Week 5: Omeka Showcase Websites

So for this week, I browsed the websites featured in the Omeka showcase. While I was impressed by all of them, two websites piqued my interest and I spent time browsing their contents. The two websites differed from each other in many ways, especially in the types of digitized items, the quantity of their collections and exhibitions, and in the amount of resources and contributors to each website. I’ll focus on each website individually before going into the comparison.

The first website is Stark and Subtle Divisions: A Collaborative History of Segregation in Boston, created by UMass Boston’s History and American Studies departments. From their About page, the project started back in 2015 and utilized the archives of the City of Boston as well as from colleges and universities in the Boston area. This project was a class effort, and mostly done by graduate students. The website features over 500 digitized items, a total of 15 collections, 12 exhibits, and a plethora of additional resources for further information. A unique feature of Stark and Subtle Divisions is a map that features the locations of 300 items in the collections. For instance, you can select an item like a letter from a list and the map details its location. Stark and Subtle Divisions offers a highly diverse collections and features that add a better understanding of the realities of segregation in the Boston area.

Now, I’ll move on to the second website, The Latina History Project. This is a faculty-student collaborative research project at that aims to enhance education and understanding of Latino/a and Chicano/a history. Their website has 126 digitized items, 12 collections, and 5 digital exhibits. The website also includes 8 additional resources. The Latino History project is unique in that the majority of the digitized items are oral histories given by past and present members of the Southwestern community, and activists. The Latina History Project displays a glimpse into the history of Latino activism in the Central Texas community.

What contrasts the Latina History Project and Stark and Subtle Divisions is the sheer quantity of content. Stark and Subtle has a lot more items featured on its site than the Latina history project. It has more items, more collections, and more additional resources overall. Most of Stark and Subtle resources are in print, while the Latina History Project’s are oral histories, rather than print. Also, far fewer people contributed to the Latina History Project than to Stark and Subtle Divisions, an entire class as compared to five people in a department. The addition of the map to Stark and Subtle Divisions added a lot more to my experience of the website. It added extra context to the documents presented in the collections and the exhibitions.

As a whole, I enjoyed the Stark and Subtle Divisions website more for its content and for the quality of its organization of the content. While the Latina History Project had interesting topics and I enjoyed their inclusion of oral history interviews, I wasn’t too impressed with their organization of their items and I wish they could do more to place their items into the context of their message.

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Week 4 Reading Reflections

It’s no surprise that copyright law is one of the most complicated and opaque branches of law to study. I really appreciated Rosenzweig’s articles and book chapters attempting to clarify it where historians are concerned, especially digital historians. Each article about copyright addressed more or less the same issues: how do copyright laws affect digital historians? Do we own copyright? How? What are the drawbacks to being overly cautious? What constitutes “fair use”? I have dealt with many of these same issues in my workplace. The Art Museum definitely falls under the umbrella of “erring on the side of caution” when it comes to copyright issues. When I make posts for social media, my boss makes it clear that the images I use have to come from the museum collections; I can’t use images pulled from the web, even those covered under Creative Commons.  The article “Pushing Back Against Legal Threats By Putting Fair Use Forward” brought up an interesting point about how the legal risks are overstated. The two professors mention their frustration that the concerns over copyright actually stifles creativity as well as saying that most scholars are not aware of many of the rights they do actually have. Jennifer Howard’s article makes a wonderful companion to the previously mentioned article. It clearly and succinctly gives advice that falls in line with enriching the knowledge of professors and historians about copyright issues that do not resort to the age-old fear of being sued.

Roy Rosenzweig also does a good job of explaining current US copyright laws and it ties in very well to the other readings and especially to his article on whether all scholarship should be free. I wonder what the copyright implications would arise for both the publisher and the author if academic scholarship were made free. Would there be any effect at all? As to his question on if scholarship should be free, I’m inclined to agree with him. A freer access to scholarship would fully realize the principles of scholarly societies and make the knowledge more accessible, especially to those who could not afford to otherwise.

 

Week 3: Researching and Writing in the Digital Age

The Web has majorly impacted my ability to do historical research in several major ways. The first is in accessibility. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s far easier to access both primary and secondary sources on the Web, through online library catalogs and online databases. As an undergrad, I had unlimited access to the online databases that were useful for secondary sources when writing research essays. Even when I had to use analog sources, such as for my final undergraduate research project, finding their locations took far less time because I had access to the online library catalog and knew what I wanted and where it was located. The Web also shaved time off of my research. Using online databases such as Academic Premier and Muse, I found resources in mere minutes. In chapter four, Weller mentioned Zotero as a citation manager, which I used frequently to manage citations, I found that an efficient time saver and organizer.

However,  a drawback to using the Web, is in how I analyze the sources I have found. Ever since high school, teachers and librarians alike have stressed that most online sources are in some way unreliable and not worthy of being cited without careful examination. As a result of this, I always examined my digital sources with a higher level of scrutiny than I do the print sources. It adds a bit of time to my research and I always feel like I have to  further justify the digital sources I cite.

While the above may seem like a qualitative difference, I don’t agree with the idea that digital archives are in any way different qualitatively than analog sources. A digital source can be carefully sourced and cited on the Internet just as a print source can be. And just like a paper book, it is up to the historian to decide whether it’s trustworthy and reliable.

 

Week 2 Blog: Defining Digital History

Having finished reading Cohen and Rosenzweig as well as Weller, I had never considered before the true impact the digital age would have on the study of history. The World Wide Web changed history in ways that I was never aware of until now. Each author describes many of the advantages and disadvantages put forth that alter the way we approach and study history.
Cohen and Rosenzweig list many changes that have happened as a result of the web. Historical sources found on a museum website, archive, or database are much more accessible now. Today, you don’t have to physically be at the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Smithsonian in D.C. to have access to a part of their collections. Not even that, but the capacity of information available on the web is staggering. A simple Google search or Yahoo Search for a topic or a historical figure brings up thousands of “hits”, far more than the creators of the earliest web pages may have ever realized at the time. Another important feature is diversity, allowing history authors and the like from a variety of backgrounds to create blogs and website, publish articles and books, and much more. It is far easier to analyze and access historical sources using the World Wide Web now than it ever has been. Content is easier to interact with, and the ease of moving from website to website establishes links that fundamentally shift the way we look at and interpret history.

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Introduction to Me

Hello!

This is my first blog on WordPress, and I hope that it will be user-friendly. I’m Chelsea Echevarria and I created this blog for my current graduate class, History 511: Digital History Theory and Practice. Currently, it is my very first semester of the Public History graduate program at CCSU. I also work for the University of Saint Joseph’s Art Museum as a Gallery Attendant. In addition to front-desk duty, I maintain and update the museum’s social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram. I am looking forward to this course and I hope it will provide an interesting foundation to digital history, as well as helping me develop skills that will be useful not only later on in my studies but in my job as well.

Happy Blogging!