This Semester: This Project: This Blog

It is all over folks!

Seriously…

Okay… so I was pretty shocked to find myself writing these blogs and enjoying it. I pushed myself and put my ideas on here… on the inter-webs. Terrified… frustrated… posting on Twitter (occasionally). My brain was on tar, but when I put fingers to keys, the blogs came easily. Goodbye Digital History.

The Project? Oh is that what you came here for?

Okay… the project was worse than my ‘weekly’ blogs. I tried one topic, got burnt out, then started a new one. In the end, I have found that my project might be rather useful in my future endeavors and now I can say: HEY WORLD, I HAVE MADE A HISTORICAL WEBSITE THAT ALLOWS YOU TO LOOK AT PRIMARY SOURCES… or something like that. I thought this project was way more complex than I could handle. Hearing my classmates’ plans and projects made me feel like a lone cactus in a beautiful rain forest. I was feeling pretty low after I sent in my project to our professor and she was less than impressed… but once I understood what was expected of me, I found my angle. I focused on html and visual representation as well as usability and accessibility. I tried to incorporate as many of the tools we discussed throughout the semester into my website. My favorite part of the website? the name. The website domain that is. It all started with one document and I loved it, so I kept it. cadefamily.omeka.net 

What does the project look like now… and what am I hoping to do with it:

Today the project looks nearly the same as when I presented it. New stuff? Education tab, discussion questions embedded into the exhibit, and a few typo fixes thanks to friends.

The Future of the website, The Opelousas Massacre of 1868: It looks bright. Within the next few weeks, I hope to be interviewing at private schools in Austin/San Antonio Texas. With this site, I hope to prove to future employers that I can be helpful in technology, history, and research. I can not wait to show middle schoolers and high schoolers how to create their own historical analysis using this website or to show them how to digitize primary sources. Luckily for them, I know a little about copyright now too.

Overall:

This class has been highly educational to me. It was not a regular history class that was historical content based, I was learning about the technical aspect and how to get your work out into the world. I felt that the class was useful and informative and a great resume builder.

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Online Museum Review

For the online exhibit review I chose Clara Breed’s Collection of letters from Japanese Americans during WWII. Take A Look Yourself!

The look of the online museum is neutral or natural colors. They used light backgrounds with darker font or vise-versa. It is easy on the eyes. The actual content was very well laid out. I was able to click on items and closely examine them.

The content provided on the topic was very diverse. Between Christmas cards, thank you postcards and letters (she sent them books, soap, hershey’s kisses, ect.). The letters are handwritten and mostly in English, but there are transcriptions for each item and this makes scanning through the documents much easier.

Usability and accessibility were big topics for our Public History course and this website utilizes both terms. I am so impressed by this website and I can not wait to show it to some of my friends that have been writing about this topic all semester long. This website shined a spot light on a lovely lady who did so much for Japanese Americans in a time when they were suffering greatly. This website and collection is free to use and search through.

Below you will find certain requirements that were required for our final project that I decided to lay out for this online exhibit:

  • Mission statement/goals evident for audience/users
    • The mission of the Japanese American National Museum is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
  • Metadata for exhibits/items
    • Subject Tags
    • Description
    • Transcription
  • Navigation Tools
    • Search Bar
    • Advanced Search
      • Collection
      • Title
      • Description
      • Object Type
      • Subject/Tag
  • Attribution for work, research, contributors
  • supplemental materials and bibliography
    • Other Resources
      • includes website, other collections, databases, histories, and museums

Topic proposal

It is my intention to display Louisiana medicine from the Louisiana Room’s archives on an Omeka site. I’m excited to learn how to use the site and digitize artifacts.

Medicine used in Louisiana has been very diverse. Voo-Doo healers, traiteurs, and Native medicine are alternative methods that were used along side of western medicine. During the colonization of Louisiana, alternative medicine was useful due to limited access to western doctors and Euro-American proceedures. Shamans, Medicine Men, Treaters, and Healers alleviated some of the medicinal needs that colonial doctors could not. It is my hope to give the public access to Louisiana’s history of medicine.

I propose an Omeka site that collects oral histories on this medicine and uses the Louisiana Rooms archives for sources reflecting the oral histories collected.

The artifacts available in the Louisiana Room are mainly newspaper articles and medicinal doctrines. I would like to supplement these artifacts with suggested readings, oral histories, and artifact analysis.

I grew up in many regions of Louisiana. I have lived in Abbeville, Lafayette, Grand Isle, Cut Off, Galliano, and St.Martinville. I grew up hearing stories about traiteur healing. New Orleans has a stigma of Voo-Doo and magic healing. Fortune tellers and healers line the French Quarter and continue the legendary stories of New Orleans. My thesis topic closely follows Native American southern medicine. Louisiana is the perfect mixture of culture and medicine. This diversity intrigues me.

It is my hope that the cite I create assists others in learning about the history of these medicine methods.

Create A Design Worth Navigating

This week’s readings primarily focused on design and website building. I found this to be very helpful for our final projects because I was able to see examples of other students’ work as well as hear other historians’ opinions on design and education.

Trevor Owens focused his article on his graduate student’s digital history project. Each student’s work was outlined in the article. I took the time to track down each student’s work because I was hoping to get a more precise picture of these projects once completed. I was elated to see all of the tools they used to create their projects and the ranging topics that they chose. Some of the students were unable to do what they originally wanted or didn’t complete their project at all. This really spoke to me about being flexible with your project and the design. Some students underestimated the time constraint. It is possible to create full digital histories, but being selective about the material and how to display it is where being choosy comes into play.

Krug, Cohen, and Rosenzweig all made interesting points about using the web. People aren’t reading left to right. People skim and find key words or phrases that match their desired internet experience. Speed reading and clicking on links that led one on an endless rabbit chase gives the user an experience unlike what the designer had anticipated and designed the website to be used for. It can be argued endlessly whether this is a good thing or bad thing. I personally feel like the age old quote “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” applies here. The website is useful to the user only if they want it to be. If they want to have full function of the website then it is up to the user to be able to find the “how to” section of the website. This is a section that explains how to use the website, special terminology, and helpful guides go make the user experience as effortless as possible.

A Museum Review: Angola Prison

This week, I had the privilege to go to the Angola Prison’s museum and take a rather lengthy tour of the prison itself. I, among the group I went with, was able to speak to prisoners about issues, experiences, and history. In the first portion of this blog, I’d like to take the time to review the physical museum of Angola. In the second half, I would like to lay out my time and thoughts on the tour which was not a part of the typical museum experience.

 

The Museum:

When we walked into the museum, my initial impression was that it was small. We walked into the gift shop, which was also small. It mostly contained t-shirts and sweaters with a few odds and ends to choose from. http://shop.angolamuseum.org/

When we arrived, we were ushered into a small amphitheater. A short film or documentary on Angola Prison played, but the speakers were not well equipped for the sound. Most of the film was incoherent and what little we could hear wasn’t complementary on the prison’s behalf. When the film finished, we moseyed at our leisure around the museum. To my surprise, the museum was filled with interesting articles, newspaper clippings, and artifacts that created a historical narrative surrounding Angola. I enjoyed the gendered history and slave narrative. Pieces were borrowed to complete displays. There were cased lined with confiscated weapons and drug paraphernalia. The museum covered a lot of angles for Angola’s history. There were escape stories as well as programs and prisoner involvement. Prisoners began an initiative on creating a more honorable funeral. To make this happen, they created caskets for the prisoners and volunteered their own time to bury and make the funerals happen. This is a small part of the museum, but they display one of the caskets that the prisoners made. We were also able to speak to a prisoner while at the museum. I am unsure as to if this activity is usual for the museum itself, but it was a very nice touch. The man we spoke to had been in Angola for over 30 years. He works in the museum, the museum lies just outside of the prison gates, and hopes to be released in another year. The physical museum was rather informative and told several narratives. Technology was rarely used and the technology utilized was unfortunately not done well. I would overall highly recommend the experience.

This is the link to the online museum for Angola Prison, but it is nothing like the physical museum: http://www.angolamuseum.org/history/history/

 

The Tour:

The tour was one of the most memorable experiences for me. It is surely not something anyone can forget. We passed the Prison’s gates and entered the city of Angola. The people who work at Angola also live there so we were able to see these houses and the surprising normal looking neighborhood.

Inside the prison:

We made a stop inside of a church. Yes, the prison has churches… several churches. We passed at least three that I can recall. Inside of the church we were able to talk to the most intelligent person I have experienced in a long time. He said he has over $2500 worth of books back in his cell. Yes, mam, His Cell. He was our second prisoner encounter of the day. He told us about prison and first time offenders. We talked about wasting lives and people profiting from these fast judgements. This man was sentenced to life in prison. He was by far my favorite part of the day. He was raw and passionate. After that talk, we were able to see the Angolite headquarters.

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The Angolite is a prisoner run newspaper. The editor, Jaime Maduro, was kind enough to give us each a newspaper from 2017. The articles, photos, and research are all done by prisoners at Angola and they distribute by subscription. We were also able to visit the original electric chair, Gruesome Gertie, as the prisoners called her. The accessories of the electric chair were also displayed. The sponge and cap were weathered and gave me the creeps. The electric chair was passed through parishes and utilized statewide to perform executions. We visited old cells that prisoners had escaped from. One of our last stops made that day was the room that Gerald Bordelon received lethal drug injections. He was the last execution to date at the prison.

We witness so many more meaningful and interesting things that day. The entire experience kind of blew my mind. I would suggest this trip to high schoolers and older. The tour was electronics free and majority questions and answers unless a context had to be set first. It was truly unforgettable.

Digital Museums

image blog

 


The above image should reflect the relationship that Brennan write about in “Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory”. Brennan makes several complaints about digital museums and museum website. She is concerned that museums aren’t maximizing their full potential. Brennan wants to see more digitization, more explanations of material, and more user friendly website. She desires sharing and finding these artifacts more easily. A big concern was not being able to find the artifact by googling it. As a soon to be historian myself, I would have to agree. She also mentions there being only one explanation for artifacts if any at all. All of the things ive mentioned above are things that have given me trouble while doing research in my Hist 490 class. For those who may not know, this course requires that I write a large paper backed by several primary sources and a select few secondary sources. The museums should be using their artifacts to their true potential in order to achieve their goals. Brennan also mentions that most museum websites are merely digital brochures. This is the sort of websites that I am accustomed to seeing as well. Luckily there are museums who are attempting to make improvements in their digital museums and websites.

By participating in this weeks practicum, I was able to make my own decisions about five websites. Brennan studied over 100 history museum websites. The websites I was assigned were extraordinary. This being that they were major exceptions. My least favorite of the five was the Wiley Online Library. This website was similar to the math program commonly used in undergraduate studies Wiley Plus. It was confusing, often in another language to me, and hard to navigate. All of the other four websites were amazing to navigate and felt very informative. My favorite one was the Digital Public Library of America. I was able to find a primary document on Cherokee medicine from the 1800’s that will aid me in my Hist 490 class. Not only was the website user-friendly and informative, but it had several ways to find documents. By year, state donated, or subject. They utilized apps and their layout was very straight forward.

Free Labor for Historians: Yes Please

Citizen history, as Elissa Frankle calls it, is a tool used by archives and museums. The tool can enhance usability, increase the quantity of sources available, and produce their own histories. While each of the readings declares that each source submitted, translated, or created has been fact checked by other users, professionals, or both, Wikipedia’s originally rules stated that if a user was too anxious to produce an entry due to the rules, then throw all of the rules out of the window. This brings up an interesting point about credibility. While many scholars frown upon people utilizing Wikipedia, others argue that it is a wonderful start to any research topic. The readings skimp on credibility by saying that each document has been fact checked. Wikipedia, the all hands on source website, has a system of checks and balances when it comes to fact checking too. The argument for becoming pro-community historian in “More Crowdsourced Scholarship: Citizen History” by Frankle is chalked up to involving people to make them more interested in becoming historians. In “Building A Volunteer Community: Results and Findings from Transcribe Bentham” Causer and Wallace elaborate that lack of time was the reason that most people were dissuaded participants in Transcribe Bentham. The transcribers were also mainly over the age of 41 which means their career paths were more than likely all ready set. This isn’t a good reason to justify allowing people who haven’t been properly trained to sort, transcribe, or produce histories. A good reason to allow this is want and need. Allow people to come together, sort documents, tag them or transcribe them, and then have them do it for free. Now that is a genius idea to preserve history! In “Building an Audience”, Rosenzweig and Cohen state that publishing a website about an obscure topic is fine due to the cost of publishing online works. This idea goes well with citizen history. Get it done and if it can be done cheaper, that is great.