Prior to arriving at George Mason University, I had some experience with Digital History and as a result was familiar with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). I earned my masters degree at California State University San Marcos where I took several digital history courses. It was in these courses that I first became familiar with RRCHNM and the digital history projects that it had created. Looking at the center from the outside, it was hard to get a grasp on exactly how it operated and what kinds of things went on in the center on a daily basis.
As a Master’s student studying public history at the University of Central Florida, I often heard much about the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. I utilized several of their projects for my own research and exhibits! Who knew that my next step would be to work in the Center for my PhD at George Mason University?
Before beginning the Papers of the War Department rotation, I was mostly interested in learning about the archive itself, how the content was collected, and about the process of managing volunteers for crowdsource transcriptions. As someone who studies the history of South Africa, and who knows little about the American Revolution, I did not expect to find much content that would be particularly applicable to my own research or interests.
A significant portion of the documents archived on the Papers of the War Department site have been, or still are, located on a revisit list. This list is made up of documents that have not been completely sorted by the items, places, or people mentioned within. Because I was interested in getting a general idea of what is available in this collection, my experience with the PWD this semester mostly involved working through some of these documents. The unorganized and generally un-tagged nature of these documents, listed only by number, makes revisiting less of a specific look at a particular place, person, or keyword, and more of an exploration of the sheer variety of War Department documents in this collection.
On occasion, volunteers who transcribe documents for large collection projects can find unexpected bonuses as repayment for their time. When these projects overlap with one’s research, the transcription process uncovers minute details that might otherwise escape notice.
As Spencer and Ben have discussed, we spent the first part of this semester reviewing the educational sites constructed at CHNM, from the most dated to the most current, in a way that clearly demonstrated the effort that the Center has put into creating useful sites for educators. What this exploration of the Center’s past has also revealed, however, is the purpose of many of the tools we’ve begun to explore in the second half of the semester. The development of the education department has been an evolutionary process, one that not only streamlined the user interfaces and content presentation on these sites, but also led to the creation of tools that make the construction and use of educational sites more accessible to institutions and even individuals who need to design interactive and intelligent experiences for their members and students without access to the resources and resourceful individuals of CHNM.
For the first half of this term, we studied the various projects that have been built at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (changed in 2011 from CHNM). As our focus shifts to the tools now being designed and offered by the center, it is a good time to reflect on the history of the RRCHNM projects. Typically, digital projects at the center fall into two categories: history/teaching sites and collection sites. In this post, I’m going to discuss the former.
Over the past week we have been looking at the various generations of educational websites produced by CHNM. The first of these comprehensive sites, History Matters, hit the web in 1998, and obviously there have been major technical improvements in content management and design since then. Rather than talk about these developments, I want to discuss the way that the focus of the educational websites has evolved.
There have been some interesting discussions in the last week or so re: maintaining legacy sites and making sure 404 errors aren’t the most common decoration on your site about the history of cats during the French Revolution. The thing is, this problem has been around since…well, since Oregon Trail was the most well-known form of digital history scholarship, and there really isn’t a solution.
This week, our group met with the team behind Digital Humanities Now, an online compendium and journal that searches out and disseminates important scholarship throughout the digital humanities. Although the team has an official editorial staff of three (a number that likely fluctuates with funding), the time required to survey the many thousands of sources can quickly overwhelm even the most efficient team.