The first time I remember seriously working on Rowe Family Scrapbooks was right after librarian Angie Kemp introduced our class to the Digital Archiving Lab. Our five group members sat outside the room and discussed when and where we would like to meet to get our project started, and we all decided that we wanted to get our work done as soon as possible so that we wouldn’t be stressed during finals week. Little did we know that that one decision would pay off massively near the end of the semester.
Throughout our process, we kept a color-coded schedule, a scan list, and multiple documents meant to help us stay organized. We streamlined our process by meeting twice per week outside of class, and in class, discussing what we would do during our meetings. This made our once-daunting project much easier to handle and provided us with a guaranteed plan of attack every week.
We began by writing our contract, making sure we had an idea of what we wanted to do and iterating those ideas to Dr. McClurken. We decided that we wanted to make an archive with an emphasis on visual appeal, something that is often pushed to the wayside in historical sites. We would build our site to not only be informational, but to be fun to visit as well, with special attention to accessibility. We chose to advertise our site with a Twitterbot, as it could be automated to last longer than we wanted to manage it. Our contract did not go without revisions, however; we had to edit it about four times before it was finalized.
We continued our work in Simpson Library’s Special Collections under Carolyn Parsons’ guidance. We spent weeks going through the Rowe family’s donations, choosing what we would and would not feature on our site. This decision was difficult since we were unsure of how we were going to craft our narrative or what route we were going, though we did all agree to focus on the women in the family. This narrowed our choices down by about a third, until we finally chose the women we were going to speak about in our project: Gilmer Martin Stoffregen, Jeanette MacDonald Stoffregen, Katherine Stoffregen Wilson, and Anne Martin Wilson Rowe. We later met with two of Anne’s daughters, Jeanette Cadwallender and Florence Barnick, at Agora cafe in downtown Fredericksburg, to make sure that we were portraying their family accurately; this was easily my favorite part of the project, as I enjoyed hearing their stories.
From there, we selected our artifacts, met with Angie Kemp, and began scanning in the Digital Archiving Lab, a process that took only three hours to complete, to our surprise. We then spent a bit longer converting our preservation-grade .tiff scans to .pngs and uploaded them to our flash drives, which we took home with us once residence halls closed for the semester. We were thankful that we had decided to scan the scrapbooks early, since we had everything we had needed for our site to be created according to our original vision.
After returning home, it was time for us to focus on the site itself. We still met twice per week, this time over Zoom. Most of our work here was captioning images, as Glynnis and Erin had already built our site’s framework at this point. This took hours and was a tedious process; it was probably the most difficult part of our project, as we had to make sure that all of our information was correct and followed captioning protocol. After this, we turned toward advertising, crafting a narrative, and finishing up final bits of detail work, filling in gaps as needed. I built the Twitterbot to draw attention to our site; this was the final step to our project.
Ultimately, I feel that Rowe Family Scrapbooks is more accurate to my group’s initial vision than I could have ever expected, especially under current circumstances. I am incredibly proud of our results and the work we put in, and I hope the Rowe family is as well. Fortunately, I feel that it is safe to say that our site was a success.
Our website, “Rowe Family Scrapbooks,” is finally up and running! This past week, we went in and fixed any minor details that needed editing; this mainly consisted of fixing a few captions, remaking the family tree (multiple times), and proofreading the site. I am proud of my group and the work we did, and I really hope the Rowe family is as well. I know now is not the right time for this, of course, but I would love to meet with Florence and Jeanette again to discuss the site after its completion. I would like to hear what they have to say about the site and any changes they would like to see made, since this project is mostly for them.
I finally figured out how to make the TwitterBot! I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it because the code was too complicated, but I met with Shannon from the DKC and she helped me re-conceptualize how I was going to go about building it. She suggested that, rather than pulling random images from the site, I could manually input all of the photos and their descriptions, but still have it tweet each one randomly; everything became much clearer at that point. It took about an hour and a half to make the bot itself, and I’m very proud of it. It tweets one photo and description, as well as a link to our site, every three hours. Hopefully it will help with advertising. Check it out/follow us at @rowescrapbooks1 on Twitter!
For our final progress report, my group has once again decided to divide our individual blog posts into five topics: Piper is focusing on transcription, Glynnis has troubleshooting, Erin is handling accessibility, Emily is writing about forming a narrative, and I’m doing mine on WordPress galleries.
Yesterday, we finally uploaded our images into the NextGen Gallery, as we had planned to do for awhile. Unfortunately, we found that NextGen places descriptions, rather than captions, over top of the photos, and some of our photographs were completely covered by their descriptions. As a result, we played around with a few options and eventually decided that it would be better to use WordPress’ default galleries and link the images to attachment pages because it would show both our captions and descriptions without covering our images. In fact, we actually prefer the way the default galleries look.
As a general update, today we went through and tied up any loose ends we could find, such as improving accessibility, providing links to other parts of the site, and making sure everything is placed logically. Emily and Glynnis also worked quite a bit on forming a narrative. As of right now, all we need to do is finish our narrative, fix our family tree, add anchor links to “Me and Mine,” finish our “Contributors” page, and create our TwitterBot. We are very happy that our website is coming together as it is, since it’s exactly what we had envisioned and planned on before we were sent home for the remainder of the semester.
This week in class, we learned about digital identities and created our own portfolios. Things have been alright overall, but I’ve definitely found it hard to keep up motivation on our project, and I think my group is feeling the same way. I’m thankful that we’re still working in groups, though, because the bi-weekly meetings really help me to feel some sense of regularity and social connection. Our deadline is approaching, though we don’t have a ton left to do: on my part, all I have left is creating the twitterbot, adding photos to the NextGen gallery, and editing the narrative, though I can’t edit until we’ve written our biography of Anne Martin Wilson. My group’s been doing a really good job at staying in touch and keeping up with their work, and I think we all make a good team.
I originally created my portfolio because I needed it for a summer internship I was applying to. It consists of a photo of myself, a short description of my career goals, and a couple of my favorite digital art pieces that I’ve done (a series of illusion cinemagraph gifs). It’s not completely cohesive, as I was only given a week to complete the application and I didn’t have a portfolio yet, so I slapped something together with materials I already had. I think it paints me in a somewhat fun, but professional light, and it showcases my personality as well as a minimalistic blog can.
Here’s the link: http://portfolio.madyslife.com/blog/uncategorized/madyson-a-may/
For our progress report, my group has once again decided to divide our individual blog posts into five topics: Piper is focusing on transcription, Glynnis has captioning, Erin is handling future scheduling and communication, Emily is writing about research, and I’m doing mine on photograph identification.
Not much has changed in the past week as far as our project progress goes, though we have focused more on the website directly, doing things such as captioning, transcription, and accessibility work. While I was attempting to help Glynnis caption earlier this week, however, I noticed that some of the people in a set of photos we had scanned were unidentified. This put a damper in our plans to finish captioning that day, so I emailed Angie to see if she might be able to identify the figures. She messaged her co-worker Sarah, another librarian, who provided us with the needed information within the day. We should be able to complete our captioning tomorrow, as long as everything continues to go to plan.
This week, we were tasked with writing five lessons we learned from five different articles we read about digital identity. I chose to look at “How to See What the Internet Knows About You (And How to Stop It)” by Tim Herrera, “Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics” by Bonnie Stewart, “Controlling Your Public Appearance” by Danah Boyd, “Personal Branding in the Age of Google” by Seth Godin, and “Professors, Start Your Blogs” by Dan Cohen. Here are the five lessons I took away from them:
The Internet Knows More About You Than You Think It Does
This one may seem to be somewhat obvious, but I didn’t realize how incredibly unaware I was of the extent the internet knew about me until I read Herrera’s piece. In it, he provides links to sites such as “Click” and “Webkay” that are able to display basic info about a user’s online activity such as location, IP address, social media logins, and even photo metadata. This insight proves why internet presence is so important to self-monitor: anyone can find your data, and you might not even know they’re doing it.
Digital Identities Are A Sum Of The Selves
You have a choice in how you present and act online, and this can translate into your online persona. Stewart’s article argues that each person exhibits six selves within their digital identity: the Performative Self, the Articulated Self, the Participatory Self, the Asynchronous Self, the PolySocial Self, and the Branded Self. Each self acts in a different way online, and you may present one or all of them; the important part, however, is that each of these selves add up to your one, individual digital identity.
Be Proud Of Your Digital Identity
Or in other words, make your digital identity something you can be proud of. Boyd’s article points out that an individual’s online persona not only can have real-world consequences, but can be much more easily-accessible than most of us realize. Ever find yourself show up in the Google search results after posting a comment on a blog? It can happen. That MySpace profile you made when you were 13? Yup, that’s still visible too. Boyd says that the only real ways that you can monitor your digital identity, at least in terms of what others can see, is to create an intentional online identity, only post things you don’t mind others seeing, and post often to bury old information.
Your Digital Identity Can Come Back To Haunt You
In the same vein as the previous lesson, albeit much more career-focused, Godin’s post displays that your digital past– whether you’ve since changed or not– can be revealing. Employers can and will look for you online, so make sure your online self doesn’t shoot your future self in the foot, no matter how hard it may be to resist.
Blogs Aren’t Just For The Internet-Obsessed
Cohen’s 2006 article urges professors to begin writing blogs, and for good reasons. They’re great sources of information output for academics to share with the world, they’re no longer solely anonymous, blogs aren’t difficult for the busy to maintain, and they can be used as passion projects for those who want something creative to do on the side. Though this article was written 14 years ago, a lot of its information still holds true, in that blogs have become much more accessible and much less stigmatized in the recent past.
This week, our class read a number of web essays that discuss the evolution of Digital History in terms of how it has affected historians. Common themes I found within these readings include a new emphasis on methodology rather than ideology, the field-defining push toward accessibility, and moderately diminishing societal fears of illegitimacy that come with the shift toward digital media.
Though in the past historians have focused their energy on forming arguments surrounding historical events and details, there has been a recent gravitation toward more technical aspects of the field. Rather than analyzing, focus shifts to digitally archiving; this is because it is easier to pitch methodology than an argument. A move towards ensuring deliverable products has allowed digital history to remain within the public’s attention and continue to innovate in the internet age, though it does have its own set of weaknesses. These are best exemplified in Cameron Blevins’ 2016 debates in Digital Humanities, where they discuss both the upsides and downsides of this shift, as well as what it may mean for the future of digital history. They call for a return to argumentation as a supplement to digitization, as they believe that this new approach creates a rift between technologically-enhanced historical projects and academic scholarship, and in turn, waters down the purpose of recalling history to begin with.
Sheila Brennan’s 2016 debates in Digital Humanities brings to light our second theme: a recent emphasis on increasing accessibility as a means to define digital history as a field. In her essay, Brennan separates the ideas of “public history” and “digital history” by emphasizing the importance of utilizing tools in ways specific to one’s audience within digital products, as she believes that digitization must have purpose. Ensuring user-friendliness and accessibility are key within the field, as these aspects are more important than advertisement, viewership, or amount of attention garnered. Jeffrey McClurken’s “Waiting for Web 2.0” tracks the changes present in archival systems from the perspective of a historian and professor, once again noting an increase in speed and accessibility over time, provided through databases and primary source collections.
Along with recent shifts toward methodology and accessibility in digital history come a decrease in worries about the illegitimacy of digital projects and sources. Subscription-based journals and peer-reviewed publishing sites are legitimate sources, but have not always been seen as such; nowadays, however, universities have moved toward subscribing to and teaching students how to use online databases and research, as Sherman Dorn argues for in his 2012 review of “Is (Digital) History More Than an Argument About the Past?”. In addition, sites like the AHA Guidelines and the Journal of American History’s Guidelines for reviewing digital humanities projects contribute to the legitimacy discussion, as they provide criteria for evaluating the quality of online resources.
As digital history continues to grow as a field, its constantly-evolving nature poses new challenges for historians who either choose to work within the medium or oppose it. While these shifts may encourage more audience interaction and participation, they can sometimes be overwhelming for those not used to digital media. Despite this, historical projects increasingly continue to become seen as legitimate and accessible; perhaps this means that this new era of scholarship could one day become new tradition.