I came into this course very ignorant of digital studies, since I had never taken a digital studies course and am not very technologically savvy, but I feel that I came away with a greater understanding of digital tools and the significance of digital history. One aspect of digital history that had not occurred to me before taking the course was how digital history projects can make history more accessible for anyone. In this day and age, an internet connection can enable people from around the world with different backgrounds and education levels to access academic historical work. As a history major, I can take this knowledge with me as I continue my studies and could use digital tools to share history with broader audiences in the future. I was initially intimidated by the prospect of creating a digital project, but I learned a lot and have a new appreciation for digital studies and digital history. I am proud of the product my group members and I created, and I no longer feel as intimidated by digital tools.
For me, researching about the name changes of the University of Mary Washington institution was the easy part of the project. I enjoy diving into a topic, finding sources, and constructing text about the findings, so I was able to research quickly and effectively for my designations of the project. However, I was intimidated by LibGuides, and I had to learn how to use the platform relatively quickly. Some aspects, such as editing to input text, were not intuitive, and even toward the end of the semester, I would still frequently hit the wrong edit button. It was also confusing to me that putting in links did not immediately hyperlink them, which is a feature I am used to on other platforms. I particularly struggled with inputting images, since they were all different sizes, but I eventually figured out how to implement them without it looking completely overwhelming. Alyssa also suggested using a gallery feature for the pages in which I wanted to put multiple photographs, which worked out much better than my previous attempts. Ultimately, by the end of the semester, I became fairly knowledgeable about the workings of LibGuides and would feel comfortable working on that platform again in the future.
I think we followed our contract well. We met our mission, which was to create a location for resources about the University of Mary Washington’s name change and time as a college in the University of Virginia system so that our institution’s history could be more accessible for others, especially alumni. I also think it was good that we split the project into two smaller projects to better handle the information. The division of labor into two different parts of the project enabled us to do more with the project as a whole. Generally, we stayed well on track of our schedule and were even head of schedule at times, but we did hit some unexpected snags, such as creating and embedding the timeline, that occasionally put us a little behind schedule. Trello was definitely helpful in making sure that we were still hitting deadlines and, since our group was comprised of two smaller groups, keeping track of the other group’s deadlines too, holding each other accountable, and to ensure that we would reach the deadlines set for the entire group as a whole.
Throughout this semester, I researched, gathered research, dealt with archives, learned how to use LibGuides, and wrote the pages about the history of the naem changes and the changing of the institution’s presentation/marketing alongside the name changes via mascots and logos. I put a lot of time and effort into this project, and I am proud of what we have managed to accomplish.
However, I am a perfectionist, so there are still some elements on our website that I would have liked to change or improve, if I had had more time.
I learned a lot about digital history, aspects of public history, and the curation of digital projects this semester. Through this course and project, I gained greater insight into how the discipline of history can reach broader audiences using digital tools, which will stick with me as I continue my history degree and as I enter the workplace. Before beginning this project, I considered myself unfamiliar and uncomfortable with digital tools, and while I am still not very technologically savvy, I am grateful to have learned the background of digital history and the basics of some digital tools, technology, and methodology.
I think we are in a pretty good spot, but there are still some things we need to do.
All that I have left, personally, is to finish off the school spirit page, in which we share information about how the school’s marketing, logos, and mascots have changed alongside the name changes. I will also continue to update the bibliography. I have also added images to the website, although I am not completely happy about how they look, so I may keep tinkering with it.
We also need to bring the two groups together to complete the home page of the website. We have a general plan and outline for it, but have not actually started adding the information, about us and the general project, to it.
In the readings I read, a significant change for historians regarding the increasingly digital world was the increased access to archives and primary sources. These sources are abundantly available online, often for free, to a possibly detrimental effect, since the sheer number can be overwhelming. Today, a historian could do all their research digitally, and anyone around the world with access to the Internet can also access these archives and historians’ digital projects, such as the Digital History reader, which increases accessibility to knowledge and academics. This accessibility also creates an overlap between digital history and public history, expanding the audience due to the Internet’s wide-reaching scope.
However, the digital world has also affected how historians evaluate scholarship. The AHA’s guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship argues that historians in digital studies should be evaluated based on their innovation in the discipline to advance scholarship, expanding the field and audience, an evolution of the expectations for historians.
Cameron Blevins also critiques digital historians for prioritizing the potential and future of digital history instead actually creating and engaging in arguments about the past. It seems that for a while, at least, historians became focused on the future of the field rather than history itself because of the dramatic changes and potential of the digital realm.
I created a new subdomain, portfolio.lbaldwin.org, to display my digital portfolio. It is definitely a work in progress, and probably needs some introductory text for each topic. For now, though, I have uploaded my resume and some of my academic work that I think displays my academic ability and skills. I am an intensely private person, so I find it difficult to figure out how to best share my work and how to portray myself online.
The first lesson I took away about digital identity, from, Seth’s blog, is the idea that Google never forgets. I think that when we post online or something about us is posted online, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to delete something from the internet, and your past can come back to haunt you. Seth encourages acting as if you are always being watched, which is a little disturbing, but not wrong, and focus on creating a positive digital footprint.
In contrast, the article Footprints in the Digital Age by Will Richardson has a more positive perspective of digital footprints. Richardson suggests that one can use digital footprints to better network, creating connections around the globe, and explore passions. Although it seems obvious now, I had not previously thought about the internet and digitial footprints as a means of networking.
Professors, Start Your Blogs shares the value of blogs as a way to share academic knowledge with a larger audience, increasing accessibility and, essentially, creating a portfolio of work. One digital identity can also be their academic identity.
Who Owns the Digital You suggests that we have given up our privacy in exchange for “free” services that exploit the personal information we share online. This issue has been in the news a lot in the past few years, and it is certainly an area of concern and consideration, especially for those of us who have spent our entire lives online.
The last article I read was Controlling Your Public Apperance, which encourages having an online presence and fostering a positive online identity, cognizant of what you share and who might see it.
As we return from spring break, Madison and I plan on focusing most of our attention on the LibGuides website, since we have already gathered most of the resources we need. However, we do still need to acquire photographs. We have heard that the library archives have some photographs, including one depicting a protest over the 2004 name change, that may be relevant to our project. We would also like to find some documentation of reactions to the 1924 name change, if possible.
Otherwise, though, we are focusing on writing text for the web pages, putting resources up on the website, and working with TimelineJS for a timeline of the institution’s name changes. I am excited to see our website finally start coming together after all our research and collection of resources! Thankfully, we are on schedule and I do not anticipate any major problems or roadblocks appearing—fingers crossed!
When I went to the history and discussion tabs of Wikipedia history entries—namely, those of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Gallipoli Campaign, and the Boxer Rebellion—I saw a common theme of conversation around sources. Some users expressed concerns about sources being outdated, too one-sided, or inaccurate. I think it is important that these kinds of conversations are being had, because considering the validity and nuances of sources is a significant part of dealing with history. Regarding the weapon used in Ferdinand’s assassination, one user noticed an inconsistency between the article about the asssassination, which claimed the weapon was a Fabrique Nationale model 1910 .32 caliber pistole, but the article about that kind of pistol claims it was inaccurately attributed to the assassination. Through this example, I can see how the community works together to find errors and seek to find answers and solutions. However, I also saw one user call attention to trolling in the article on the Boxer Rebellion, in which foreign casualties were listed as over 50 billion and allusions to a video game were made. The ability for anyone to edit an article is both a benefit and a drawback of Wikipedia. Still, it was interesting to see insight into how the Wikipedia community works and the kinds of discussions they have.
Since our mission is to collect sources and make information about UMW’s time as part of UVA and the history of UMW’s name changes accessible in one location for those who are interested, I think that our work should be able to be used by others for their research. Perhaps the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA license would work best, because it allows others to “remix, adapt, and build upon” our work non-commercially with credit, according to Creative Commons’ license descriptions. For our project, we will need to consider copyright for the work of others we include in the website, particulary regarding photographs. We have not yet decided how we want to implement photographs and which photographs we would want to use, but we are considering looking into whether the UMW archives have a collection of old photographs of the college from the time we are researching. Regardless, we will need to ensure to properly credit and cite the photos, and to ensure that the photographs are under a license that allows us to use them.
In the video below, my group members and I discuss our plans for the UMW/UVA project. We have also considered the use of video in the website for our project. For now, we do not plan on using video, because we do not think that the medium will be necessary for our project, but we are not opposed to utilizing videos if the need arises.