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


Down the Rabbit Hole with Alternate Reality Games

I’ve had several encounters over the past few years which have revealed to me the myriad possibilities of conveying history through gaming. As a child at heart who loves to play, Bryan Alexander’s chapter, “Chaotic Fiction; or, Alternate Reality Games,” in his work The New Digital Storytelling caught my attention.

Scholars of history are sometimes hesitant about the benefit history-themed games can have for teaching history. They are concerned that the presentation of history through gaming, where altered outcomes may result, will skew students’ understanding of the past. But Alexander’s chapter has shown me how alternate reality gaming can be an excellent way to teach historical research skills in a National Treasure fashion, compelling players to uncover evidence from primary source material that leads at some points to dead ends, and at others to more information that unlocks more of the story. Users treat the story like a mystery, using their critical thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills to determine where to look next. 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 Physiognotrace of 1802: A New Democratic Self-Portrait Machine

In our age, we assume that “new media” is the latest digital means to improve communication, accessibility, and functionality in our lives. We expect that this new media will replace the old, making it obsolete. But the book New Media: 1740-1915 explores new media that are now old, and the meanings that are imbued within these media. The second chapter, “Heads of State: Profiles and Politics in Jeffersonian America,” by Wendy Bellion, examines the development of a new artistic and visual medium, the physiognotrace.[1] The physiognotrace was a silhouette-making machine that an individual could operate without assistance to trace his or her own profile.

“Explanation of Mr. J. I. Hawkin’s Physiognotrace,” drawn by Charles Wilson Peale for Thomas Jefferson, 1803

Read more