Our final rotation of the year was in the Public Projects division. We had the chance to try out Omeka S, help with Omeka testing, get familiar with Papers of the War Department, and do some research for Hearing the Americas.
One of our first tasks was to participate in testing the Editorial Plugin for Omeka. Simulating realistic scenarios required having several people work on testing at the same time and communicating with each other about what we were each doing, so the process was much more lively and enjoyable than one would normally associate with the word “testing.” Getting to discover issues as part of a group was a very satisfying experience, especially because I could see how useful this plugin will be for people working in groups. Along with this testing, I also got to play around with Omeka S and do an Omeka install on my server space. All of this was a great way to gain more familiarity with Omeka and to learn some of the features that I haven’t needed to use in the past. Doing the Omeka install, I also got to brush up on using the command line.
After a few weeks working with all things Omeka, we were introduced to the Papers of the War Department. In part, it was helpful to learn about it because I had seen others at the Center working on the project but didn’t really know much about it. But it was also helpful to see what it takes to keep a project running after it’s launched and the funding has run out. Because Papers of the War Department is a project that makes use of crowdsourcing ,we were asked to create an account and try our hand at transcribing some of the documents during our downtime from Omeka testing. As someone who studies the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, I don’t find many opportunities to transcribe eighteenth-century handwriting, but I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed it, despite how illegible it looked at first glance.
In the last few weeks, Jessica and I have been attending meetings for Hearing the Americas and getting some research done for the project. The goal for Hearing the Americas is to expose the commercial and transnational roots of jazz, blues, and country, focusing on the early years of the American recording industry. Right now, the team is still working on the planning phase (with the help of a Discovery grant from the NEH), so we were tasked with researching a few individual singers and musicians to get a sense of how much information is available in the secondary literature and in primary sources. Jessica and I split the list, and after several days spent leafing through books in the library together, we’ve surprised ourselves with how much we’ve learned and accomplished in such a short amount of time. I think our productivity has been fueled partly by how fascinating the topic is and partly by getting to work together on this. Doing academic research is usually a pretty solitary activity, so it’s been fun to be able to bounce around ideas and share interesting finds with someone. With our new knowledge on the subject, we’ve been able to contribute to the meetings and provide suggestions on important themes to pursue, so it’s been valuable to experience firsthand the challenges, questions, and conversations that shape a project in its early stages.
It’s sad to find that our time in Public Projects has come to an end and, with it, our first year of the fellowship. But thinking back on my nerves and confusion at the beginning of the year, I am proud of everything that I’ve learned and accomplished, and I am looking forward to returning next year as a second-year DH Fellow.