Week 15 Progress Report

On Monday evening, we turned in the first draft of our project.  On Tuesday in class, we outlined our presentation.  As we have 7 in our group, it is difficult to ensure that everyone speak on some topic that they are familiar with.  Having outlined the presentation, which we intend to practice on Thursday, we premeditated some changes we may have to make to our website.  As we couldn’t edit the website till Thursday, I made a list of all the things we wanted to tweak before we’re satisfied with the final product.

On Thursday, we met to look over our 63 corrections.  Some of our overarching issues seemed like they could be immensely complicated to fix.  We had to change the description metadata to be more precise, and then we ran into issues with our subject metadata not looking uniform.  There were some issues with spacing around the colons because not everyone followed the template Olivia and I created to a T.  While the metadata would still work perfectly well when exported, it didn’t look precise.  Thankfully, when Marianne and I went to talk to Angie after class, it turns out that she found a plug in that allows for mass editing of the metadata.  I went up to the DKC to have the plug in added to the c panel, and the bulk editor worked well after some trail and error.

We agreed that half of us would meet on Tuesday after class to deal with half the corrections, while the other half will meet on Wednesday.  Hopefully we’ll have a chance to go over it all together before turning in the final product next Friday.

Our presentation was this Friday, and it went really well.  We each spoke for a minute and a half each on a different aspect of our project that we had a large hand in.  People were impressed with the scope of the assignment, asked really good questions about the choices we made and why.  Overall I’m quite satisfied with the final product and everything I’ve learned along the way.

Week 14 Progress Report

On Tuesday, we presented our progress to the class.  As we’d used our workday to present to Luisa, our progress was not very great.  However, after class, Marianne and I met with Angie, and uploaded all the metadata from our beautifully completed spreadsheets.  She showed us exactly what they had to look like in order to upload them.  The first attempt was a little tricky, but then we realized we needed to include http:// in front of the file names.  We did a concatenation in the spreadsheet to produce the desired effect, and then our first 133 files uploaded perfectly.  For some reason it got stopped up on file 134.  Angie had to leave for awhile, so we sat with it, seeing if it would unstick or finish uploading.  In the mean time, we massively edited the website.  We discussed the background photo, the photos which needed to be uploaded to the map still, and such as that.  In that time, I completely rewrote the How to Search page, as I felt like it needed to be far more precise.  I also reorganized the menu.

After another hour, we decided to cancel the unsuccessful file upload and try again.  Angie wasn’t with us, but we created a spreadsheet with files 134-479, and tried again.  It worked!  Then we edited Olivia’s spreadsheet for the index, and attempted up upload the files.  We were utterly unsuccessful.  We discussed a number of possible reasons we could be having this issue, and decided to go to the DKC to check if all the files were in the c panel.  When we got there, we attempted to explain our issue to Abby, and midway through the explanation, I realized that we’d saved the file as an excel file, and not a CSV.  So I converted it, tried again, and finally we had all our files uploaded!  All in all, Marianne and I worked at that from 10:45 to 3:30.

On Wednesday, I began to consider how to upload all the register page urls into the map.  That’s when I realized despite our beautifully concatenated urls, the omeka urls had been randomly assigned, and were going to make the process so much trickier.  I emailed Angie to ask if there was anything to be done about it.  She said she’d look into it.  So on Thursday, in our in class work day, after dealing with a number of minor issues involving incorrect metadata and different grave numbers for the same soldier in the map and in the register, I ran over to ask Angie’s advice on our url predicament.  She said there was nothing to be done about it, and to go on as best we could.  When I got back to the group, it was assumed that I knew how the urls were to be entered into the map, when in fact, I had not put thought into it, not realizing I would be in charge of it.  In the last few moments, Marianne, Nick, Olivia, and I were assigned to enter urls into specific sections of the map.

Marianne and I went to sit in the digital lab with Angie, because that’s where Marianne could get wifi, and we spent a long long time trying to come up with the best method for accurately entering names into the map in a timely fashion.  After much trial and error, we came up with a really excellent system.  The only issue was that it didn’t include the pages with solely Unknown soldier entries.  Having spent a good hour devising the system, we spent another hour and a half entering the urls into the map.  At some point, Nick showed up for the express purpose of learning our method for url entry.  After we each completed our section, we continued to edit the website.  Marianne learned how to add photos to the site, and I began formatting the about page.  We called it quits at 3.

That evening at 6, I met with Olivia to teach her how to enter the urls.  Then on Friday, I edited Marianne’s history of the cemetery page, and added it to the website.  Over the weekend, I linked people’s websites to their about page entry.  I continued to format the pictures as they arrived.  I ensured that all our collections were public.  And on Saturday, I visited the cemetery to see what it was like.  It was a pleasant trip, and it gave me many more ideas about what to include in the How to Search Page.  All in all, that was my very busy week with regards to our project!

Week 12/13 Progress Reports

These past two weeks have been incredibly trying for our group.  We have had to make some difficult decisions about our metadata spreadsheet very quickly.  Additionally, we have had to enter all 500 pages of the register, equaling about 15,000 separate entries.  We originally only included running numbers, but decided to go back and include the grave numbers as well.  Then we got rid of the leading zero for the grave numbers (which would have made them each 5 digits) because it turns out the highest grave number is only 4 digits long.  Most members of our group entered the information for 75 pages of the register.  It took me around 20 hours of slow, careful work.  After everyone completed their section, I went back through and edited them all to ensure that there were no numbers skipped, and that everything was in order.  As there was so much information, it was unavoidable that errors were made, so I’m glad we included this editing step as it ensures greater accuracy, though it was incredibly time consuming.

We presented our work to Luisa on Tuesday and she gave us some helpful feedback!  I have completed editing the spreadsheet (except for 5 pages which have yet to be entered).  Olivia and I have finalized a lot of the language for the other metadata entries, and Abby will concatenate the file names by Tuesday.  We hope to go to Angie and batch upload the spreadsheet after class on Monday, which will be a huge relief and allow us to move forward with the rest of our project.

Five Things I Learned About My Digital Identity

  1.  My digital identity did not look the way I expected it to.  Every few years, I check up on it, and the last time I can remember doing so, about all that showed up was my high school graduation and my facebook.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this time around, the first few entries were about my achievements at college like an announcement about scholarship winners, and my internship diary for the UMW history page.
  2. It’s best to keep the digital platforms you can control up to date.  I looked at my Domain of One’s Own as an outsider would, and I really noticed how much maintenance it needed.  Until I fix it, I really hope no one stumbles across it, because there’s a lot that I want to do with it, I just forget that it’s something I should pay attention to.  If you acquaint yourself with the version of you the world can see, you’ll be better able to make sure it’s the version you want to present.  Especially in light of frequently changing privacy settings, this can be helpful to ensure that you aren’t suddenly posting something to a platform that you thought was private but is now public.
  3. I was really struck by the articles that discussed the way your information was being watched and used.  The extreme personalization of adds really freaks me out.  I found the articles discussing ways to minimize this (ad personalization in google, facebook, and amazon) very helpful.
  4. Networks can be really powerful, and not always in negative ways.  This weeks readings have given me the impulse to delete everything I can and try to hide from the unknown eyes as effectively as is possible.  But as that’s not an option, and it’s less draining to think about the benefits of the digital age.  I know I’ve often been in situations where who I know can be of real material benefit to me.  So the maintenance of digital networks can be extremely beneficial.
  5. I’ve made little progress on thinking about how to control my identity on something so vast and incomprehensible as the internet.  I’m mostly just filled with a nagging sense of fear and gloom.  I am someone who genuinely values privacy, even within my ostensibly private life.  In class we discussed the future of legislation regarding privacy on the internet.  This was my only hopeful takeaway.  At some future point, I may be able to exercise my right to vote in favor of laws that more thoroughly establish my control over my own digital identity.

Thoughts on Digital History

I found this weeks bout of readings to be incredibly interesting, especially as many of them dealt with both student and public interaction with digital history.  I was intrigued by the thought that digital history has spent a decade trading on the idea that you could do some really cool things with this program and that data and make some earth shattering argument – and yet, most digital history projects shy away from forming arguments.  I kept on trying to think of a site that refuted that idea.  I remembered one of my first experiences with the wonders of digital history.  I went to a lecture given by Don Debats who had created a really neat website called Voting Viva Voce which used census date and polling records to show how people in Alexandria and Newport voted in the 19th Century.  While the website allows you to see how bakers voted, or how Methodists voted, or how slave owners voted, or perhaps, how all slave owning Methodist bakers voted, the website does not appear to have a guiding thesis or argument.  I think I recalled that there was an argument simply because I also heard him deliver a lecture, in which he made an argument using the data provided by the website.
Dr. McClurken’s article discussed student trust or mistrust of online archives, and the ambiguity involved with online archives in which it’s not completely apparent where the sources really come from.  He also mentioned student frustration at not being able to access all possible sources, because perhaps they aren’t available on the web yet.  Having actually completed the assignment in question, in which students have to seek out a collection of primary sources to use for a paper, I can say that I was dissatisfied with the online archives.  Doing a paper on Lucretia Mott, I found that I mistrusted the online collections because the websites were a bit out of date.  Additionally, I was frustrated by the very small number of documents available in the online archive.  I quickly decided to scrap the web, and go straight for the published volumes of Mott’s collected letters and speeches, which luckily sat in our library.  However, I know not everyone was so lucky.
In Writing About History in the Digital Age, Sherman Dorn discussed the advent of digital history as an historiographical change.  While this is a very simple thought, and one probably shared by many, many people, it had never occurred to me.  I had never considered that I am going to school during a time of historiographical shift.  I suppose that’s a true statement for everyone in every age.  Subtle changes in the methodology of history occur constantly.  But it’s incredibly interesting to consider nonetheless.  It’s fascinating to think about how the expectations of this generation (digital archives being more common and freely available; digital access to all sorts of documents, artifacts, or secondary sources becoming the norm) my perhaps be normal in the future simply because it is the unrealized expectation of students now.

Week 7

On week 7, both our classes were inadvertently canceled, but our group met on both days anyway.  We were very productive, working on the map and organizing the names of the register.  On Tuesday, I spent an hour after class continuing that work.  The register was completely digitized ahead of schedule on the Friday of weeks 6, so I went in and spent an hour on Thursday ensuring that all the final blank pages were correctly labeled, and putting all the TIFF files in the same folder.  Digitizing the covers and bindings and batch converting the files to jpegs is all that remains to be done for the register.  Going forward, we need to add names to the map, upload all the register files, and hyperlink the files to the names on the map.

Renaming Files and Correcting Errors

This past week, Megan and I spent an hour changing the names of all the documents we have already digitized.  They now read FRSP_7700_running#_page#.  As I was going through many of the documents, I realized that some of the first blank pages and the index pages where not all correct.  On Thursday, I went in again and spent an hour renaming several files and checking that all the index files corresponded to their order in the register.  I discovered we were missing page 22 of the index, so I quickly digitized that page and named it appropriately before I forgot to.  Additionally, I sorted out the number and order of the blank pages.  I’m glad I took the time to double check all those pages because there were definitely errors that would have been annoying to deal with later.

Wikipedia History and Creative Commons Licences

1) Look at the History and Discussion tabs of several Wikipedia history entries and write about what you see.

I looked up one of my most beloved historical figures, Jane Austen, to see what edits on her wikipedia entry would look like.  I found that the majority were cosmetic revisions, undertaken mostly by a few dedicated individuals who continually returned to her page to touch it up from time to time.  Two that stuck out to me were A.S. Brown and Victoriaearle.  It appears that they return every few months, and for a few days, they read through and adjust the article.  All in all, there are no sweeping changes in the historiography taking place on Austen’s wikipedia page.  I went back to the edits posted on July 17th, 2017, the 200th anniversary of her death, in the hopes that they might be more fruitful, but again, the slight clarifications and adjustments of improperly used words were all that prevailed.

Deciding I wanted to view the edits of a more divisive historical phenomenon, I looked up the Black Panthers.  One of the fairly recent revisions by someone called ForeignX added “black supremacy” to the list of ideologies espoused by the Black Panthers.  This addition was quickly deleted by another user.  I realized I could look at all the revisions ForeignX had ever made.  That list was not disappointing.  The user had edited the National Youth Front page, the Social Democratic Party of Germany page, the Marine le Pen page among many others.  I decided to track down ForeignX’s revisions of the Black Lives Matter page.  ForeignX cited statistics which pertinent to white people’s perception of the Black Lives Matter movement, including that they viewed it as violent and felt that All Lives Matter was a phrase that many white people felt more comfortable with.  What intrigued me about ForeignX was that while they preserved a certain degree of anonymity, I could still ascertain their credibility based on the other additions they made.  It was a really interesting exercise in determining bias despite practical anonymity.

2) Consider what Creative Commons License you might use for your own site.  What role does copyright play in the resources you are working with this semester?

I think the best Creative Commons License would be the Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.  This licence allows other people the most leeway, letting them to copy and redistribute the material, as well as adapt it for any purpose, including commercial purposes, as long as it is properly attributed and indicates if changes were made.  The main reason I think this is a suitable license is because I don’t see anything that would be gained from including more restricting terms.  I think making the Cemetery Register as open as possible to as many people as possible is the ultimate goal, and nothing would be gained from disallowing people to use it for commercial gain or keep them from adapting the work for their own purposes.

Digitizing the Register

Two weeks ago, our group began the process of digitizing the cemetery’s register.  The volume is large and heavy, with over 500 pages.  The National Park Service would like a preservation grade digital copy.  Marianne and I sat down for an hour on February 8th to begin the process.  We ran into some difficulties because we didn’t realize we were digitizing the index section of the register, which can’t conform to the naming conventions established by the NPS.  I sent an email asking for more clarity on the naming convention, and by the next class period, in which we began our group contract, we’d reached some answers about the naming convention and how to proceed.

On Wednesday last, I sat down for 2 hours and digitized 90 pages of the register, with an hour of help from Nick.  We put a sizable dent in the work left.  I really enjoy the process of digitizing documents.  It is mechanical and repetitive, which allows me to pay more attention to the actual image being produced.  I didn’t realize how warped the spines of old books could be.  The register’s spine isn’t perfectly straight, and the glass plates of the machine have a tendency to obscure the running numbers on the right page.  I got really good at adjusting the platten, and delicately pushing the book around so that the glass fit into the crevice of the book, producing a clearer image.

We are still negotiating the appropriate naming conventions for the different types of pages within the register (blank pages, title page, index, register pages), But we have at least digitized a good portion of the material, and are on track to have at least 50% of the register digitized by the 27th.  It should be relatively easy for us to go back and rename the files when we finalize our naming conventions.

Various Digital Tools

Last semester I did an internship for the Papers of James Monroe in which I made an online exhibit using Timeline JS and actually embedded a Google My Maps in my timeline as well.  During that project, I spent a lot of time getting acquainted with those two tools and have a pretty good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are.  At first, I found Timeline JS quite daunting, but I soon got used to the format.  I didn’t like how they required you to fill out every last scrap of information (date, media contributor, all that), and I didn’t like how that you can’t italicize or underline words.  But it is methodical, and lays out the information pretty well.

My main issues with Google My Maps was that it was pretty imprecise.  I was attempting to show Monroe’s progress up and down the Chesapeake, but I could never very accurately draw a line tracing his route and have that line connect with the dot on the location he visited.

While I don’t imagine that using Timeline JS will work for the cemetery project, I do think Google My Maps is the best option for attempting to map out the cemetery.  Thankfully, you can zoom in just close enough to see the little white dots of the grave stones, and we will attempt to replicate the current hand drawn map, by dividing the Google My Map into the same sections.

The third digital tool I looked at today was Aurasma.  Using the app, I took photos of stuff around my room, and then added a pirate ship or a dragon.  Now I can make my picture of Jane Austen turn into Munch’s The Scream.  I think it’s really fun, and could be useful for certain projects, and especially to engage kids, but I don’t know how well it would work for the cemetery.  There are 3000 very similar looking graves, and it wouldn’t due to have the information get muddled because the app can’t recognize the differences between all the gravestones.  Additionally, how would the app do at recognizing grave stones in different weather?  If it’s summer when the image was taken, and snowing when someone was trying to use it, I don’t know that it would really work.