Digital Assessment: eHistory

Today’s digital project assessment focuses on the challenges of adherence to digital projects’ missions, maintenance, and sustainability. This week, as I searched for a digital humanities project to review, I stumbled across the work of Claudio Saunt, who had posted a GIF showing the growth of the African population alongside the European population in North America before 1790.

As I was exploring Saunt’s work, I discovered eHistory, a University of Georgia online collection of several digital history projects that Saunt and Stephen Barry founded and developed in 2011. eHistory seeks to involve “citizen historians,” that is, the broader public beyond those who study history in academia, in a series of “citizen histories” for a public audience that “better reflects the way knowledge is created and consumed in our increasingly digital world.” Rather than focusing exclusively on one of these projects intensely, I have chosen to evaluate a selection of the projects both to highlight some of their individual merits and shortcomings and to provide myself a more expansive glimpse into several different ways scholars are incorporating digital humanities into the field of history. While I was initially excited by what the site had to offer, I increasingly encountered disappointments. I chose the following three sites to highlight the different ways people can use digital history either as a research tool or a way to display historical knowledge, as well as to highlight issues of quality and management. Read more

Bridget’s Sisters: A Play made Digital

For our upcoming online exhibit about Evanston women and the 19th Amendment, Maggie, Fazila, and I are constructing a video recording of a play by Evanston suffragist Catharine Waugh McCullough, highlighting the script of the play we feature in our collection. The play is a fictionalization of a true story about the organization of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association. Because we are using Tiki-Toki as an entryway to the site, due to its ability to situate Evanston women’s contributions to the women’s rights movement on a timeline in a state and national context, we will feature the video on the date that the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association was established. A description of the play and the event on which it is based will be present alongside the video. A “find out more” link will direct users to our Omeka site, where we are using Timeline JS to trace the life of the play’s creator, Catharine Waugh McCullough, alongside the contributions of other Evanston women’s rights advocates (find out more about this from Maggie’s blog post). We will highlight elements of Catharine McCullough’s story as a part of our social media campaign (more on this from Fazila!).

Above: Copy of Bridget’s Sisters: A Play by Catharine Waugh McCollough, courtesy of the Evanston History Center and the Evanston Women’s History Project. Read more

Access at a Price

This past year, Colonial Williamsburg worked to relaunch its website on a new platform at the domain history.org (not to be confused with the History Channel’s history.com!). In addition to providing information for tourists interested in planning a trip to the living history village, the site also seeks to achieve educational outreach goals by providing a host of digital materials for researchers, learners, and history enthusiasts of all ages. Some of these resources are free and publically accessible. Others, however, require a paid subscription (although some opportunities are available to subsidize these costs). Within some tabs, educational opportunities are mixed with endeavors to advertise and sell products. Sometimes these commercial impositions unexpectedly inhibit open exploration of the site, though they are a clever means for an institution dependent on income to sustain such an incredible physical and online presence.

The site has an almost overwhelming array of tabs to choose from, putting information at an explorer’s fingertips. Some of these include: Read more

Visualizing Women’s Suffrage

As Maggie, Fazila, and I work to digitize collections for our final project, an online exhibit featuring Evanston neighborhood women’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, I consider how I can use tools like Photoshop to enhance the quality of images we digitize. Having used photo-editing services such as Gimp, Picasa, and Paint to crop and sharpen photos for a brief documentary video before, I have learned that editing can go a long way to improving the visibility of a photographed or scanned document or image, but can take a lot of time and effort. Often, the digitized format for sources needs some enhancement before its online presentation: scans are often washed out and need sharpening, while photographs of collections often need straightening, cropping, and sharpening to correct glare and other issues. I am curious to see what features Photoshop has to offer when we experiment with it in class next week. Here are some raw images I hope to enhance as a result: Read more

The Virtual Bookshelf: Shelfari and Goodreads

This week our blog assignment is to write a brief history of a social networking site listed on Wikipedia. Seeing Shelfari, a virtual bookshelf-sharing site for book-lovers, on the list, I thought, “Oh good, I love Shelfari, I’ll pick that!” Much to my alarm, when I clicked on the Wikipedia page, I saw the following statement: “Shelfari continued to function as an independent book social network within the Amazon.com family of sites until January 2016, when Amazon announced on Shelfari.com that it would be merging Shelfari with Goodreads and closing down Shelfari.” Luckily, Amazon provided users an easy option to save their booklists for their own records, as well as to migrate their booklists to a Goodreads account. I quickly hopped onto Shelfari, saved my booklist, created a Goodreads account, and started the merge. My mini-emergency serves as an important reminder for public historians who use digital programs to store and share material that digital platforms often have short lifespans. But first, a history of the two sites: Read more

Museum 2.0: Caveats and Considerations

Ready to dive into a new online history project? You may want to pause for a second and make sure that you’ve considered all of the effort it will take before you begin. If you haven’t fully assessed all of the work necessary to complete a successful digital history project, you may be unpleasantly surprised when issues keep seemingly popping up. As a part of my Public History New Media course, I will be working with classmates to design an online exhibition. In preparation for beginning the project, I consider here some of the challenges we may face as we compose and complete the digital exhibit. Here are some “things to consider” when contemplating whether to take on the endeavor of beginning a digital project: Read more