Week 11- Citizen Archivist

Go to the National Archives and Records Administration Citizen Archivist website and experiment with one of the tasks.  Blog about your experience and the Citizen Archivist project as a whole.

Citizen archivist seems to be on it’s way to becoming one of the most user-friendly forms of primary source access on the web, with “on it’s way” being a key part of that claim. The way they are able to engage amateur historians in the transcription of sources by labeling them as “missions”is a great way to promote digital history and encourage contributions. It will also lead to more user friendly ways to search for primary sources, an issue which has plagued digital historians for the past two decades.

The layout is easy enough to navigate, with small thumbnails with images and topics, a plethora of primary source documents to choose from, and filters to narrow down a search. There is still plenty of work to be done though, especially from the users, to transcribe and completely digitize the resources on this website. One might wonder if the materials on the website are those that are really top priority for digitization, or if there is a large enough variety of material types, as many of the materials available to transcribe seem repetitive, like the dozens of applications for enrollment.

I specifically focused on the sources related to “applications for enrollment.” While there are plenty of materials to transcribe, many seem limited in their geographic and historical scope, mostly consisting of materials in the early 20th century from the Kansas City, Missouri region. This greatly limits the use of the filter toolbar, since most of the options to filter only consist of one time or place, making filters irrelevant. Some of the other activities, like the “exploring space” mission, did have a wider range of dates and locations.

Week 11- Social Media

Compare your digital persona to that of the bloggers and twitterstorians you have been following since the beginning of the semester.  How do you present yourself online?  How would you attract attention to your digital products? How can you harness the power of Web 2.0 to engage with and use your audience?

Week 10 Blog Post- Space, Time, and Place

Examine in detail at least one historical GIS project (e.g., HyperCities, Digital Harlem, Mapping the Republic of Letters, Virtual Jamestown). On your blog, discuss how this project contributes to historical scholarship

Wow! All of these projects, but Virtual Jamestown for my purposes in particular, blend geography and history in an engaging way I have never seen before! I have already incorporated the material from Virtual Jamestown into my seventh grade classroom, as my students have never had such a way of understanding how the world as they know it has changed over time. This program puts images and locations into students minds to go along with the information they are learning from the curriculum, which makes learning easier, more enjoyable, and more sustainable!

The preview of the 3-D exhibit of a Paspahegh village is like taking a virtual field trip to locations my students would never be able to interact with if it were not for this technology. As a Title I school we are often limited to local, cost-effective trips, and many students never go far beyond the boundaries of Hartford county. This can make it especially difficult to teach students about large concepts of geography, time, environment, or culture, as most of their information on other locations have come from entertainment media.

What I love MOST about the Virtual Jamestown site, and I believe every historical scholarship program should include this, is the link for educators to lead them to educational resources. Not only does the site provide interactive materials to explore, but provide related materials that I can incorporate into the classroom. Even better, the vast majority of these sources are primary sources, which my students do not get as much practice reading and deciphering. This blends primary images, maps, timelines, letters, records, and politics that reaches all dimensions of the social studies framework for Connecticut and the country. Very useful!

Week 9-Podcasts

Check out one or more of the podcasts listed below or one of your choice.  Write a blog post about how podcasting can be used to extend a public history audience.

Podcasts offer a new way to spread historical information, claims, and theories to this upcoming age of millennials as a 21st century platform. As TedTalks, NPR, and social media rules the age of information, so must historians adapt to fit today’s audience. What historians must do, however, is find a way to engage their audience and draw listeners to their Podcasts, because let’s face it, not many people will listen to a history lecture during their morning commute.

As far as using podcasts as sources of information, there are many limitations which could cause podcasting to fall by the wayside to traditional academic journals. When looking for specific information it is more convenient for someone to search for key terms within a text, rather than listening through podcasts for information. Quoting is more difficult as well, as it may require multiple listens to perfect the quote, and can be misinterpreted based on voice inflections. Also, it can be harder to delve further into a topic since citations won’t be as readily available to access, nor can they be readily checked for accuracy while listening to a Podcast.

For the avid history buff, however, podcasts offer a more mainstreamed way of incorporating history in media. The success of the History channel has shown that history based media does have a place in society, and needs to adapt with changing forms of communication. Depending on who is conducting these Podcasts, their credibility and credentials, it can be effective if it is done correctly.

Week 8 Discussion- Wikipedia

Analyze three related Wikipedia pages (they can be on WWI or a subject of your choice).  Discuss the debates that are raised in their “talk” sections.


I, admittedly, have previously fed in to the Wikipedia trepidation and misunderstanding by telling my middle and high school students they are not to use Wikipedia in their research. In years past have forbade it from being cited, have closed Wikipedia tabs on student laptops, and have marked students down for paraphrasing from a Wiki page.

I, like many others, have looked down upon the site, not truly understanding it’s beneficial purposes and it’s use for what it is. That being said, I was equally hypocritical, as I would often brush up on topics by doing a quick search on wikipedia, gaining the basic facts, then doing further research once I had a reasonable foundation of knowledge to build upon.

What I had not realized, and what was discussed in the readings for this week, is how much time contributors spend editing Wikipedia pages, how stringent the requirements for secondary source citing are, as discussed by Messer-Kruse in “The Undo Weight of Truth on Wikipedia,” and how effectively it is being used in classrooms. I had also learned how students can go to Wikipedia to find sources in the citations of Wikipedia, as there are many links to quality academic publications in the citations, with a great commentary on the article right in the wiki page.

Most recently I have evaluated Wikipedia pages on Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Thurgood Marshall as I prepared for a civil rights lesson in my classroom. I found the pages to be surprisingly detailed, well organized in it’s congruity and layout, appropriately chronological yet focused on the important issues, and most important they were effective in their purpose. Searching for information that is appropriate for an audience with a middle/highschool level of background information is extremely difficult on most academic search engines. While I wouldn’t suggest wikipedia as an extensive source of knowledge for a graduate student of history, it is effective in conveying information to the casual student of history.


Week 7 Blog Post

Reflect on this week’s readings. What elements do you consider important for making a website attractive and functional? Give examples of model websites.

This week’s readings shows why now, perhaps more than ever before, it is imperative that historians be able to accurately describe primary sources in the correct context for the casual student of history. Cohen and Rozenweig note that, “digitization turns the ‘gradations that carry meaning in analog forms’ into precise numerical values that lose at least a little bit of that meaning” and counteract that statement by saying, “if you gathered just one “bit” of information…you would be able to represent that detail only as black or white, which would be highly distorting for a work by Monet. But with 24 bits , you would have millions of colors at your disposal and could thus better approximate” (Cohen and Rozenweig). While this comparison between quality of digital artifacts is true, what is even more important is the context in which a historian places the works. From titles, captions, keywords, and descriptions, the educational impact of a primary source is highly dependent on the work of a historian be able to effectively place the item.

Based on websites we have seen in Omeka, as well as what we have learned from our guest speakers it is clear that the best designed websites are clearly organized, have a specific sequence, are clearly labeled, and make logical sense alongside the other items in it’s collection. Items placed sporadically in random orders on a page, or items that are not placed in folders within the collection, create confusion and misconceptions. The items may been seen in a way not intended, or someone searching for materials may come across items they were not trying to find, causing them to do extra work to find the right information. We must be diligent to have a coherent order to the exhibit, or it will lose it’s purpose and value.

Week 5- Omeka Showcase Comparative Piece

While the majority of the collections available on the Omeka Showcase were centered on traditional history, two showcases in particular caught my eye and peaked my interest; The Alliance Community Collections and the Grad Stories collection from the University of North Dakota. The two sites don’t appear to have much in common, but both sites contain collections that help paint a vivid story of culture and community between various times and locations despite neither focusing solely on traditional history.

The Alliance Community Collection is comprised of ten collections, ranging from community and family based content set in the Chicago area, to cultural items from Dominican-American, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Swedish, Ethiopian, German, Japanese, and Chinese cultures. Each collection offers a unique insight into the specific cultures, detailing images of musical instruments, food, dance, prayer, games, clothing, education, and more. These artifacts range from 19th century to modern, and cover a wide range of thought provoking images. I can picture using this collection in my middle school classroom to teach about diversity, culture, tolerance, and awareness as it displays how diverse a city can be and how different cultures contribute to a modern community.

The “Grad Story” collection from the University of North Dakota is as simple as the title implies; It is one collection of 39 entries, written by current and former grad students from UND. While most entries were written by individuals born within the past thirty years, the authors come from a wide range of different areas from Cameroon, Brazil, Burkina Faso (West Africa), Ecuador, Tawain, and more along with students native to the United States of America. It was interesting to first browse the Alliance Community Collection to separately browse for displays of cultural heritage, and then read the personal stories of modern students blending together from different parts of the world and reading their perceptions of American society. The “Grad Story” collection offers a few different range of perspectives. For undergrad or secondary school students, it provides insight into what one can expect beyond a bachelors degree. For others, it is a unique insight into a modern “melting pot” of diverse student backgrounds, and how diverse cultural settings lead to successful individuals in modern society.

Week 4- Should scholarship be free?

Reflections on the week’s materials.  In particular consider the question raised by Roy Rosenzweig about whether scholarship should be free.

Roy Rozenzweig makes a compelling case for free access to government-funded research, especially for use in scholarly pursuits. I, for one, agree that scholarship should be free and view such material as falling under the “fair-use”  category, whether being accessed for free for historical research, or being used to publish scholarly works.

Access to information should not be limited to only those who can afford it. Teaching in a school with a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds has shown me that students can become engaged, focused, and produce serious works of historical research regardless of their background. To deny students access to equal information due to their ability to afford such access is not only nonsensical, but highly immoral and discriminatory.

One cannot make the argument that students of history must pay for quality sources in order to provide funding for such research, since Rozenzweig points out, “it actually costs more to maintain the gates that lock out potential readers than it would to open these works to the world” (Rozenzweig). That such a conscious effort is being made to lock out readers from access to information, and that it is actually costing money to conceal this information, is an absolute travesty.

While there is certainly no shortage of information available on the internet, it becomes more of an issue of quality vs quantity when researching history. Students must now be taught how to identify amateur articles, bias, misinformation, propaganda, myths, technologically altered works of history, plagiarized works, information presented in the wrong context, and how to decipher fact vs fiction in works of history based entertainment. With this range of quality in articles found in a simple google search, it is more important than ever to have free access to government funded researcfh.

Week 3- Web based Research

Discuss how the Web impacts the way you do historical research. How does it change the way you think about sources? Are there qualitative differences between using digital archives and more traditional analog sources?  Why or why not?

Week 2 Blog Post-Defining Digital History

How does the medium of the World Wide Web change the practice of doing history? Is Digital History qualitatively different from History?

Advances in technology over the past two decades have drastically changed the practice of historical research, record keeping, and access to primary and secondary sources. With the shift towards digital record keeping and research also comes a change in the key issues for historical research, from limited access to information to a sudden exhaustive number of sources to sift through to determine their quality and relevance.Weller notes a few key issues with adapting to digital record keeping, noting that with the influx of information being stored keeping all of these records in a sustainable way is not feasible; that technology is constantly changing and adapting  which forces older digital records to be updated in order to be used on new computer systems; that more secondary sources being written by individuals that are not professional historians; and copyright issues on certain files and websites restrict ability to store in a digital archive.

While the concerns with the internet’s role in the practice of history is justified, the positive impact of the digital age on historian’s practice far outweighs the negatives. Universal access to information has created a system in which historians can analyze history from various locations without having to travel to their area of focus in order to examine artifacts. A historian can, for example, examine the far reaching effects of British imperialism without having to travel to all areas impacted by British imperialism. Information can be sorted, searched, found, and streamlined using digital databases as opposed to libraries, and can be sifted through and read without fear of deterioration over time. Whether emphasizing preservation of information as Weller does, or focusing on the  positive educational impact of digital archives as Cohen & Rosenzweig and Turkel have done, the positive impact of the new age of digital history will be seen for years to come.