Defense of Contract

Photo by Leigh Williams, 2014.

This semester has gone by incredibly fast, but, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The Century America project was so much fun for me to be a part of, and I had the best group members that I could have asked for. Together Julia, Jack, Candice, and I created a digital history website that successfully fulfills our contract.

We stated that our mission was to research and exhibit the narrative of the World War I homefront experience at the State Normal School and in the Fredericksburg area and create an exhibition-like website to showcase this research. We spent many hours going through archival materials to learn about the homefront experience, and our 8 different pages on the site provide many diverse, intriguing narratives that showcase Fredericksburg’s and UMW’s history: Community and War Timeline, Knox Family, Urbane Bass, Josiah P. Rowe, Faculty and Staff, Academics, Student Life, and Influenza Epidemic.

The homepage for the UMW Century America site is not as visually complex as we had originally imagined (images, quotes, other media, map, interactive elements), but I believe that the landing page we currently have is an effective but simple introduction that captures the visitor’s attention without overwhelming him/her. As originally planned, we split the site’s narrative into 2 main sections: Fredericksburg (town/community) and Fredericksburg State Normal School. Though the site is split in such a way, many of the narratives demonstrate the intimate connection between the town and school experience.

The homepage for each subcategory has the image links to navigate to the 4 subsections, and we also decided to add some introductory text with basic information about Fredericksburg and FSNS, as well as a brief summary/preview of what visitors can find within the sections. For the Fredericksburg section we decided to do away with the Influenza page, due to a lack of resources, and instead create a “Community and War Timeline” page based on the extensive Virginia War History Commission materials and the William F. Liebenow diaries (mistakenly referred to in our contract as the Mary Eastburn diaries—there was some miscommunication with different CRHC staff as to the creator and name). This combination of materials and the lack of an Influenza page left us with one slot to fill, which we decided would be for Dr. Urbane Bass. Jack found much material at the CRHC and is fascinated with Dr. Bass’s story of service and sacrifice, so it was only natural to add it to the Fredericksburg section. It also gives a unique look into a small part of the African American experience in Fredericksburg during WWI. No changes were made to the categories for the FSNS section of the website. Some elements that were not mentioned in our contract, but not foreseen by us until actually creating the site, are side navigation links, “Voices of the Great War” stories, and the placement of citations (the bottom of each page).

We also have the “About” and “Resources” page, as listed in our contract, as well as a “Sponsors” page. The main menu is a consistent element on every page of our site. The Resources page includes our bibliography, and as stated in our contract, the page also lists the most important archival collections to our research with links to the collections’ home institutions/organizations.

For the main Century America site, we successfully created a website that introduces all of the Century America projects and captures visitors’ attention with an interesting headline. After many struggles with MapsAlive, we (mainly Candice and Julia) were finally able to create an interactive map embedded in the homepage that links to the other schools. We were also able to create an engaging interactive timeline for the main site. We added “About” and “Credits” pages to the main site in order to give viewers more information and direct them to places that might answer their questions (individual projects, official school websites, digital portfolios, etc.). This site fulfills its mission of introducing and explaining the Century America project and that schools involved in it.

We successfully met our milestones with only a few minor snags that were really out of our control—digitized materials from the CRHC were received a couple days past our deadline, and the Century America homepage/interactive map was not complete due to embedding issues and lack of response from our virtual classmates. Our division of labor was as listed in the contract, and we each made excellent contributions to the project. We also helped each other as much as possible. As far as advertising goes, we have been tweeting a lot about the project and a news story will be released very soon about our project. After final approvals and changes from Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, we will blitz the internet with advertising for our awesome site.

It was such a great experience to work on the Century America project and be part of a groundbreaking digital history experiment. Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity.

Finishing up the Site!

I realized that I haven’t blogged a progress report here for a couple weeks–we have split up the progress reports for our group so that each week, one person will post. This process is hopefully making it easier for our virtual CA classmates to keep up with us. I’ll link here to our progress reports from the past two weeks:

Post-Draft Update: UMW and Homepage (April 5, 2014)

Look how far we’ve come! (March 30, 2014)

Essentially, we have made great progress, and the polished first versions of both of are sites are complete. We definitely still have some playing around to do with formatting and aesthetics, citations (still figuring out the footnote placement), etc. Our biggest news for this week is that thanks to the awesome Ryan Brazell, we have been able to embed our interactive map into a WP page! Other than that, we just have some kinks to work out and editing to do. I’m really happy with how everything has come out so far!

Impact of Digital History 2.0

I previously made a post about today’s readings for the COPLAC portion of this class, which can be found here.

However, I did also skim Sherman Dorn’s article, as Dr. McClurken suggested, and I am quite fascinated with what he has to say, and I think Dorn makes some intriguing points about digital history. I really like how he frames digital history as yet another historiographical development that contributes to the development of the field–an astute observation, and one that I had not considered. Digital history has definitely added a new dimension to the field, especially because the question still remains about reliability, source citations, etc. I also like how he points out the breadth and depth of various digital history projects, especially the extent to which they make an argument. This point rings particularly relevant to me because it is something that I have encountered in the COPLAC portion of this class. Some of my virtual classmates are going for creating an online archive, while others like Julia, Candice, Jack, and I are creating an exhibit. It’s interesting to see how each of us interpreted the Century America project and what we have done with it. And even then, the “exhibits” that we are creating are more along the lines of narrative history, rather than history that makes an explicit academic argument like you might find in a monograph.

Commodification of Information

Out of all of the articles for class, two really resonated with me.1 The first was “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr. I found it extremely ironic but wildly appropriate that as I was reading, the page was loaded with ads and links to other pages–the same kinds of distractions that he talks about. It was interesting to read about how the Internet is actually changing the way we think because I never thought it would have that much of an impact. I had no idea how malleable our minds could be. That being said, I think part of the problem here goes beyond the fact that it’s changing the way people read and process information: it seems that no one is making an effort to counteract that, for which I think the blame should partially be laid on people–not the Internet. I have always loved reading and been an avid reader. I do spend a lot of time on the Internet now, but I make a concerted effort in my free time (AKA the summer) to read a lot of books, do crossword puzzles, and spend less time on the Internet. If you aren’t doing anything to try and maintain your ability to read normal novels, then of course you are going to lose that ability. (I do realize that people–myself included–are not aware of the profound effect that the Internet has on their way of processing information. This issue is not simply solved; nevertheless, I still maintain that we are part of the problem. The Internet is too.)

Like Carr, I am extremely unsettled by Google’s assertion that we might be greatly improved by artificial intelligence, or if our brains were completely replaced by artificial intelligence. The thought alone is scary. Intelligence is simply not that simple–you can’t replace it in one fell swoop. There are several different kinds of intelligence (8, according to Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory) and I truly believe that no artificial intelligence could completely embody any one of them, let alone multiple ones or a combination of some. It could perhaps come close with the logical-mathematical intelligence, but otherwise, no. Our minds are complex and each one is unique–there is absolutely no way that supplementing or replacing our brains with artificial intelligence could improve the way we think (unless the goal here is to process information like a machine–personally, I would rather not do that). AI would have to be extremely versatile and malleable to be able to adapt to each different person’s mind because, as Carr points out, our minds themselves are malleable, forever changing. I have very strong feelings on this topic, but I will leave my ranting to a minimum and simply end by saying No.

I am also not very comfortable with Google’s view of information as a commodity–I think it takes away much of the value of the information and the work that goes in to creating it. I’m having a difficult time articulating my feelings on this topic, but I will do my best. I suppose I feel so strongly about this because I really value learning, especially the process of learning. I don’t care much for some of the end results of learning (AKA tests), but others I thoroughly enjoy, like books. To think that information is a commodity somehow cheapens it, and it completely eliminates the wonderful learning process, and you miss the rich surrounding context. As a commodity, I suppose information still has value, but it’s a different value. It has a value for people/organizations like Google, because it gives them meaning. But it loses intangible values. (At the same time, I do wonder if one day, when information has become so much of a commodity, that somehow the tidbits of information that are not commodified will be extremely valuable–priceless–much the same way the commodification course has gone with nature.)

All of the above being said, I find some aspects of data mining interesting. The “Mining the Dispatch” site was fascinating, especially for the trends it shows. What makes these results valuable, though, is understanding the context in which they exist, as Dan Cohen alludes to in his piece about Google N-Grams (which, incidentally, I also think are very cool–if you have the context). I think these tools are wonderful ways to discover and visualize trends throughout history and aid us in understanding and representing history to the fullest extent possible, but they should not replace the physical research we do with books and archives, and they definitely should not be pursued or employed without proper context.2

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1. I would like to note that I read all of the articles for class, but am choosing to blog about the ones about which I feel most strongly.

2. Random thoughts about the other readings: I like how sassy–for lack of a better word–Dan Cohen is in his piece about N-Grams. And as per Turkel’s piece, I can’t believe people actually want to know the history of all those topics–shaving legs? Really?

My Digital Portfolio

My digital portfolio is finished for the most part! Aesthetically, I still have a couple elements that I would like to alter. You can view my digital portfolio here.

I chose the Matheson theme because it is sleek and simple–a great place for me to showcase my academic and professional work. The homepage of my digital portfolio is a short “About Me” section. I originally wanted to have separate About and Home pages, but I realized there wasn’t much I could say on the Home page that I wouldn’t also be saying on the About page. Next I have my complete CV online. I am working on making it available as a PDF in addition to the web page. I want to change some of the formatting, but this page was simple to create.

I wanted to showcase my academic/research experience and my archives/museum experience, so I decided to create two separate pages for these. I would like to add a list of courses that I have taken at UMW onto the Academic page, because at the moment it only lists my major research projects. I think that providing a list of other courses I have taken, in which I have done smaller research projects and papers, will give a more comprehensive view of my experience and work. Next, my Archives/Museum page details my experiences in these areas. I would like to elaborate a but more on my experiences, because right now it looks essentially the same as my “Experience” section on my CV. I’d like to add more material to both, so that visitors can get a better idea of what I’ve been working on.

EDIT: After much consideration, I decided to switch from Matheson to a different theme so that I wouldn’t have to worry about finding an appropriate header picture that I wanted to appear on every single page of my digital portfolio. My portfolio’s current theme is Preference Lite, which I really love because of the colored menu bar! I don’t have to worry about finding an image, and the menu bar adds a splash of color, but isn’t overwhelming.

Digital Identities

The three sites I looked at for this assignment are: Digital Tattoo, Dr. McClurken, and Caitlin Murphy.  The following are lessons about digital identity that I have learned from these pages, hopefully in some semblance of order.

1. Until this class, I’d never considered a digital identity beyond the scope of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. So for most of my digital life, I have always thought of a digital identity as something intimately and exclusively connected to my social life–an “informal” life, if you will. After attending some Domain of One’s Own workshops and looking at Dr. McClurken’s and Caitlin Murphy’s pages, it dawned on me that you can also have a professional digital identity, something on the web for employers to discover besides your Facebook profile (or, God forbid, your MySpace page). I have always tried to be judicious and thoughtful about what I post on social media, in order to control that aspect of my digital identity, but it never even occurred to me that I could construct the professional side of my digital identity–something that I would want potential employers to find.

2. On the topic of being selective about what I (and others) contribute to my social digital identity, the amount of stupid and/or illegal things that people publish on their own digital profiles never ceases to amaze me. While browsing Digital Tattoo, I came across an article about a ridiculously stupid trend called “Neknomination.” Basically someone drinks an obscene amount of alcohol, posts a video of it on YouTube and other social media, and challenges someone else to do the same thing on an even more dangerous and ludicrous level. The viral nature of this trend is enhanced by people’s desire to get “likes” and to become virtually famous. I guess the lesson here (that I am fortunately already aware of, but this article truly underscores) is to not put immature, dangerous and/or illegal material online that could tarnish your digital identity.

3. Additionally, just as your real-world identity does not solely consist of you, neither does your digital identity. It also consists of the people, organizations, institutions, etc. with whom you engage online. The Neknomination fad is strongly connected to digital peers, according to Digital Tattoo: “Students may feel pressure from their friends and cohorts to participate, as those who do not accept the challenge or who do not outperform their nominator, risk losing face among their peers.” Even if you don’t rise to the challenge, per se, a tag, like, or comment on a Neknomination video/post goes onto your digital record. Just as you should be careful in choosing your real-life friends and associates, you should also carefully construct the friends and other entities that are connected to your digital identity.

4. Another interesting lesson I learned from Digital Tattoo was the extent of my, or anyone else’s, digital identity, or what they call a “digital dossier.”  DT’s page and video about digital dossiers points out that your digital identity is created before you even get online, which I think is especially true today, and it lives on after your death. I see countless mothers, young and old, posting pictures of their children on Facebook and other social media, creating a digital identity for their children before the kids even know what a computer or the internet is. The purchases you make online, medical and other records filed on you (behind hopefully secure barriers), any websites you may use, all contribute to your digital identity. Even after death, online obituaries, condolences, and memorials further add to your digital identity. Until visiting this page on DT, I had never realized just how much makes up someone’s digital identity, and how it is partially out of your control (what happens before and after your internet life).

5. The above point being said, Dr. McClurken’s and Caitlin Murphy’s profiles highlight the amount of control that you do have in constructing and enhancing your digital identity, and just how much better the web may be for a resume/portfolio (depending on the person, of course). For example, Caitlin’s digital resume is perfect for her interests in photography and video: she can easily display her work for friends, employers, and anyone else who may stumble upon her site. Additionally, even though photography and video may seem like hobbies to some, Caitlin’s site allows her to present her interests in a professional manner. Dr. McClurken’s site conveniently keeps all of his professional experiences in one place–something that would probably be an absolute pain and an environmental threat to the trees if it had to be examined in physical paper form. Looking at these two sites, and also considering my ever-increasing involvement in the digital world (professional and social), I am quickly realizing the advantage of having a digital resume as part of my digital identity. I honestly hate including web addresses on my CV (they take up space and probably divert attention), so it seems like a digital resume will be the perfect solution for me! I will, of course, keep my regular CV as well.

Wikipedia: Better than You Think

I remember going through my high school years, and my teachers constantly said, “Don’t use Wikipedia! Wikipedia is not a valid source!”  We were supposed to avoid Wikipedia like the plague, and I understand where my teachers were coming from–however, at the same, I never really understood all the hoopla about how terrible Wikipedia was.  To me, it seemed like a good place to get basic information on subjects.  Not analysis, but information.  To this day, I use Wikipedia very frequently, and I use it for academic purposes.  I used it to locate primary and secondary sources for my thesis.  I think a lot of people, and those in academia especially, are very wary of Wikipedia because it is something for “the masses” and can be edited by anyone, and the articles on Wikipedia do not clearly come from academic sources (but I’m willing to bet that many people in academia have made contributions to Wikipedia).

A lot of the suspicion also stems from a lack of understanding of the extensive monitoring/editing/quality control process that Wikipedia has.  Honestly, I did not even know how extensive this process was until I watched the TED talk video, and I have even more respect for the work that Wikipedia does than I did before.  I looked at three different Wikipedia pages and their histories: Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Barack Obama, and Cat.

Generally speaking, the history pages are enlightening in that you can see how often pages are edited and get an idea of the quality control work that Wiki editors do.  However, I honestly had a very difficult time following the history pages–they are like a foreign language to me.  I’m sure someone more familiar with Wiki work can understand them, but I felt like I was looking at gibberish.  That being said, I understand that the gibberish clues us into how much is going on in these articles and the variety of changes that an editor may make to a page.  I think the “History” function is really great because users can see just how much Wiki cares about having quality articles, and most of the people online care for the same thing.  It is also just really cool to see how pages have evolved over time!  For example, the very first version of the “Cat” article (November 9, 2001) has almost no information in it, compared to how extensive the article is today.  The article today is extremely informative and is a good example of how Wiki’s diligence has created quality articles.

I picked the Barack Obama article because I was hoping to come across some amusing troll edits, but the gibberish overwhelmed me, and I gave up pretty quickly.  I did find one feature that I thought was a troll, but that turned out to be true–apparently President Obama won a Grammy!  It was for Best Spoken Word Album.  I have always associated the Grammys with celebrity Hollywood artists, so I was extremely surprised to find that he does, in fact, have a Grammy, and I had not successfully found a troll change to the Obama page.

However, I already knew that troll edits (at least, I hope it was a troll…) had been made to the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire page, because I had actually visited the page on December 9, 2013 (yep, I was writing a final paper for a history course, and I needed dates) and experienced this misinformation first hand.  You can take a gander at the “edits” here, but I will post the relevant paragraph here to save time (and clicks):

“The mexican conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the non significant events in the mexican colonization of the jews. The campaign began in February 2019, and was declared victorious on August 13, 2021, when a black army of mexican forces and jews Tlaxcalan warriors led by fjyhdu Cortés and Xicotencatl the Younger captured Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Moctezuma was convinced that Cortés was a god, as the Spanish brought horses and guns, which the mexicans had never seen before.”1

Yep. So there’s that.

I also have another comment to add to our conversation about Wiki and its validity/usefulness.  Because Wiki is such a high-traffic site, the Smithsonian museums are making an effort to contribute to Wikipedia, by editing pages related to Smithsonian museums and collections, or creating the pages, adding links that will direct visitors to the appropriate SI site, thus increasing traffic to their own websites.  I attended an SI meeting that talked extensively about this process, and I found it fascinating!  It really is a great way to increase site traffic, because Wikipedia is such a popular site, and it’s also just a great way to get the word out about things and contribute to public knowledge.  It’s also really cool, because I think it shows how the perception of Wikipedia has evolved over time, and people are slowly beginning to realize that maybe it isn’t so bad after all.  It can be a source of valuable information, if the “right” people are creating and editing the pages.  A leading research and museum institution, the Smithsonian, hires what they call Wikipedians-in-Residence to create and improve SI-related content!  The Wikipedians-in-Residence and their associated SI units also occasionally host edit-a-thons, where they marathon-edit pages on a given subject to improve content and link to SI sites/collections.  Really cool concept!  You can read more about one specific WIR here!

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1. “Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire” (December 9, 2013, 2:47 pm version), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spanish_conquest_of_the_Aztec_Empire&oldid=585281464 (accessed February 19, 2014).

My Part in the WWI Project

After ironing out some clarification issues with our group contract, I now have solid assignments for our project on Fredericksburg and the State Normal School. My main responsibility is to research the experience at the Fredericksburg SNS and focus on what we have termed the Academics (so, mainly classes) and Student Life (clubs, social events, etc.). I am really excited to do this because I love all of the academic catalogs and bulletins held in UMW’s special collections–they provide a great window into these topics. The Battlefield Yearbooks will also provide crucial information, especially for the Student Life page. Aside from conducting the research for these categories, I will determine what archival materials we would like to digitize (luckily the catalogs, bulletins, and yearbooks are already digitized) for these categories. I will also determine the general conclusions drawn from this primary source research and what particular narratives we will include on the website for our project.

Julia and I will create the homepage for the Fredericksburg SNS, which will provide a brief overview of homefront experiences at the school. This responsibility will include determining what we want to include in the brief overview. From this page, viewers will have the option of looking at the specific categories of Academics, Student Life, Administration, and Influenza to learn more about the homefront experience at SNS.

Another of my responsibilities includes the creation of our “Further Resources” page, available via the menu bar, that will list the main institutions/collections that we found most useful in our research. That way, visitors who are interested in our archival sources will know where they came from, and possibly conduct their own research, if they find the topic worthwhile. The “Further Resources” page will include links, wherever possible, to the institutions/collections.

Among other responsibilities, I must attend our weekly group meeting, assist with collective group efforts (such as the creation of timelines, deciding on site design, etc.), and to extensively tweet (and occasionally text) our group’s progress on the project. This tweeting will help part of our campaign to create an audience for our site and generate interest in our project. By the end of the semester, we plan to be using a variety of social media outlets (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) to publicize our project. We also plan to publicize our project in newsprint outlets, such as the Free Lance-Star, The Bullet, and UMW newsletters. We will also create flyers and handouts to put around the Fredericksburg and UMW communities, like in libraries, museums, school buildings, and other places that receive steady visitor traffic. Perhaps even places that have community bulletin boards will be beneficial in simply spreading the word about our project.

More Thoughts on Zotero and Feedly

First of all, I want to say how much easier Feedly has made my life!  I love being subscribed to all of my classmates’ blogs and having them in one place–I actually remember to comment on other blogs because I can see when they are updated. If there are people who haven’t updated their Feedlys yet, I highly suggest doing so!

Considering the Larger Ramifications of Zotero

Now, the main reason I have a second post about digital tools–Zotero.  Zotero is such an easy and useful tool for tracking sources, organizing them, and creating bibliographies (as well as any other uses in which people may employ it). Many of my classmates have echoed my own thoughts in their own blog posts about Zotero: Why didn’t I know about this tool earlier?, Zotero would have been/will be a lifesaver for my thesis, etc. As is my habit, I started seriously considering this question. It would make any history paper much easier to write and create a bibliography for. With the changes that the department has made to HIST 299 (now 297 and 298), particularly its new emphasis on digital aspects of history, Zotero would be a wonderful tool to give to up-and-coming history majors. It would make the somewhat daunting task of learning Turabian/Chicago Style citation much less stressful. So, back to the big question–why didn’t my colleagues and I know about Zotero earlier?

My first thought, and probably the one that rings most true for our department, is that most of the faculty are also in the dark when it comes to knowing about Zotero. (Or perhaps they know about it, but prefer creating bibliographies the “old fashioned” way, or simply do not want to bother with learning how to use a digital tool when they can make do without it.) I do not mean to imply that it is the faculty’s responsibility to introduce us to digital tools like Zotero, because we could certainly find Zotero on our own. I mean only to suggest that it is an extremely relevant tool to our major, especially a digitally literate major, and that the average student will typically be introduced to academically useful tools by his/her academic mentors.

My second thought operates on the hypothetical assumption that faculty members do know about Zotero: perhaps we haven’t been introduced to it because even though it is useful and time-saving, in a way it diminishes the learning process embodied by creating bibliographies. Introducing Zotero as early as 297/298/299 would undercut the way in which students learn Turabian/Chicago Style formatting in general. But, does learning how to format really matter? Creating a bibliography is not quite the same as writing the actual paper or doing a proof in math. For the paper and the proof, the process is what matters most, and more often than not, if the process is sound and correct, the final product will be good. On the other hand, for bibliographies I would argue that the process is not nearly as important as the final product. As long as the final bibliography correctly cites all sources, does it matter if you used Zotero or made it yourself? Is this case one in which the ends justify the means?

I think perhaps the larger problem here is not learning how to format the bibliography, but instead is learning what information is actually crucial for properly citing sources. Even more generally, I think that “manually” learning better instills the importance of proper citation, to give people credit where it is due and to avoid plagiarism. A tool like Zotero that creates a bibliography with a few clicks of the mouse, almost trivializes citation by so significantly decreasing the time actually spent on it. (Not to mention the fact that, as Peter pointed out, Zotero is not infalliable–mistakes can be made, and only someone familiar with proper formatting would be able to recognize and fix the mistakes.) I am probably (definitely) thinking way too much about Zotero and its use/non-use, but honestly I think issues such as the ones that I have briefly discussed will become important points of reflection and discussion as history becomes evermore immersed in the digital world and as our culture continues to demand “easy” way to do things, with instant gratification.

What is the take-away from my internal debate about Zotero? I still believe that it is an excellent tool for keeping track of and organizing sources and for creating bibliographies, and I am still beyond excited that I now know about it. However, I think that ideally Zotero would be introduced to students after they already have a thorough understanding of Turabian/Chicago Style and of the importance of correctly citing sources.

Storming the Archives

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

After agonizing weeks of waiting, we finally made it to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center! All four of us made it, and we found some excellent resources–as we had hoped we would. We looked through many items, some of them useful, and some of them not. We started with Battlefield yearbooks, because they were the easiest items for the volunteers to pull. The CRHC has a very strict policy about copies and photos, but luckily the Battlefield yearbooks are digitized and available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks had cool tidbits of information here and there that we can hopefully incorporate into the project about the homefront experience, and the ones before US entry into the war give us a good picture of how SNS was relatively unaffected by the war until 1917. I got to look through the 1915 Battlefield yearbook, and the Alumnae Pages had an interesting (and amusing) quote from an SNS graduate, Kathleen White: “She is much excited over the European War, and being a patriotic Canadian, she expresses a desire to enlist if worst comes to worst.”

Candice got to look at some postcards, and one of them is amazing! It depicts soldiers lying on the ground, holding their weapons and says “On The Firing Line.”  It is from a man named Emmett to his Grandma. He writes: “Dear Grandma. Am at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Saw Dr. Pratt today. I don’t know where I’ll go from here. Love to all. Emmett.”

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Candice also went through a collection of items from the Knox family and put together an awesome Google doc for us with lots of information about them! It contained personal letters, newspaper articles, a family history, photographs, recipes, and more. Another item that we were looking forward to getting our hands on was the homefront diary of Mary Eastburn–Jack got to look at these diaries and they are absolutely amazing! They are an excellent source of information about the homefront, like prices for goods and material shortages. We definitely want to construct a homefront timeline, and these diaries will most likely form the crux of it. Jack has already set to work entering the information into the Timeline tool that we learned about earlier this week. I’m so excited to see how everything turns out in the end! We would like to get digital images of the diary, but unfortunately that will have to wait for a little while, due to the CRHC’s policies and the expense of actually getting the digital images ($2.00 per image). Candice and I looked through several letters from the Stearns sisters, but they didn’t seem to be relevant to WWI. They made no mention of the war, but it is possible that other letters in the collection do–the collection is quite large and has not been cataloged yet. However, unless we end up with ample amounts of time to go through this collection, it doesn’t seem like the letters will be useful to us.

The last item I looked at before I left the CRHC was a book of minutes from the Mary Washington Hospital Association. It ran from 1913 to 1919, so I actually started at the back of the book first, thinking that I would come across mentions of the war sooner from that direction. The January 21, 1919 entry mentioned Liberty Bonds that the association purchased, and several entries from 1918 mention the “question of coal,” which may have been related to war shortages. Interestingly enough, the books of minutes skips almost an entire year–it goes from October 6, 1918 to October 15, 1919. This jump in time startled me, especially because the fall of 1918 was when the influenza epidemic hit Fredericksburg in full force, so I was expecting to find some entries making mention of the virus. It is a very conspicuous absence of information, and Jack and I are wondering if the association kept a separate book of minutes during the time period that is missing. We shall see! We didn’t finish looking through the book, so when we return to the CRHC I would like to skim over the rest of it.

I’m very pleased with our progress and really looking forward to seeing what more we can find!

Interesting Finds in the Archives:
“The time has come” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” (1915 Battlefield Yearbook)
A woman at the Mary Washington Hospital caused a large controversy when she gave birth to a child and then put it into the hospital’s furnace, unbeknownst to hospital staff.