Week 13: Citizen Archives

My citizen archive experience turned out to be two parts interesting and one part frustrating. The website itself proved well-organized, withe clearly delineated sections and a plethora of subjects that you could gather metadata for. I chose to transcribe an Enemy Alien Registration form from World War I, one of the featured projects in commemoration of the United States entrance into the war.

First, the transcription software allowed for tagging and comments as well as the transcribing process. I really appreciated how welcoming it was. You could work on all three things at once and read from other’s comments and suggestions. The forms I chose didn’t have any tags save one, and no comments or transcriptions. I appreciated the ease of transcribing with the Citizen Archives tools, I ran into several minor problems.

One problem I ran into was the images of the forms. While the software allowed for zooming in, it wasn’t as controlled as I wished it could be. I’d go to scroll down or up to review my transcription or fix an error, and accidentally zoom out of the image! The controls weren’t too clear. Also, the transcription word box did not allow for formatting of the text, or for adjusting the layout of the body of text. This does highlight the difficulty of trying to transfer the experience of reading the paper forms with reading a transcription. Without the formatting, the experience is fundamentally altered.

One beneficial thing to the crowd sourcing nature of this Archival Project is the comments section. It allows for discussion about the transcription and the tagging. It allows others to interpret certain things differently and discuss them. For instance, I had a bit of trouble deciphering the handwriting on the forms for the transcription. To me the cursive scribble could be an “e”, but to someone else it could be an “a” or an “o”. I may have made an error while transcribing and would benefit from the comments that bring attention to my error or even just go in and edit it.

While I only focused on the transcribing projects for now, I am excited to further explore the Citizens Archive and hope to spend some more time on it in the future.

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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.

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!