voting) the results were far from what anyone at NHD or RRCHNM expected.  Interestingly, once voting opened in November, social media voters from other countries started pouring in and these votes single handedly knocked down most of the famous western leaders that many people thought would steal the top ten.  Instead of Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson as the most influential leaders, voting ended with Muhammad taking the number one spot, Mustafa Ataturk in second, followed by Jesus of Nazareth in third.  On the 100 Leaders website, National History Day published a fascinating background story on the findings and how so many votes were cast from outside of the United States.

After working for weeks on the 100 Leaders website, I was also given the opportunity to work on the new Digital Humanities online certificate that will be offered by George Mason University through RRCHNM in Fall 2015.  This exciting new project for the university and the center also comes with a lot of background work.  Everyone in the Education division has been very hands on—from recording interviews from creators of digital humanities projects to transcribing those projects, to outlining assignments.  I’ve had the opportunity to research a lot of the projects that new certificate students will be asked to complete.  As a content provider, I’ve been on the lookout for different types of digital archives, content data bases for mapping and text mining, and open source/copyright free sites so students have the best tools available when learning what exists in the digital world.

Outside of working in the Ed division, the first year fellows and I have had the interesting opportunity of holding Clio II tutoring sessions every Monday between noon and 5pm.  At our table in the center we offer help on the PhD required Clio II projects where all of us have been asked to create a digital history project and build our own websites from scratch.  While I was the first year digital history fellow who came in with the least amount of knowledge in DH, being able to tutor on coding has not only helped with learning HTML, CSS, Java Script, etc, it’s given me a confidence that was severely lacking last semester. I’ve learned through helping others build websites and have become a pro at looking up answers for website building questions and can now quickly solve issues.  Last semester I was nervous and lost.  The Clio II help desk  has helped me retain knowledge of coding and I’m excited that I no longer have to constantly lean of W3 schools for information.  I’m finally retaining how to move an object from point A to point B on my computer screen.

While there is only a month left in my fellowship at RRCHNM I am thankful for how much I’ve learned this semester and look forward to how much more I can cram in my brain in the following months.

 

Reflection on Micki Kaufman’s Presentation & Live Tweeting

Yesterday Micki Kaufman came to CHNM to deliver a presentation on her dissertation, “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: Quantifying Kissinger. Her presentation was fascinating, and her use of digital methods was eye-opening. What I found particularly interesting was the subtext that ran through both the presentation and the question-and-answer session about how various specializations/professions view and analyze information; in particular, how historians, librarians, and digital historians/humanists do so. This was especially evident when she was discussing the computer-generated and human-generated list of topics found within the documents after running them through topic modeling software. Historians may or may not find that one use of Cambodia in a document of use to them, but librarians have to list Cambodia as a subject because the associated metadata is intended to show the breadth of the document. Another interesting point I took away from the presentation was that digital methods don’t have to solely be a methodology. The use of digital methods can also be epistemological in nature. The way Micki approached her research is fundamentally different from how historians have traditionally operated. Rather than going into the archive with a prepared set of questions, Micki took all of the documents from the archive and, using digital methodologies, discovered what the documents were telling her. A question I think should now be approached is how to reconcile the epistemology of digital history with that of traditional history. Do the two have to remain separate from one another? How can we, as digital historians, make it easier for traditionally-minded historians to adapt digital methodologies into their research?

I also live-tweeted Micki’s presentation, as did other staff members at the Center. My thoughts and opinions on tweeting as a form of scholarly communication have not changed since my November post on the same topic. Twitter continues to be an excellent platform for scholars, and is an easy way to remain up-to-date with the happenings in the DH world. I especially like using Twitter for presentations and conferences because my tweets can serve as my own notes and simultaneously I am making information available to the general public.

Midterm Reflection

This semester I am working in Public Projects. Last semester, when the first year DH fellows were rotating through the division, we worked on the Histories of the National Mall and the 9/11 Digital Archive. This semester, I am continuing to work on the 9/11 Digital Archive in addition to the Papers of the War Department (PWD).

Papers of the War Department

I am assisting Ron and Megan in managing the PWD. My work includes creating transcriber accounts, protecting and exporting documents, communicating with the transcribers when needed, and raising awareness of the project through blog posts and tweets. I always find it interesting to discover why people are signing up to become transcribers, whether it’s because they are history teachers or students, conducting genealogical research, or are simply interested in the time period. I’ve finally started to gain familiarity with the MediaWiki page, having never before used a wiki page. The variety of subjects contained within the PWD is fascinating. I wrote a blog post about a document in which a poor mother was inquiring whether her son, who had served in the Revolutionary War, was due any clothing or money at the time of his death. Today I tweeted about a letter written by George Washington in which he discusses his thoughts on the commander in chief uniform.

9/11 Digital Archive

For the Archive I have been working on reviewing content and making collections public. I first worked on the 13th Anniversary Collection and the 10th Anniversary Collection. Both of these collections include personal reflections on the respective anniversaries of 9/11 in the form of pictures, audio clips, and text. I went through each item within the collections to ensure there wasn’t inflammatory content, and then made both collections public. I also wrote a blog post about the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings, which Jordan, Stephanie, and I worked on describing when we rotated through Public Projects last semester. It’s a fascinating collection, filled with interviews, reports, transcripts, and more, and I hope the blog post draws attention to that particular section of the Archive.

Currently I am working on reviewing the content of the Sonic Memorial Project, which tells the history of the World Trade Centers (WTC) through interviews, voicemails, ambient sounds, and stories. Like the PWD, I am continually amazed by the diversity of items within this collection. There’s information about and recollections from a range of people, who provide (often first-hand) insight into Radio Row, which preceded the WTC; the Mohawk Ironworkers who helped build the Towers; building stewardesses who answered questions when the WTC was still under construction and a point of controversy; artists-in-residence at the WTC; stories of love and marriage at the Towers; the Fresh Kills Landfill; and memories of 9/11.

Some of the material is shocking and saddening, like the FDNY radio transmissions from 9/11, or this compilation of WNYC’s coverage of the day and weeks following. Other items reveal how people have dealt with the events of 9/11, including this recording of a poem, and this artist’s description of her Day of the Dead art installation at the Pelham Art Center. Despite the sadness, there is a multiplicity of people who called into the Project to describe happy memories, including this doctor’s story of her engagement, which happened at Windows on the World.

Editor-in-Chief and Other Experiences

This semester, my cohort of fellows were placed into different divisions. Since we are on the accelerated one-year fellowship tract (the previous two cohorts each had a two-year fellowship), every division currently has two DH fellows. I was assigned to my first choice, the Research Division. This was the first division my cohort rotated through last semester and was a bit more technical than the other two divisions. However, I am excited to get involved in their current projects and to contribute as a member of the team. You can read my reflection on my rotation through the Research Division here.

“Catching Up”

For the first few weeks, I was familiarizing myself with various aspects of the divisions work. Even though I came into the fellowship with experience in programming and web design, I was by no means at the same level as the rest of the division. Taking a few weeks to introduce myself to the tools used in the division’s work would allow me to better understand the workflow and processes involved in the different projects.

Git and Github: The two main projects that Research is involved with are Zotero and PressForward. Both of these are programs are open source and available online in their entirety at Github.com. Github is an online repository for source code and allows for collaboration in the development process.  Currently, the Research Division is working on  releasing updated versions of PressForward. By learning how Github and git commands work, I would be able to understand how these updated versions are created, shared, tested, and released. I went through a handful tutorials on git commands from both Github and on Code School. I even created my own project repository on Github and practiced pulling and pushing files. I worked through the command line (Terminal on Mac) to communicate with Github. It was an interesting and definitely new experience. I now understand the theory of how to save various stages in the coding process and uploading them to Github. Most importantly, I can follow people’s conversations about Github or their online repositories. I am looking forward to learning more and becoming more comfortable with the process.

PHP: I came into this Fellowship with experience in a few programming languages. I had taken two programming classes in my undergraduate in C# and had some experience with HTML, CSS, and Java script from a capstone class. PressForward works a lot in a scripting language called PHP. I went through the tutorial on Codecademy for PHP and reviewed Java script as well. I didn’t come out an of the tutorials with a mastery of the language but it did teach me how to following the syntax and logic of the code. That really is half the battle in programming.  I now have a greater appreciation for programmers who have expertise in multiple languages as well. I only have a basic knowledge of a handful of languages and they are already bleeding over into each other in my mind. In spite of this, I enjoyed working with programming and want to continue to improve my skills and utilize them in my own work as well as within the Research Division.

Editor-in-Chief

The crux of my time in the division thus far has been preparing for and working as Editor-in-Chief for Digital Humanities Now. The idea of being Editor-in-Chief was a bit daunting, especially with the immediate publication that comes with the digital medium. However, I was aptly prepared and supported with my first time through.

Preparation: In the weeks leading up to my assigned time, I shadowed Amanda Regan and Amanda Morten during their weeks as Editor-in-Chief. They showed me how to format each post for publication, how to find relevant information from the Google documents, and how to email the editors-at-large. The most imposing task was to find the Editor’s Choice articles. I felt comfortable with identifying the various news items for publication but the Editor’s Choice articles are more involved and the focal point on the DHNow website. A helpful way of understanding Editor’s Choice articles, as it was explained to me, is that they should be focused around an argument or position. With this understanding, I decided to spend some time going through former Editor’s Choice articles from the previous months to better ground my judgment. As my week of Editor-in-Chief approached, I felt prepared and excited for the task.

My Week: My week started with a suggestion from Ben Schneider that I look through the nominated material the day before publication. This would allow me to gauge if we have enough material to publish or that I needed to devote time to aggregating articles. So I spent an hour or so drafting posts and prepping for the following day. I left work on Monday feeling confident that I had plenty of material for the Tuesday publication. The following morning, I returned to find that most of the material I drafted the day before was almost entirely Humanities focused with little to no digital component. Luckily I started the day early to allow for “hiccups” such as this and was able to work through and find things to publish. Thursday went a little faster, after having already gone through the entire process on my own. I was able to find, with relative ease, plenty of news items to publish for both days. Editor’s Choice articles were, however, more time consuming. In the end, I was able to publish two Editor’s Choice pieces on both Tuesday and Thursday.

Reflection: I really enjoyed being Editor-in-Chief. It was somewhat empowering to be the individual who decides what is being published. It also imbues a sense of responsibility that the posts you choose are quality in nature and relevant to the digital humanities community. Taking on this role gave me a glimpse at the vast amount of material being published on the Internet. PressForward has over 400 RSS feeds coming into the All Content page and this is only a mere fraction of the content being published daily. I can definitely see the need for programs such as PressForward to aggregate, organize, and publicize digital work. This being my first experience with online publishing, I found it to be very rewarding and encouraging. I have three more weeks to helm the Editor-in-Chief and I am looking forward to them.

Reflections on the Seminar

This blog post will conclude my first semester in the PhD program here at George Mason University. The semester moved by very quickly and it is amazing to see how much we have all learned from the fellowship. Each divisional rotation expanded my understanding of the field of Digital History as well as my own capabilities within it. Our final rotation for the semester was a seminar with Dr. Stephen Robertson. Largely focused on the recent 20th Anniversary of the Center, I was able to learn a lot more about digital history centers in general and how they function.

We started the seminar with a list of readings on Digital Humanities Centers. It was interesting to compare what we were reading to our experiences over the last four months. I was surprised to see the complexity in establishing DH Centers. Issues were raised over where the center would reside, what function would the center have, and even if creating a center is the right thing to do. I reflected on my reasoning for applying to GMU. George Mason ranked high on my list of graduate schools because of I wanted to work at CHNM.  If I knew of a professor who worked in DH but didn’t operate in a center, would that deter me from applying to that university or program? I really liked Stephen Ramsey’s post Centers are People where he articulated a preconceived notion that I had in applying to programs. He states that for many, centers are how you get into DH. However, he goes on to highlight how this isn’t always the case. These questions about centers are really interesting to me as I aim to be a collegiate professor who is also a digital historian.

After our brief crash course in DH centers, we focused the remainder of our time on the 20th Anniversary. We thought it would be a great resource if we aggregated the tweets from the two days of the conference using Storify.  Using the #rrchnm20, we went back through twitter and grouped the tweets according to the day and session of the conference. The ability to do this capped off my largely increased appreciation for twitter that I have developed over the semester. I have come to greatly appreciate it as a platform to communicate with other scholars and to disseminate information and ideas. It also, as I learned from this, a convenient and easy way to categorize and save these communications. I can truly say that I have been converted. The saved tweets can be found here.

The majority of the seminar focused on creating an Omeka exhibit for the 20th site. Having recently come out of our rotation through Public Projects, I was interested in the history of the September 11 Digital Archive. We, the first year fellows, had the opportunity to add metadata to recently received items, so I had a little experience with the archive itself. The approach I took was to contextualize the Archive with its place in CHNM’s history. How was it influenced by other projects? Did it feed into or help bring about other projects? How does a center preserve a project over time? In locating the Archive in the overall story that is CHNM, I learned a lot. I was able to explore other Digital Memory Banks that the Center has created such as Blackout History Project and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. I was able to read through the various documents for the Archive which addressed interesting points such as what to do with submission that could be falsified or blatantly racist. Also I was able to come to appreciate the magnitude of such a project and the importance of collecting history online. If you would like to see my exhibit, follow the link here.

I found the topic of the seminar, on that of DH centers and the history of CHNM, to be a great way to wrap up this whirlwind of a semester. Each of the three divisions allowed us a glimpse into the various projects CHNM undertakes and broadened my understanding of the field. The seminar allowed us to step back and take in the broader sense of centers and their functionality in the discipline. I am coming away with a greater understanding and  even more questions.

Seminar Reflection

My final reflection for the semester is on the first year fellows’ time in the seminar block. We began our first week with a group of readings on the establishment, structure, and dissolution of digital history centers in addition to readings on the history of the Center. During the discussion of the readings, we talked about the physical location of DH centers, many of which are housed within university libraries. While that seems to be a reasonable and logical choice, it is not always best for DH centers for various reasons, least of all funding. This particularly peaked my interest because, as a librarian, I can see how placing these centers within libraries would impact libraries and the services they provide to their patrons, as well as how such a location would impact the libraries internally and the DH centers.

We also worked on compiling the information and notes taken during the 20th anniversary conference. We edited the Google docs from the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions and created an archive of the Tweets from the conference through Storify. All of this work can be accessed here. I am glad we were able to re-visit the notes from the sessions, and adding a synopsis and further resources was helpful in reminding me of the breadth of discussion that occurred at the conference. It’s also been convenient since I was unable to attend all of the sessions that I wanted to, as many of them overlapped.

Finally, we began working on our final projects for the semester. I’m working on a timeline using Timeline JS that maps out the birth of various technologies, centers, projects, works of scholarship, and blogs. I wouldn’t have been able to complete the timeline if it hadn’t been for Anne, Mandy, and Jannelle’s work on DH centers, this map from Vox, and this timeline from the Pew Research Center. It has been interesting to see what has overlapped, when certain technologies came out and how that affected centers, the first digital history projects, and the birth of blogs. It’s been difficult to find a stopping point for adding information to the timeline – there is always more that can be put in, since the history of digital history encompasses so many things. For example, I know that the timeline would really benefit from a history of CMS; adding in death dates of centers when appropriate; a history of flash; a history of CD ROMs; and more DH projects from other centers. As it is, I already have over 200 entries on the timeline, and the process has proved to be very time consuming, but also fascinating and fun. I am hoping to create four pages within an Omeka exhibit that explore Firefox and Zotero; blogging technologies; open access/open source; and Who Built America. All of our final projects will be put up on the RRCHNM 20 site.