Digital History Review (1/22/20)

For this review, I visited Rosenzweig Prize Recipient blogs “American Panorama” and “What’s On the Menu?“, university history sites “Gilded Age Plains City” and the “Emilie Davis Diaries“, and the Journal of American History-reviewed “Mapping Early American Elections“. I chose these sites because their titles caught my interest, and I am pleased to say that most of them kept it.

Initially, I found “American Panorama” to be the most immediately interesting of the sites due to its sleek design. The site features a variety of maps of different periods in American history, plotting elections, travels, and demographics. The maps on the site are interactive as well; this is a choice that I’d like to take on my own project. Overall, this was my favorite of the sites, as it is effective in its job and is incredibly easy to navigate; the only thing it seems to lack is an abundance of content.

“What’s On the Menu” I found to be a close second in my ranking. At first, I was caught by the name; then, as I began exploring the site, I realized how in-depth the menu analyses are. Each menu lists menu items, price, and the most popular dishes at the time; as a result, the site lends itself well to comparison and contrast between time periods. I found it to be a fascinating subject, and though the site isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, the site’s developers make it clear that they continue to work to improve the website.

I did not find “Gilded Age Plains City,” the “Emilie Davis Diaries,” and “Mapping Early American Elections” to be particularly visually stimulating, but there are design aspects of each that I appreciate and may consider using in my own project. “Gilded Age,” features wiki-like pages that go into detail on nearly every question or concern that a reader may have, such as “Who’s Who” and a “Glossary of Terms“. It also features a non-embedded, typed-in timeline, which doesn’t look quite as clean as if it were the product of a developed, third-party tool, but is still somewhat effective. I appreciate how the “Emilie Davis Diaries,” are very simple and straight-to-the-point, featuring only page numbers, a small info blurb, a tag cloud, and the diary pages. Pages 3 and 4, however, happen to be glitched; the page numbers at the top, (which can be used to flip between pages), disappear, preventing further exploration of the diary. “Mapping Early American Elections” is incredibly user-friendly and easy to navigate. It is mainly comprised of essays with illustrated maps to go along with them. There aren’t many negatives to this site, as it does what it sets out to do effectively, but in comparison, “American Panorama” does it better.

Omeka Site Reviews

Welcome to the first of my many site reviews! I’ve decided to review “A Shoebox of Norwegian Letters” and the “Square Dance History Project” this time around, which both use Omeka to host and build their sites. I ended up gravitating more towards hobbyist sites, as that is most likely what I will use Omeka for in the future.

A Shoebox of Norwegian Letters

Though the “About” page on the site describes its purpose in much more detail, “A Shoebox of Norwegian Letters” makes available multiple series of letters sent between two long-lost relatives. They have been translated from Norwegian and published online in order to archive and preserve the letters, as well as make the family’s story available to the public. I chose this site because it is similar to my group’s project, wherein we digitize scrapbooks in order to tell the Rowe family’s history.

The site is organized in a way that allows the reader to choose in which order they read the letters; readers can sort by chronological order, tags, location, or by author. Offering each of these options is very helpful, and I’d like to take this into consideration when working on my own project; however, the number of categories on the front page feels a bit bulky. If my group were to use this idea for our scrapbook project, I would instead suggest including a “Sort By” drop-down menu on a page that includes every artifact. Overall, though, the site is somewhat easy to navigate and explores a unique topic.

The Square Dance History Project

Though square dance has been a part of American history for decades, the “Square Dance History Project” is one of the only websites to document its conception and evolution. This issue is quite common in the field of Digital History; many subjects, especially if the people involved are or were of a lower socioeconomic class, go undocumented. Therefore, the “Square Dance History Project” is vital to understanding an often unnoticed part of American history.

Much like that of “A Shoebox of Norwegian Letters,” the organization of this site offers many ways for readers to sort through artifacts, namely by subject, item, or exhibit. This site, however, has a more colorful and aesthetically pleasing design and includes many photos, videos, and audio clips. Because of the included media, it is a lot easier to become immersed in the “Square Dance History Project”. I also find it to be a lot easier to navigate than the first site, and the topic relates to a greater range of people.

Intro

Hello! My name is Mady May, and I am a Communication and Digital Studies and Studio Art double-major. I decided to take HIST 428 because I have an interest in digital rhetoric and how it might be used to influence the public’s views on history, just as textbooks have before. I also am hopeful to learn to use new programs and tools as resume-builders, and I am excited to work in the Fredericksburg community as well.

The difference between Digital History and Digital Humanities seems to be that Digital History is a subset of Digital Humanities, specifically catered towards historians and their students. Digital Humanities, the overarching field, aims to digitize educational tools for common use, often appearing in the form of blogs, databases, and open-sourced tools. Digital History is less prevalent than many other subsets of Digital Humanities because historical primary sources often go unpublished; this means that digitizing these sources for public use, (especially through new visualizations), is vital to our cultural understanding of history overall.