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.


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.